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Engineering Tools Seminar: An Innovative New Course To Prepare Students For The Rigors Of The Mechanical Engineering Program

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2009 Annual Conference & Exposition


Austin, Texas

Publication Date

June 14, 2009

Start Date

June 14, 2009

End Date

June 17, 2009



Conference Session

Mechanical Engineering Poster Session

Tagged Division

Mechanical Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

14.560.1 - 14.560.15



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Paper Authors

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Michael Anderson United States Air Force Academy

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Matthew Snyder United States Air Force Academy

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Michael Maixner United States Air Force Academy

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Engineering Tools Seminar: An Innovative New Course to Prepare Students for the Rigors of the Mechanical Engineering Program Abstract

The Department of Engineering Mechanics at the United States Air Force Academy debuted Engineering Tools Seminar (ETS) in the spring of 2008. ETS is a hands-on course that exposes 3rd-year undergraduate students to manufacturing processes, but ETS is unique in its treatment of other essential “tools” such as computer software, technical communication and engineering ethics. ETS was created to bolster sagging enrollment, deliberately address neglected content, and fulfill student requests for an introductory manufacturing course. Students enrolled in the department’s three curricula suggested that an equipment training course prior to their senior year would streamline the training process, eliminating ad-hoc training that occurs in other courses, their capstone courses, or on their own time. Such a deliberate process would produce well-trained, productive students that could hit the ground running in their capstone courses.

The manufacturing processes presented include wood working, machining, welding and composite lay-up. In addition, software tools are introduced and compared including Microsoft Excel®, MatLAB®, MathCAD®, and Inventor®. Key aspects of technical communication including reading, writing and presenting are introduced and practiced. Finally, a two-lesson seminar on engineering ethics completes the content. A small desk set is constructed by the students as a capstone project, and draws on many of the skills learned throughout the course. To evaluate the course, students were surveyed frequently and faculty feedback was collected. The results presented show that the welding, machining and Excel® content was very successful, while general organization and some content could be improved in future offerings.


The United States Air Force Academy located near Colorado Springs, Colorado, hosts up to 4400 undergraduate students. Graduates of the academy receive a Bachelor of Science degree in one of 32 academic majors, are commissioned as Second Lieutenants in the US Air Force and have a compulsory five year service commitment. Thus, students are virtually guaranteed employment as long as they graduate and remain in good standing. Students select a major of their choosing; however, a demanding core curriculum consumes the majority of their allotted credit hours and addresses a broad scope of subjects that give all graduates an aptitude in the basic sciences, engineering, humanities and social sciences.

Although the core curriculum includes several engineering courses, the Department of Engineering Mechanics diligently recruits students to join one of our three programs; Engineering Mechanics, Mechanical Engineering, or Systems Engineering (Mechanical). Despite our recruiting efforts, enrollment in these majors has declined recently due in part to development of a Systems Engineering track, competition from other academic departments and lack of tangible incentives for choosing a more difficult major. Unlike many engineering programs at civilian institutions, our department cannot offer summer internship programs, a recruiting tool used to introduce students to real world engineering problems and aid in the job

Anderson, M., & Snyder, M., & Maixner, M. (2009, June), Engineering Tools Seminar: An Innovative New Course To Prepare Students For The Rigors Of The Mechanical Engineering Program Paper presented at 2009 Annual Conference & Exposition, Austin, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--4612

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