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Estimation And Its Importance In Engineering Education

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2005 Annual Conference


Portland, Oregon

Publication Date

June 12, 2005

Start Date

June 12, 2005

End Date

June 15, 2005



Conference Session

Emerging Trends in Engineering Education Poster Session

Page Count


Page Numbers

10.587.1 - 10.587.7



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Paper Authors

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Said Shakerin

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

ESTIMATION AND ITS IMPORTANCE IN EGINEERING EDUCATION Said Shakerin, Ph.D., P.E. ( Department of Mechanical Engineering University of the Pacific Stockton, CA 95211


Ability to perform estimation is an asset, for example, when dealing with problems with limited or unavailable data. Engineering students, in general, are inadequately prepared to perform rough estimation. A possible reason for this short coming is that engineering curricula place too much emphasis on detailed analysis and not enough attention is given to developing estimation skill. This paper provides a list of activities, appropriate at lower division courses, to engage students in estimation exercises and to lunch them on a path to develop this skill.


Estimation is an integral activity of our daily lives – from determining how much cash to take along during our upcoming vacation to purchasing enough paint to add some color to our home. Considering the latter, if our estimate is way off, we either end up with a lot of extra paint or need to make another trip to the paint shop to purchase more. Being able to properly estimate various quantities that one encounters is a useful skill. People use experience and common sense and read labels and instructions to perform these estimations, which usually require simple arithmetic.

Engineers also make use of estimation in their practice to determine answers to ill-defined problems or when a detailed solution is not called for. Estimation particularly plays an important role in preliminary stages of design process when decisions have to be made based on incomplete or unavailable details/data, and selections must be made from a multitude of options. Engineering estimation (E2) covers a large domain between detailed analysis (time consuming and expensive) and guessing (instantly done and free). Successful E2 is performed based on knowledge of dimensions and units, the laws of physics and modeling, ability to relate and compare, and common sense. Like many other attributes, an engineer’s ability to estimate is enhanced and strengthened by experience.

In the late 1990s a comprehensive study was undertaken at MIT to find out mechanical engineering students’ ability to perform simple engineering estimations. The estimation questions posed to students in their survey related to energy in a small battery, drag on a bicyclist, and power output of a small motor. (The study also included students from five other top-ranked mechanical engineering programs, as well as practicing mechanical engineers for comparison purposes.) The study culminated in a Ph.D. dissertation by Linder [1] and resulted in a number of publications [e.g., 2 and 3]. The reader is encouraged to consult with these

Proceedings of the 2005 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference and Exposition Copyright @ 2005, American Society for Engineering Education

Shakerin, S. (2005, June), Estimation And Its Importance In Engineering Education Paper presented at 2005 Annual Conference, Portland, Oregon. 10.18260/1-2--14691

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