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Experiential Engineers: Developing An Integrated Mechanical Engineering Laboratory

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2002 Annual Conference


Montreal, Canada

Publication Date

June 16, 2002

Start Date

June 16, 2002

End Date

June 19, 2002



Conference Session

Trends in Mechanical Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

7.544.1 - 7.544.6



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Paper Authors

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Paula Zenner

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Charles Van Karsen

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

Main Menu Session 1566

Experiential Engineers: Developing an Integrated Mechanical Engineering Laboratory

Charles D. Van Karsen, Paula F. Zenner Michigan Technological University


The Department of Mechanical Engineering-Engineering Mechanics at Michigan Technological University has developed a required undergraduate laboratory that is a practical and relevant component of an engineer’s education. The purpose is to provide a combined mechanical engineering experience that reinforces the traditional elements of a curriculum. Solid Mechanics, Dynamics, and Heat Transfer are integrated through individual experiments and a combined systems experiment at the conclusion of the course. Faculty is directly involved teaching the lecture component of the course and one lab section weekly. Graduate students work closely with these faculty members and teach the balance of the weekly labs. Progress in educational outcomes has been noticed in the second semester of senior design. Students now have knowledge and hands-on experience of experimental techniques to incorporate and utilize in the development and testing stages of their capstone design project.


The Department of Mechanical Engineering-Engineering Mechanics initiated a full curriculum review that coincided with Michigan Technological University’s conversion from a quarter- based to a semester-based academic calendar. The curriculum review began in the fall of 1998 with the conversion to semesters scheduled for fall of 2000. The department’s forty-five faculty were challenged to begin the process with a clean piece of paper and were committed to creating a curriculum that would prepare students for the next century. During the first year of a two-year review the Mechanical Engineering faculty investigated curricula at institutions that had recently made major revisions, were NSF supported coalition schools, and a mixture of other peer and benchmark mechanical engineering programs across the nation. One important component of the first year review was identifying the need for more experimental laboratory experiences in the revised degree program. In addition to the traditional course specific laboratories, either as discovery or co-requisite, the desire to create a modern, state-of-the-art, laboratory environment existed. The review process also identified that the experience needed to be integrated with prior coursework and labs and have relevance in future coursework and projects.

The laboratory components required in the quarter-based degree were traditional, independent, experiences with no integration of topics and no systems-based experiments. Mechanical engineering students were not exposed to Solid Mechanics and Heat Transfer experimentation techniques and were required to complete their Dynamic Systems lab as a part of the Dynamic Systems/Vibrations course. An independent Thermodynamics laboratory in the quarter curriculum has been modified to an independent energy laboratory covering Thermodynamics and Fluid Mechanics experiments in the new semester curriculum.

Proceedings of the 2002 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright 2002, American Society for Engineering Education

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Zenner, P., & Van Karsen, C. (2002, June), Experiential Engineers: Developing An Integrated Mechanical Engineering Laboratory Paper presented at 2002 Annual Conference, Montreal, Canada. 10.18260/1-2--10253

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