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External Engineering Competitions as Undergraduate Educational Experiences

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2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


San Antonio, Texas

Publication Date

June 10, 2012

Start Date

June 10, 2012

End Date

June 13, 2012



Conference Session

How Are We Preparing Our Students for the 21st Century Workforce?

Tagged Division

Cooperative & Experiential Education

Page Count


Page Numbers

25.624.1 - 25.624.14



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Paper Authors


David R. Mikesell P.E. Ohio Northern University

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David R. Mikesell is an Assistant Professor of mechanical engineering at Ohio Northern University. His research interests are in land vehicle dynamics, autonomous vehicles, and robotics. He joined the faculty in 2007 after work in automotive engineering at Ohio State (M.S. 2006, Ph.D. 2008), six years designing automated assembly machines and metal-cutting tools for Grob Systems, and four years of service as an officer in the U.S. Navy. He holds bachelor's degrees in German (Duke 1986) and mechanical engineering (ONU 1997).

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David R. Sawyers Jr. Ohio Northern University

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David R. Sawyers, Jr. is an Associate Professor of mechanical engineering at Ohio Northern University, where he teaches courses in general engineering and in the thermal sciences. He received a B.S.M.E. degree from Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology and the M.S. and Ph.D., both in mechanical engineering, from the University of Notre Dame.

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Jed E. Marquart Ohio Northern University

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Jed Marquart received his B.S.M.E. from Ohio Northern University, and his M.S. and Ph.D. in aerospace engineering from the University of Dayton. His 11 years in industry were spent primarily working for the U.S. Air Force in the areas of computational fluid dynamics and flight simulation. He has been teaching at ONU since 1991, in the areas of thermal sciences, experimental methods, finite element analysis, and computational fluid dynamics. He is the advisor to the student chapter of the AIAA, and to the ONU SAE Aero Design team.

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External Engineering Competitions As Undergraduate Educational ExperiencesOver the past decade, participation in national and international design competitions has grownsignificantly among mechanical engineering students at XXX University, a private,comprehensive, residential institution in the Midwest. At the same time, these competitions havecome to play an important role in achieving the educational objectives of the department. Thispaper will review several such competitions, evaluate the degree to which they contribute to theeducational experience of the students, and discuss some of the advantages and limitations ofthese activities.While traditional lectures, tutorials, and structured assignments are still essential to providing thefoundation for an understanding of engineering science and the skills required to solve math- andphysics-based problems, many of the abilities required by accrediting bodies and potentialemployers are difficult to achieve using these methods. Senior capstone projects and designproblems related to specific courses have become common tools for teaching skills such asworking in teams, solving open-ended problems, and communicating both technical and non-technical information. While these methods have met with significant success, continuedexpansion of curricular-based approaches is constrained by competition for limited class timewith the varied other demands on the undergraduate engineering curriculum. In addition, “open-ended” projects often require significantly higher demands on faculty than traditional structuredlectures and assignments.External design competitions, either independent or sponsored by a professional society or otherorganization, provide an additional approach to augment the engineering education ofundergraduates. This paper will consider four such competitions. The SAE Baja and AeroDesign Competitions, sponsored by the Society of Automotive Engineering, are well-establishedinternational competitions in which students from XXX University have participated in for anumber of years. The Human-Powered Vehicle Competition, organized by the AmericanSociety of Mechanical Engineers, is also an international competition, but involvement by XXXstudents only began during the 2009/10 academic year. The first Robotic Football Competition,organized by the University of YYY, took place in the spring of 2009 as the result of donationsfrom private sponsors. Students from XXX observed the game in 2010 and competed in 2011.Each of these competitions offers valuable experience on how student involvement can enhanceundergraduate engineering education, and also provides insight into some common advantagesand disadvantages of such involvement.

Mikesell, D. R., & Sawyers, D. R., & Marquart, J. E. (2012, June), External Engineering Competitions as Undergraduate Educational Experiences Paper presented at 2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, San Antonio, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--21381

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