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Extracurricular Project Enhances Student Learning: A Case Study

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2010 Annual Conference & Exposition


Louisville, Kentucky

Publication Date

June 20, 2010

Start Date

June 20, 2010

End Date

June 23, 2010



Conference Session

Student Learning and Assessment

Tagged Division

Mechanical Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

15.570.1 - 15.570.13



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Paper Authors


Nicholas Harlow Western Kentucky University

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Nicholas Harlow is an undergraduate student in Mechanical Engineering and is currently in his senior year. He is also employed as a student worker for WKU’s Thermal-Fluid Mechanics Laboratory.

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Robert Choate Western Kentucky University

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Robert Choate is an Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering at Western Kentucky University. He teaches thermo-fluid and professional component courses, including Sophomore Design, Thermo-Fluid Systems Lab and ME Senior Project Design course sequence. Prior to teaching at WKU, he was a principal engineer for CMAC Design Corporation, designing telecommunication, data communication and information technology equipment.

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H. Joel Lenoir Western Kentucky University

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Joel Lenoir is the Layne Professor of Mechanical Engineering at WKU, and primarily teaches in the dynamic systems and instrumentation areas of the curriculum. His industrial experience includes positions at Michelin Research and Oak Ridge National Laboratory, as well as extensive professional practice in regional design and manufacturing firms.

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

Extracurricular Project Enhances Student Learning: A Case Study


Recently at Western Kentucky University’s mechanical engineering thermal-fluids laboratory, a student worker, the author of this paper, was given the opportunity to design, build, and test (DBT) a dust collector performance test bed. The development of this test bed was inspired by an article in Wood Magazine, which described a method for testing the performance of various portable dust collectors.

The test bed developed is being used for instructional purposes in one laboratory course in the Mechanical Engineering (ME) Program. Currently, the test bed is used in the program’s Engineering Experimentation and Instrumentation course as a dust collector performance experiment. In this experiment students gain experience in method of measurement, selection of instrumentation, errors in and the proper use of pressure and air flow velocity measurements, and fan selection. Moreover, the test bed is capable of being used in a variety of other applications making it possible to be used in other laboratory courses in the future.

The test bed incorporates a common portable wood shop dust collector with a duct system consisting of round metal duct, plastic flexible hose, and various duct transitions. In the current experiment, air flow rates and static pressures are measured in the duct for several different duct configurations, or operating conditions. These operating conditions are then used to plot the dust collector’s fan curve and compare it to the manufacturer’s listed performance characteristics.

This paper focuses on the DBT process of the test bed and the development of the experiment. Moreover, an assessment of the project is provided through an analysis of the following project outcomes: 1) The student worker’s learning experiences during the execution of this extracurricular project inclusive of both technical and project management aspects and 2) The impact of the implementation of this extracurricular project as a course experiment in the Experimentation and Instrumentation course as part of the ME Program’s curriculum sequence.


The Mechanical Engineering (ME) Program at Western Kentucky University focuses on creating professional learning experiences in order to “provide students with the opportunity to acquire tools and skills, as well as technical competency.”1,2 These learning experiences are provided through various projects both in the classroom as well as in extracurricular environments. One way the ME Program creates these extracurricular environments is by employing undergraduate engineering students to work with faculty on various projects. This provides students the opportunity to gain practical engineering experience to supplement their undergraduate educations.

An opportunity for such a project arose when one of the mechanical engineering faculty found an article in Wood Magazine entitled, “Dust Collectors Under $400”3. This article presented a

Harlow, N., & Choate, R., & Lenoir, H. J. (2010, June), Extracurricular Project Enhances Student Learning: A Case Study Paper presented at 2010 Annual Conference & Exposition, Louisville, Kentucky. 10.18260/1-2--15728

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