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Hands On Projects In An Early Design Course

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2008 Annual Conference & Exposition


Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Publication Date

June 22, 2008

Start Date

June 22, 2008

End Date

June 25, 2008



Conference Session

Outstanding Contributions to ME Education

Tagged Division

Mechanical Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

13.663.1 - 13.663.34



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Paper Authors


Richard Bannerot University of Houston

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Richard Bannerot is a professor of mechanical engineering at the University of Houston. His research interests are in the thermal sciences and engineering education, especially heat transfer, alternative energy, thermal system design, and design education. He is a registered professional engineer in the State of Texas.

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

Hands-on Projects in an Early Design Course


This paper presents an overview of both team and individual projects over a five-year period from 2002 to 2006 in an early mechanical engineering design course. All ten, semester-long team projects are hands-on and require the design, fabrication and testing of an artifact. Of the six individual projects described: two are experimental; one requires reverse engineering; one is hands-on; and two are related to design evaluation and the design process. Example results are given for two of the team projects and two of the individual projects. Student surveys indicate that engineering students enjoy working on these projects and learn from the experience.


Early, hands-on, design experiences in the BSME curriculum have become more common recently even though providing “hands-on” experiences in an engineering program is not new1,2. Prince and Felder3 reviewed over a hundred studies addressing the assessment of various teaching strategies and concluded that “inquiry learning” and “problem-based learning” were generally more effective than others. The engineering education literature provides many examples of this type of learning through “hands-on” or “learning-by-doing” projects. In fact many schools have introduced innovative “hands-on” activities and hardware into their freshman courses4-11, their sophomore courses in mechanics12-20 and thermodynamics21-27 as well as in other engineering courses28-35, “non-majors” courses36, 37 and high school courses38-40.

We introduced a sophomore design course, including a semester-long, team design, build and test project, in 1980 and have offered the course each fall and spring semester ever since to between 30 and 75 students. The author was an observer of the course for the first eleven years and has been the only instructor of the course since 1991. The course content has changed over the years, but has been fixed for the past ten years. While the semester-long, team project changes each semester, its format has more or less reached a steady state. Individual design projects are also assigned in the course.

Overview of Project Philosophy, Format and Requirements

This paper will focus on descriptions of the team design projects and some individual projects assigned in our sophomore design class from 2002 through 2006. Sample results for two of the team projects and for two of the individual projects will also be given. The common thread through all the team design projects is the attempt to recognize several aspects of the design process and not simply to focus on the testing results or the “competition.” The expected outcomes from the team design projects are:

Bannerot, R. (2008, June), Hands On Projects In An Early Design Course Paper presented at 2008 Annual Conference & Exposition, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. 10.18260/1-2--3510

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