June 26, 2011
June 26, 2011
June 29, 2011
22.770.1 - 22.770.11
Herding CATS: Weaving Coherent Application Threads through a Mechanical Engineering Curriculum to Facilitate Course-to- Course Connectivity and Improve Material Retention Mechanical Engineering is a broad and varied field, one reason why it is a popular choice forstudents pursuing engineering degrees. One down side of this breadth is that applications usedas contextual examples in core courses are also varied and diverse: e.g., bridges in introductorymechanics, I-beams in mechanics of materials, power plants in thermodynamics, wings in fluidmechanics, etc.. Though useful in focusing students on the topic at hand and exposing the broadnature of the discipline, this compartmentalized approach can hinder both material retention andstudent understanding of system-level integration and interaction of the various core concepts.Coherent Application Threads (CATs) are meant to address this issue. CATs are specificengineering application examples that are woven through the fabric of the MechanicalEngineering (ME) curriculum, exposing students to the varied aspects of one application in thecontext of core ME principles covered in engineering science courses. CATs are topics ofcurrent interest, ideally connected to department research thrust areas and concentrations, thatwill follow cohorts through their 4-year curriculum. CATs are implemented through a variety ofactivities: lecture modules, projects, homework problems, example problems, and laboratoryexperiences. These are integrated through a Website that provides a framework for thecoursework, as well as a portal for independent inquiry into related topics.The concept of CATs draws inspiration from Aeronautical Engineering for which exists aninherent application thread—an aircraft—touched upon throughout the curriculum andculminating in capstone design. The result is a more unified, though admittedly narrower, viewof fundamental engineering concepts and an exposure to a critical systems engineering lesson—that various discipline-specific problems (aerodynamics, structures, etc) cannot be studied inisolation, but must be addressed in an integrated manner. The goal of CATs in the MEcurriculum is to emulate this, while still retaining the broader view of the discipline.Though the main motivation for CATs is material retention, they can also address several othercritical pedagogical issues, including: framing engineering topics in the larger societal context;exposing students to the importance of lifelong learning; and engaging students through topics ofcurrent interest. The paper will cover the development and pilot testing of one coherentthread—wind turbines, including how the thread is mapped into the core curriculum, typicalactivities, on-line supplemental learning modules, and assessment and evaluation tools. Inaddition, the sustainability of the concept will also be addressed, including engaging faculty andstudents and institutionalizing the procedure for selecting, implementing and reviewing CATs.
Wroblewski, D. (2011, June), Herding CATS: Weaving Coherent Application Threads through a Mechanical Engineering Curriculum to Facilitate Course-to-Course Connectivity and Improve Material Retention Paper presented at 2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Vancouver, BC. https://peer.asee.org/18051
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