Asee peer logo

Implementing A Video Game To Teach Principles Of Mechanical Engineering

Download Paper |


2007 Annual Conference & Exposition


Honolulu, Hawaii

Publication Date

June 24, 2007

Start Date

June 24, 2007

End Date

June 27, 2007



Conference Session

Programming for Engineering Students

Tagged Division

Computers in Education

Page Count


Page Numbers

12.840.1 - 12.840.22



Permanent URL

Download Count


Request a correction

Paper Authors


Brianno Coller Northern Illinois University

visit author page

Dr. Coller is an Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering at Northern Illinois University. He received his Ph.D. in Theoretical & Applied Mechanics from Cornell University, and did postdoctoral research at the California Institute of Technology. In addition to research in education, Dr. Coller is interested in nonlinear dynamical systems and control.

visit author page

Download Paper |

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

Implementing a video game to teach principles of mechanical engineering


The paper describes how a video game is used to teach numerical methods to mechanical engi- neering undergraduates. The video game provides an authentic and engaging context in which to learn computational techniques and concepts that are often dry and uninspiring. After outlining a study demonstrating that students in the video game-based course learn more deeply than students in more traditional textbook-based courses, we describe how learning outcomes are integrated into the game-play. We contrast the game-based assignments to typical textbook problems.

1 Introduction

For the past two years, we have been experimenting with a new way of teaching a numerical methods course to our undergraduate mechanical engineering students. Rather than designing the course around a textbook in which the students’ assignments are culled from the end-of-chapter exercises, we have built our new numerical methods course around a video game. Our goal has been to use the video game as an anchor3–5 for the course, providing an engaging context for almost all subsequent instruction, homework, and group projects.

Our motivation for doing so stems from the fact that annual revenues for the video game industry have long surpassed box of- fice receipts from the movie industry.7 Ac- cording to a recent report from the Kaiser Family Foundation,22 83% of children be- tween the ages of 8 and 18 have at least one video game console in their home; 31% have three or more. The statistics across all cate- gories of race, gender and economic status are compelling. Children in this age group spend considerable time playing video games: 68 minutes per day on average.22 Unlike the passive medium of television, Figure 1: Screen-shot of NIU-Torcs. playing a video game usually means engag- ing one’s mind in complex problem solving exercises.15 The most successful video games are often ones that are the most challenging, mentally. They are also ones that have highly effective learning

Coller, B. (2007, June), Implementing A Video Game To Teach Principles Of Mechanical Engineering Paper presented at 2007 Annual Conference & Exposition, Honolulu, Hawaii. 10.18260/1-2--2343

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2007 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015