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Implementing Open-ended Hands-on Design Projects throughout the Mechanical Engineering Curriculum

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2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


New Orleans, Louisiana

Publication Date

June 26, 2016

Start Date

June 26, 2016

End Date

June 29, 2016





Conference Session

Design throughout the Mechanical Engineering Curriculum I

Tagged Division

Mechanical Engineering

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Haolin Zhu Arizona State University

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Dr. Haolin Zhu received her PhD in Solid Mechanics and Computational Science and Engineering from Cornell University. She is currently part of the freshmen engineering education team in the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering at Arizona State University. Currently she focuses on designing the curriculum for the freshman engineering program as well as the NAE Grand Challenge Scholars Program. She also designs and teaches courses in mechanical engineering at ASU. Her interests include innovative teaching pedagogies for increased retention and student motivation, innovations in non-traditional delivery methods, as well as structured reflective practices throughout the engineering curriculum.

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Implementing Open-Ended Hands-on Design Projects throughout the Mechanical Engineering Curriculum

Engineers engage in design activities on a daily basis and thus engineering design has been considered one of the most important topics in engineering education and one of the most important stills that engineering students should possess when they graduate. Most first-year introduction to engineering courses now emphasize on the engineering design process and it has been considered best practices for introduction to engineering classes to contain “hands-on”, team based design projects[1-5]. Benefits of such hands-on design projects implemented in the freshman year include, increased retention, student motivation, academic performance, etc. After the freshman year, most engineering students rarely have opportunities to engage in hands-on design projects until their senior year when the capstone design projects are implemented, where students apply their acquired knowledge to an open-ended problem. Within the Mechanical Engineering curriculum, some sophomore and junior level courses contain hands-on labs and others incorporate design projects. However, usually the hands-on labs are not design based and the design projects are not hands-on in nature. Even though a few attempts have been made by a few authors in the past to implement hands-on design projects in sophomore and junior level mechanical engineering courses, for example, Al Hamidi, et al., discussed such efforts in the Mechanical Measurements course at Texas A&M University at Qatar [6], there has not been a consistent effort to provide opportunities for students to tackle open-ended hands-on design problems throughout the mechanical engineering curriculum.

At [institution], three open-ended hands-on design projects, one in each of the three mechanical engineering courses taught during the Spring 2015 semester have been implemented: a National Academy of Engineering’s Grand Challenges design project in FSE100 Introduction to Engineering; a truss bridge design project in MAE213 Solid Mechanics; a manual toy design project in MAE341 Mechanism Analysis and Design. The goal was to provide students with hands-on design experiences throughout the mechanical engineering curriculum. In this paper, the implementation of these hands-on design projects will be described. Students’ performances in these design projects will also be presented. Student perceptions of these hands-on design projects have been obtained through a survey and results will be discussed. Overall students felt very positive about these open-ended hands-on design projects and they agreed that there has been a lack of hands-on design experiences in the curriculum, which would be invaluable to better prepare them for the job market. Students who participated in these design projects mastered the topics involved better than those who did not. Challenges of implementing these projects continuously for a long term, such as, budget, logistics, course workload, will be addressed and ways to run these projects in a sustainable way in the long run will be suggested.

References [1] S. Sheppard and R. Jennison, “Freshman engineering design experiences and organizational framework,” International journal of Engineering Education, vol 13, pp. 190-197, 1997.

[2] M. B. R. Vallim, J. M. Farines and J. E. R. Cury, “Practicing engineering in a freshman introductory course,” Education, IEEE Transaction on, vol. 49, pp.74-79, 2006.

[3] J. Richardson and J. Dantzler, “Effect of a freshman engineering program on retention and academic performance,” in Frontiers in Education, 2002, FIE 2002. 32nd Annual, 2002, pp. S2C-16-S2C-22 vol 3.

[4] C. Dym, A. Agogino, O. Eris, D. Frey and Leifer, “Engineering design thinking, teaching, and learning,” 2005

[5] S. D. Sheppard and J. Jenison, “Thoughts on freshman engineering design experiences,” in Frontiers in Education Conference, 1996. FIE’96. 26th Annual Conference, Procedings of, 1996, pp. 909-913 vol. 2.

[6] Al Hamidi, Y. M., Tafreshi, R.., et al., “Hands-on design projects in a sophomore mechanical engineering course,” in American Society of Engineering Education Conference, Proceedings of, Vancouver, B.C., Canada, 2011.

Zhu, H. (2016, June), Implementing Open-ended Hands-on Design Projects throughout the Mechanical Engineering Curriculum Paper presented at 2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, New Orleans, Louisiana. 10.18260/p.25596

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