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Impromptu Design Exercises in an Introductory Mechanical Engineering Course

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2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


San Antonio, Texas

Publication Date

June 10, 2012

Start Date

June 10, 2012

End Date

June 13, 2012



Conference Session

Active and Project-based Learning

Tagged Division

Mechanical Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

25.741.1 - 25.741.12



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Paper Authors


Garrett Miles Clayton Villanova University

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Garrett M. Clayton received his B.S.M.E. from Seattle University and his M.S.M.E. and Ph.D. in mechanical engineering from the University of Washington (Seattle). He is an Assistant Professor in mechanical rngineering at Villanova University. His research interests focus on mechatronics, specifically modeling and control of scanning probe microscopes and unmanned vehicles.

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Teresa Genevieve Wojcik Villanova University

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Teresa G. Wojcik is a faculty member in the Department of Education and Counseling at Villanova University. Her research includes the study of curricular and pedagogical innovation and implementation using qualitative methodologies. For example, she has investigated instructors’ interpretations of curriculum materials and their use of active teaching methods in the secondary school classroom.

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Aleksandra Radlińska Villanova University

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Aleksandra Radlińska is an Assistant Professor of civil and environmental engineering at Villanova University. She teaches introductory undergraduate courses on civil engineering materials as well as graduate courses that relate fundamentals of materials science with applications to civil engineering materials. Radlińska is an active member of ASEE and the paper she co-authored with other Villanova Faculty Members won Best Paper Award from the ASEE Mechanics Division in 2011.

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Noelle K. Comolli Villanova University

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Noelle Comolli is an Assistant Professor of chemical engineering at Villanova University. Her research focuses on polymers for biomaterials and targeted drug delivery, as well as engineering education. She received her Ph.D. from Drexel University and her B.S. from University of Delaware, both in chemical engineering.

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Impromptu Design Exercises in an Introductory Mechanical Engineering CourseIn this paper, the use of impromptu design exercises in an introductory mechanical engineeringcourse is presented. These exercises are used to introduce a variety of design ideas, including:the design process, brainstorming and decision making, optimization, and probability. In thispaper, the developed exercises will be presented along with details pertaining to implementingthese projects in the classroom and preliminary evaluations.In a typical impromptu design exercise, students are given a simple design task capable of beingcompleted in a short time, for example one class period. The student team approaches theproblem as they see fit – for example, design-build-test, build-test-redesign-build-test, etc. Whencomplete, the designs are tested with respect to some predetermined metric to determine awinner. This exercise is then followed by student reflection and class discussion.These projects have a number of advantages with respect to more typical education styles,including: 1) Using these hands-on activities give students concrete examples of the issues being discussed in class – e.g. students design something and then we discuss models of the design process. 2) Students really enjoy these projects and are left wanting more – this is clear from student responses on end-of-the-semester class evaluations.In addition to the advantages (a few of which are shown above), there are a number of issuesassociated with these projects which will also be discussed in this paper, including exercisedevelopment and keeping the students on track.

Clayton, G. M., & Wojcik, T. G., & Radlińska, A., & Comolli, N. K. (2012, June), Impromptu Design Exercises in an Introductory Mechanical Engineering Course Paper presented at 2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, San Antonio, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--21498

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