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Improving The Transparency And Effectiveness Of Instructional Laboratory Equipment

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2003 Annual Conference


Nashville, Tennessee

Publication Date

June 22, 2003

Start Date

June 22, 2003

End Date

June 25, 2003



Conference Session

Tools for Teaching and Learning

Page Count


Page Numbers

8.675.1 - 8.675.13

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Paper Authors

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Sterling E. Skinner

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Eric G. Chapman

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Sheldon Jeter

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

Session 2566

Gravity Powered Block Transport: A Freshman Design Project.

Clark T. Merkel, Patricia Brackin, Department of Mechanical Engineering Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology

Introduction: This paper describes a project used for a mechanical engineering, freshmen design course. Its focus is on how this project was used to introduce design methodology through practice with a project-based implementation. Four sections of a freshman design course with approximately 32 students each were divided into 4 person teams and were all given the same design task: design a device which would use a dropping weight to transport a small wooden block while attempting to optimize a number of other design constraints. The design course was structured to introduce and walk the students through the design process, thereby demonstrating systematic examination of the design problem, generation of design ideas, analysis and comparison of different designs, and the process of narrowing down and making the final selection of a design. The design project was capped by having each team construct their final design and compete against each other in a contest to determine which team designed and built the superior project. This paper explains the design problem used and how the design steps were integrated with the project to develop both teaming skills and an understanding of the design process. The paper concludes with subjective feedback on the effectiveness of this design project and its implementation from both student and instructor feedback.

The Freshman Design Course: Like many other engineering programs, our mechanical engineering program at Rose- Hulman Institute of Technology attempts to include design experiences throughout the curriculum. As part of this overall emphasis, a 2 credit course is currently offered during the spring quarter of the freshmen year. Its primary focus is to offer students their first formalized introduction to the process and methods of design as applied in an engineering context. A wide variety of design methods and team oriented experiences are included in this course to help students learn ways to formalize such diverse skills as idea generation, team building, communication, time management, consensus building, modeling, design evaluation, design selection, working with machine tools, device specification, and documentation. The approach which we have adopted for this course is to choose one main design problem to be addressed across the design spectrum. The students are assigned to teams in the class and work through a number of design steps and activities to find an acceptable solution to the design problem. Near the end of the quarter, the devices that they design are built and pitted against each other in a competition to determine which team created the best design and built the best device.

“Proceedings of the 2003 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright  2003, American Society for Engineering Education”

Skinner, S. E., & Chapman, E. G., & Jeter, S. (2003, June), Improving The Transparency And Effectiveness Of Instructional Laboratory Equipment Paper presented at 2003 Annual Conference, Nashville, Tennessee.

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