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Incorporating A Research Problem In A Numerical Methods Course For Mechanical Engineers

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2007 Annual Conference & Exposition


Honolulu, Hawaii

Publication Date

June 24, 2007

Start Date

June 24, 2007

End Date

June 27, 2007



Conference Session

Software and E-learning in the ME Curriculum

Tagged Division

Mechanical Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

12.869.1 - 12.869.11



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Paper Authors


Autar Kaw University of South Florida

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Autar K Kaw is a Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Jerome Krivanek Distinguished Teacher at the University of South Florida. He is the author of the textbook - Mechanics of Composite Materials, CRC-LLC Press. With major funding from National Science Foundation, he is developing award winning web-based resources for an undergraduate course in Numerical Methods. He is the recipient of the 2004 CASE Florida Professor of the Year and the 2003 ASEE Archie Higdon Distinguished Mechanics Educator Award. His current scholarly interests include development of instructional technologies, integrating research in classroom, thermal stresses, computational mechanics, and mechanics of nonhomogeneous nanolayers.

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


This paper presents an example of incorporating a research problem in a course - Numerical Methods for Mechanical Engineers. In bascule bridges, the fulcrum is assembled by shrink-fitting a trunnion into a hub. In one case, the trunnion cooled in a dry-ice/alcohol mixture for shrink fitting got stuck halfway in the hub. Answering the question why the trunnion got stuck in the hub and finding a solution to the problem, involved numerical solution of mathematical procedures including nonlinear equations, simultaneous linear equations, interpolation, regression, integration, and ordinary differential equations. Students and faculty highly appreciate using this problem-centered approach to teaching the course.


National scientific agencies such as the National Science Foundation1 are continually encouraging integration of current research topics into undergraduate education. As our nation’s engineers increasingly face global competition2, bringing the state-of-art research into the classroom is becoming increasingly important. Education and research are of equal value and should be viewed as complementary parts of any STEM education system3.

Incorporating a research problem into a graduate level course4 presents challenges, and to incorporate a problem into an undergraduate level is even more challenging. These challenges include 1. the research problem may not address most of the topics of the course to justify the use of class time, 2. specific skills may be needed that are too time consuming to teach, 3. the problem may be out of scope for the education level of the students. In the Numerical Methods course, we were either able to meet or not have to face these challenges. In the next sections, the description, implementation, and assessment of the problem are discussed.

Description of Problem Amongst movable bridges, bascule bridges are the most popular type as they are simple and speedy to operate. The pivot assembly (called the trunnion-hub-girder (THG) assembly) of a bascule bridge consists of a trunnion shaft attached to the leaf (girder) via a hub, and supported on bearings to permit rotation of the leaf (Figure 1).


Kaw, A. (2007, June), Incorporating A Research Problem In A Numerical Methods Course For Mechanical Engineers Paper presented at 2007 Annual Conference & Exposition, Honolulu, Hawaii. 10.18260/1-2--1694

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