Asee peer logo

Incorporating Open Ended Projects Into A Machine Elements Course

Download Paper |


2005 Annual Conference


Portland, Oregon

Publication Date

June 12, 2005

Start Date

June 12, 2005

End Date

June 15, 2005



Conference Session

Mechanics, Machine Design & Mechanisms

Page Count


Page Numbers

10.745.1 - 10.745.15

Permanent URL

Download Count


Request a correction

Paper Authors

author page

Matthew Campbell University of Texas at Austin

author page

Kathy Schmidt The University of Texas at Austin

Download Paper |

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

Incorporating Open-Ended Projects into a Machine Elements Course

Matthew I. Campbell, and Kathy J. Schmidt

Department of Mechanical Engineering/Faculty Innovation Center University of Texas at Austin Austin, TX 78712

1 Introduction Mechanical engineering students typically take a “Fundamentals of Machine Elements” course in their third year of study. For the last several years, students at the University of Texas at Austin take a redesigned course that combines hands-on projects within a traditional classroom format of homeworks, tests, and lectures. Integrating projects into the curriculum is part of a larger, multi-faceted departmental effort called PROCEED (PROject CEntered EDucation)1, which actively promotes projects across the mechanical engineering undergraduate curriculum. PROCEED encourages instruction that integrates course projects in order to advance active, socially constructed learning that draws upon a student’s knowledge of theory and principles. That is, students in PROCEED-based courses are going beyond note taking, homework and testing by doing hands-on activities and thinking about what they are doing. Students entering this machine elements course often lack hands-on experience with tools and machines. Furthermore, in combining this with their few experiences in solving open-ended problems, it appears that students are not ready to apply their theoretical understanding to real problems. This course focuses on teaching the fundamentals of mechanical components: both their functional behaviors and the purpose for their various geometries. One common problem with this course within the modern mechanical engineering curriculum is that it essentially encapsulates the bulk of mechanical engineering knowledge that existed prior to the Second World War. While much of the course material is not conceptually difficult, there is an immense amount of definitions and simple relations for various components. Simply teaching these component fundamentals does not properly outfit students with the mechanical intuition that engineers a hundred years ago achieved under an extensive mentorship program. Furthermore, the need to redesign this course has been apparent within the department’s goal to bridge the gap between lower-level analysis courses with senior level design courses. In this paper, we present our project-based approach to teaching machine elements as well as expand upon our past presentations of this material2, 3. The project-based learning in this course improves students’ abilities in making connections across various engineering topics and in mastering less tangible skills such as “mechanical intuition.”

Proceedings of the 2005 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright © 2005, American Society for Engineering Education

Campbell, M., & Schmidt, K. (2005, June), Incorporating Open Ended Projects Into A Machine Elements Course Paper presented at 2005 Annual Conference, Portland, Oregon.

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: © 2005 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