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Incorporating Systems Thinking and Systems Engineering Concepts in a Freshman-Level Mechanical Engineering Course

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Conference

2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access

Location

Virtual On line

Publication Date

June 22, 2020

Start Date

June 22, 2020

End Date

June 26, 2021

Conference Session

Systems Engineering Division Technical Session 2

Tagged Division

Systems Engineering

Page Count

18

DOI

10.18260/1-2--34813

Permanent URL

https://peer.asee.org/34813

Download Count

91

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Paper Authors

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Karim Heinz Muci-Kuchler South Dakota School of Mines and Technology

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Dr. Karim Muci-Küchler is a Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Director of the Experimental and Computational Mechanics Laboratory at the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology (SDSMT). Before joining SDSMT, he was an Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Detroit Mercy. He received his Ph.D. in Engineering Mechanics from Iowa State University in 1992. His main interest areas include Computational Mechanics, Solid Mechanics, Product Design and Development, and STEM Education. He has taught several different courses at the undergraduate and graduate level, has over 60 publications, is co-author of one book, and has done consulting for industry in Mexico and the US. He can be reached at Karim.Muci@sdsmt.edu.

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Cassandra M. Birrenkott South Dakota School of Mines and Technology Orcid 16x16 orcid.org/0000-0001-6137-0820

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Dr. Cassandra Birrenkott received her B.S. degree in Metallurgical Engineering from the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology in 2007. She received her Ph.D. in Materials Science and Engineering in 2012 from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, studying mechanochemical reactions of a spiropyran mechanophore in polymeric materials under shear loading. She is currently an Assistant Professor in the Mechanical Engineering department at the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology where her research interests include novel manufacturing and characterization techniques of polymer and composite structures and the incorporation of multifunctionality by inducing desired responses to mechanical loading.

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Mark David Bedillion Carnegie Mellon University Orcid 16x16 orcid.org/0000-0001-5065-4131

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Dr. Bedillion received the BS degree in 1998, the MS degree in 2001, and the PhD degree in 2005, all from the mechanical engineering department of Carnegie Mellon University. After a seven year career in the hard disk drive industry, Dr. Bedillion was on the faculty of the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology for over 5 years before joining Carnegie Mellon as a Teaching Faculty in 2016. Dr. Bedillion's research interests include distributed manipulation, control applications in data storage, control applications in manufacturing, and STEM education.

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Marsha Lovett Carnegie Mellon University

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Dr. Marsha Lovett is Associate Vice Provost of Teaching Innovation, Director of the Eberly Center for Teaching Excellence and Educational Innovation, and Teaching Professor of Psychology -- all at Carnegie Mellon University. She applies theoretical and empirical principles from learning science research to improve teaching and learning. She has published more than fifty articles in this area, co-authored the book How Learning Works: 7 Research-Based Principles for Smart Teaching, and developed several innovative, educational technologies, including StatTutor and the Learning Dashboard.

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Clifford Whitcomb Naval Postgraduate School

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Dr. Clifford A. Whitcomb, Ph.D. is Distinguished Professor in the Systems Engineering Department at the Naval Postgraduate School, Monterey, California. He has over 35 years experience in leadership roles in teaching, research, and implementation of naval ship system engineering for the US Navy. Dr. Whitcomb is currently conducting research in systems architecture modeling for combatant ship, unmanned vehicle, and information technology systems and systems of systems. Dr. Whitcomb is currently the Editor-in-Chief for the journal Systems Engineering. He is a fellow of both the International Council on Systems Engineering and the Society of Naval Architects and Marine Engineers. Previous to his position at NPS, he was a professor and the Northrop Grumman Ship Systems Endowed Chair in Shipbuilding and Engineering in the School of Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering, and professor of Engineering Management, at the University of New Orleans, New Orleans, Louisiana. He also held a position as an Eminent Scientist in the area of naval electric power systems for the Naval Sea Systems Command, Naval Surface Warfare Center, Philadelphia, PA. Prior to this, he was a senior lecturer and research scientist in the System Design and Management (SDM) program in the Engineering Systems Division (ESD) at MIT, as well as an Associate Professor of Naval Construction and Engineering in the Ocean Engineering Department at MIT. He is a retired naval engineering duty officer and submarine warfare officer. He earned his B.S. in Engineering (Nuclear Engineering) from the University of Washington, Seattle, WA in 1984, M.S. degrees in both Naval Engineering and Electrical Engineering & Computer Science from MIT, Cambridge, MA in 1992, and Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering (New Product Design and Development) from the University of Maryland, College Park, MD in 1998. He is a Certified Systems Engineering Professional (CSEP) and was a Lean Six Sigma Master Black Belt for Northrop Grumman Ship Systems.

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Abstract

The complexity of the products and systems that engineers design, develop, operate, support, and retire from service has increased drastically over time. In order to prepare mechanical engineering graduates that can successfully participate in the different activities that occur over the life cycle of a complex product or system, students need to be exposed to systems thinking (ST) and systems engineering (SE) concepts during their undergraduate education.

Although courses dealing with product design and development are an excellent choice to introduce basic ST and SE concepts, mechanical engineering undergraduate programs seldom offer more than one or two of those courses in their curriculum. Thus, to gradually develop the ST and SE skills of the students during their undergraduate education, it is necessary to identify additional courses throughout the curriculum in which selected ST and SE concepts can be incorporated, starting in the freshman year. To that effect, many universities offer a freshman-level introduction to mechanical engineering course that can be a good a choice to explore how to incorporate basic ST and SE concepts in courses where product design and development is not the primary focus.

Incorporating ST and SE concepts in a freshman-level mechanical engineering course requires careful consideration of which topics to include as well as the approach that will be used to teach those topics. Compared to a product design and development course, there is less flexibility in the amount of class time that can be used and the types of learning activities that can be pursued.

This paper presents the approach that was used to add selected ST and SE topics to an existing freshman-level introduction to mechanical engineering course and discusses the results of a pilot implementation. The educational materials developed for the intervention consisted of PowerPoint presentations, homework assignments, and a short project. To assess the benefits of the intervention, the performance of the students in ST and SE related homework assignments and exam questions was considered. Also, an existing systems thinking skills survey was applied as a pre-test at the start of the course and as a post-test during the last week of classes.

Muci-Kuchler, K. H., & Birrenkott, C. M., & Bedillion, M. D., & Lovett, M., & Whitcomb, C. (2020, June), Incorporating Systems Thinking and Systems Engineering Concepts in a Freshman-Level Mechanical Engineering Course Paper presented at 2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual On line . 10.18260/1-2--34813

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