Virtual On line
June 22, 2020
June 22, 2020
June 26, 2021
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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