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Integrating Culture Along With Competence Instruction In Mechanical Engineering Capstone Project And Machine Design Courses

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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

Mechanical ET Design & Capstone

Page Count


Page Numbers

8.727.1 - 8.727.10



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Paper Authors

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Francis Di Bella

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

Session 1447

Mechanical Engineering Technology Division: “Integrating Culture as well as Engineering Instruction in Capstone Project and Machine Design Courses”

Francis A. Di Bella, PE (617 373 5240; Assistant Professor, School of Engineering Technology Northeastern University; Boston, MA

C.P. Snow’s famous 1959 Rede Lecture on the clash of the “Two Cultures”: Art and Science continues to reverberate in the halls of science and engineering education. Snow’s lecture brought to the surface what seemed apparent to most but never, until then, boldly stated; that there were two cultures, one of science and one of art that seemingly both can never be enjoyed by professionals who clearly must pick only one world to live in. In order to bridge this gap and to emphasize the richness that both cultures can provide the professional, engineering curriculums are requiring that the engineering students seriously take non-technical electives. The battle to gain the attention of an engineering student who is immersed into four ‘heavy’ courses in engineering and thus doesn’t have time for Liberal Arts is not an easy battle to win. This paper will describe the author’s efforts in integrating culture within engineering course work and provide examples of the Case Studies that have been used.

Introduction How often has the following scene been repeated in a typical engineering classroom? The Instructor is returning graded assignments of the Midterm project that involved the analysis of a variety of engine cycles: Diesel, Otto, Brayton and Rankine cycle. The instructions for the assignment included not only to analyze these engines by selecting the best cycle state points for a specific compression ratio and maximum operating temp but also to research the history behind the development of at least one of these cycles and report this historical account via a concise but informative written text. The assignments have been graded with two grades: one for the Technical Content and the other for the Overall Report Format and writing style? As each student receives his/her assignment the inspection of the two grades is paramount for each student and the Instructor hears several very audible lamentations: “My Technical Content grade was great but I got a “C” in my overall format reporting. Well, at least I did well in the important stuff.” Others are more to the point: “The Technical grade counts more than the Overall Report Format grade, doesn’t it?” “You don’t expect us to write as well as we can do the technical stuff...the technical calculations are more important aren’t they?” “What exactly do you expect for the overall reporting of the historical content of the engine development, after all this is a Thermo class not a History class or a writing class?” and then the worst comment of all, half in jest and half as an excuse for the poor grade: “We’re engineers, we’re not suppose to be able to write”

If the reader has spent any time in the classroom where writing content is being

Proceedings of the 2003 American Society of Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright © 2003, American Society of Engineering Education

Di Bella, F. (2003, June), Integrating Culture Along With Competence Instruction In Mechanical Engineering Capstone Project And Machine Design Courses Paper presented at 2003 Annual Conference, Nashville, Tennessee. 10.18260/1-2--11634

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