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Integrating The Mechanical Engineering Core

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2001 Annual Conference


Albuquerque, New Mexico

Publication Date

June 24, 2001

Start Date

June 24, 2001

End Date

June 27, 2001



Page Count


Page Numbers

6.619.1 - 6.619.20



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Donald Richards

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

Session 2566

Integrating the Mechanical Engineering Core

Donald E. Richards Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology


This paper describes a new paradigm for integrating engineering courses—a systems, conserva- tion and accounting, and modeling approach. The paper presents a historical background of this approach and discusses the motivation. The overall framework is presented, including the impor- tant concepts and definitions, the basic conservation and accounting equations, and a common problem solving approach. A detailed development is presented for conservation of linear mo- mentum to illustrate how the equations are developed. Several examples are included to demon- strate how students solve problems using problem-specific models developed from the general equations instead of using a “plug-and-chug” approach. Experience with using this approach for teaching and curriculum design is discussed. Results to date indicate that this approach can im- prove student performance and help them develop a more integrated understanding of material that has traditionally been taught as unrelated topics.


Imagine for a moment what it is like to be a freshman or sophomore engineering student. After a heavy dose of physics, chemistry, and mathematics, you are excited to finally be taking engineer- ing courses. Although you may have done well in physics, you discover that engineering courses are noticeably different, and you may struggle with them. Faced with a plethora of apparently un- related courses, you (and sometimes the faculty teaching the courses) miss the underlying con- cepts and themes. To you, it seems these courses are a set of unrelated topics each with its own special set of tricks.

As faculty teaching these courses, we are frequently struck by our students’ failure to make con- nections. Why can’t they see the connections? Who among us hasn’t felt frustration when a stu- dent asks “Which free-body diagram do you want, the physics one, the statics one, the dynamics one, or the one from fluid mechanics?” Or “Which energy balance should I use, the one from physics, dynamics, fluid mechanics, heat transfer, or thermodynamics.”a

a My thanks to Lynn Bellamy and Don Evans for sharing the stories underlying these quotations.

Proceedings of the 2001 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright © 2001, American Society for Engineering Education

Richards, D. (2001, June), Integrating The Mechanical Engineering Core Paper presented at 2001 Annual Conference, Albuquerque, New Mexico. 10.18260/1-2--9421

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