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Integration And Reinforcement Of Mechanical Engineering Skills Beginning In The First Year Design Experience

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2010 Annual Conference & Exposition


Louisville, Kentucky

Publication Date

June 20, 2010

Start Date

June 20, 2010

End Date

June 23, 2010



Conference Session

Outstanding Contributions - Mechanical Engineering Education

Tagged Division

Mechanical Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

15.778.1 - 15.778.15



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Paper Authors


Debra Mascaro University of Utah

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Debra J. Mascaro is the Director of Undergraduate Studies in Mechanical Engineering at the University of Utah. She holds a B.A. in Physics from Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter, MN and a Ph.D. in Materials Science and Engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She teaches freshman design and senior-/graduate-level classes in microscale engineering and organic electronics.

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Stacy Bamberg University of Utah

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Stacy J. Morris Bamberg is an assistant professor of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Utah. She received her S.B. and S.M. in Mechanical Engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and her Sc.D. in Medical Engineering from the joint Harvard/MIT Division of Health Sciences and Technology. She teaches the required freshman design sequence, the required junior mechatronics sequence, and electives in musculoskeletal functional anatomy for engineers and medical instrumentation and physiology. She is interested in the use of technology in the classroom and improving student outcomes through hands-on and interactive experiences.

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Robert Roemer University of Utah

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Robert B. Roemer is currently a professor of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Utah. He received his B.S. degree from the University of Wisconsin, Madison, and his M.S. and Ph.D. degrees from Stanford University. He teaches courses in engineering design, and is interested in integrating the use of design projects and active learning throughout the curriculum to improve engineering education.

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

Integration and Reinforcement of Engineering Skills Beginning in the First-Year Design Experience


As the first step in implementing a Student-driven Pedagogy of Integrated, Reinforced, Active Learning (SPIRAL) throughout our Mechanical Engineering curriculum, we are modifying two freshman courses to introduce, integrate and sequentially reinforce multiple engineering topics that lay a foundation for subsequent, more focused ME coursework. Our approach builds on Bruner’s1 concept of a “‘spiral curriculum’ that turns back on itself at higher levels” through repetition at ever-increasing depths of knowledge. By integrating topics throughout the curriculum that are typically only taught in separate, disconnected engineering classes, and doing so in a design-oriented context, students are forced to repeatedly “parallel process” various engineering skills much as they will be expected to do in engineering practice. Integration also facilitates a redistribution of engineering topics throughout the entire curriculum that (1) reinforces student understanding and retention through reinforcement at short intervals, and (2) minimizes fading of conceptual knowledge due to extended disuse – as is often problematic in the traditional ME curriculum.


Historically, engineering education has followed a linear model in which engineering topics are taught in separate, disconnected classes that “serially encapsulate” the course material in the students’ minds. In contrast, our newly developed first-year course sequence, funded by a Course Curriculum and Laboratory Improvement Phase 1 Grant from the National Science Foundation titled “Design-Based SPIRAL Learning Curriculum” (DUE-0837759), strives to integrate a variety of engineering topics in an effort to introduce students to (1) important science and math concepts in an engineering context, and (2) the complexity and multifaceted nature of professional engineering practice. Research studies suggest that such an integrated approach can transform engineering education’s historical goal, i.e., the acquisition of engineering science/math knowledge, to also include the goal of professional development.2 Engineering programs that integrate science, math, and engineering topics have been shown to produce students that are more likely to pass core engineering courses, more self-confident in their engineering abilities (including communication), and more likely to stay in an engineering program and make progress towards a degree.2 In addition to these benefits, we anticipate that the integration of design, professionalism, engineering science principles and computational tools and skills will prepare students to be much better practicing engineers. Moreover, the repetition of basic concepts throughout the curriculum is expected to enhance students’ mastery of engineering science/math principles and their appropriate implementation. This paper will address the ways in which we have implemented (1) the introduction and (2) integration of engineering science concepts and engineering practice skills, and (3) the reinforcement of those topics in our newly developed freshman design experience in preparation for further integration and reinforcement in later courses.

Mascaro, D., & Bamberg, S., & Roemer, R. (2010, June), Integration And Reinforcement Of Mechanical Engineering Skills Beginning In The First Year Design Experience Paper presented at 2010 Annual Conference & Exposition, Louisville, Kentucky. 10.18260/1-2--16751

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