June 23, 2013
June 23, 2013
June 26, 2013
Division Experimentation & Lab-Oriented Studies
23.798.1 - 23.798.21
Enabling Mechanical Engineering Curriculum Interconnectivity Through An Integrated Multicourse Model Rocketry ProjectAbstractConventional undergraduate mechanical engineering curricula are split into topical tracks where,from the students’ perspective, each division has limited interconnectivity or overlap with theothers. To provide students a more coherent and cohesive view, we created and delivered amulticourse curriculum-integrated engineering project that permeates and unifies five differentclasses within our undergraduate curriculum: 1) Design, 2) Dynamics, 3) Numerical Methods, 4)Fluid Mechanics, and 5) Thermodynamics. Students enrolled in classes containing rocket projectcontent design, build, flight test, and analyze model rockets through hands-on exercises designedto enhance their awareness of topical connectivity across the mechanical engineering curriculum.These activities challenge students to work on different aspects of the same rocket project acrossall four years of their degree program.Our method is to redesign discrete laboratory exercises already found in five existing requiredmechanical engineering courses to integrate the project within our existing curriculum withoutneed for administrative changes (i.e., no course catalog changes). At the end of each course,students evaluate the rockets they designed, analyze their design decisions, and reflect on theimpacts their choices had on rocket performance using distinct tools from the discipline of eachunique course.Among the novel aspects of our approach is to expand beyond a two-course project sequencespanning just one academic year, a technique already used in many engineering curricula.Instead, our project is integrated into a multi-year five-required-course sequence with at least onecourse appearing in each year of the four-year mechanical engineering curriculum. We expectthis approach to engender significant benefits to student learning. First, it promotes “spacedrepetition”, wherein learners encounter the same material in briefer sessions spread over a longertime periods rather than the study of information in single blocks, as many engineering curriculado. Second, our approach allows students to realize the interdisciplinary nature of engineeringproblems, which discrete course subjects artificially isolate. Our approach enables students toapply what they have learned in previous classes to solve new aspects of the same project.Third, this project demonstrates the true iterative nature of engineering design and modeldevelopment wherein students reassess their modeling assumptions and perform necessarilymore detailed experiments to validate their conceptual design changes.Both direct and indirect assessments were used to evaluate our program. We tracked the numberof students enrolled in rocket project courses who joined aerospace student organizations likeAIAA and who took aerospace industry internships or jobs. We also tracked the performance ofstudent-built rockets in courses where rocket launches were part of the exercise. With respect toindirect assessment, we report results of a student survey taken at the end of each class withrocket project content in which the students evaluate several metrics including their own 1)interest, 2) understanding, 3) perceived workload, 4) appreciation of course interconnectivity,and 5) level of project enjoyment.
Traum, M. J., & Prantil, V. C., & Farrow, W. C., & Weiss, H. L. (2013, June), Interconnecting the Mechanical Engineering Curriculum Through An Integrated Multicourse Model Rocketry Project Paper presented at 2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Atlanta, Georgia. 10.18260/1-2--19812
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