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Introducing Experimental Design In Mechanical Engineering Laboratories

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2005 Annual Conference


Portland, Oregon

Publication Date

June 12, 2005

Start Date

June 12, 2005

End Date

June 15, 2005



Conference Session


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Page Numbers

10.827.1 - 10.827.10

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Andre' Butler

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William Moses

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

Introducing Experimental Design in Mechanical Engineering Laboratories

André J. Butler, William M. Moses Mercer University School of Engineering, Macon, GA


Mechanical engineering students at Mercer are required to take two laboratory courses, one in the third year of the curriculum and the other in the fourth. Prior to 1996, the junior level laboratory consisted of 10 well-defined, single period experiments, in which students executed a prescribed procedure, analyzed the data that were collected, and reported the results obtained. The lab was modified in 1997 to include a set of three experiments that were more open-ended in nature, required more time to complete, and contained a procedural design component. While we are intrinsically convinced that the design of experiments component introduced to the junior- level course in 1997 has been helpful, it is not abundantly clear from performance in the senior- level lab that any enhanced understanding of experimental development carries over from one term to the next. This paper compares the performance of students functioning under both the “old” and “new” lab structures.


Laboratory experiences are an important component of mechanical engineering (ME) education. This paper will attempt to elucidate the following hypothesis: Directed laboratory experience gained in one term (Spring, Junior year) leads to improved performance the next term (Fall, Senior year. Currently at Mercer University, ME students are required to successfully complete three lab courses: MAE 302L (“New Junior Lab”, NJL), MAE 305L, and MAE 402L (“New Senior Lab”, NSL). MAE 305L is a two credit course for juniors with an emphasis on manufacturing processes and metal-working machinery. It is a stand alone laboratory course and will not be discussed further. MAE 302L (NJL) is also a two credit, junior-level course that introduces basic measurement techniques and instrumentation in the context of experimental investigation of engineering systems. Lastly, MAE 402L (NSL) is the capstone laboratory experience for ME students. This one credit course has a procedural experimental design component, and builds upon the techniques and information that are introduced in MAE 302L (NJL).

Prior to the university’s conversion to semesters from quarters in 1997, the mechanical engineering laboratory sequence was comprised of four laboratories. MAE 201L was a two quarter hour manufacturing practices lab similar to MAE 305L described above. Additionally, juniors took a one hour engineering mechanics laboratory, EGR 222L (“Old Junior Lab”, OJL) followed by two one-hour laboratories – MAE 407L (“Old Senior Lab”, OSL) Materials Laboratory, and MAE 403L, Fluids and Heat Power Laboratory – in their senior year.

Proceedings of the 2005 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference and Exposition Copyright © 2005, American Society for Engineering Education

Butler, A., & Moses, W. (2005, June), Introducing Experimental Design In Mechanical Engineering Laboratories Paper presented at 2005 Annual Conference, Portland, Oregon.

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