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Laptop Computer Integration In A Lower Level Mechanical Engineering Course

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2002 Annual Conference


Montreal, Canada

Publication Date

June 16, 2002

Start Date

June 16, 2002

End Date

June 19, 2002



Conference Session

Laptop/Handheld Computing in Education

Page Count


Page Numbers

7.796.1 - 7.796.14

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Paper Authors

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Susan Hudson

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Laptop Computer Integration in a Lower Level Mechanical Engineering Course

Susan T. Hudson

Department of Mechanical Engineering Mississippi State University


Mississippi State University’s (MSU) College of Engineering (COE) began requiring incoming freshmen to either purchase or lease a personal computer in the 1999 fall semester. Following the COE’s computer initiative, the Mechanical Engineering (ME) Department implemented a laptop computer requirement for all of its courses. This paper will begin with a summary of the larger COE/ME context and then focus on lessons learned in responding to the COE/ME computer initiative for a lower level engineering class, Thermodynamics I. In researching methods to implement the laptop requirement with the special concerns of a lower level class, very little information was found in the literature. Some information was gained through personal communication but most was gained through trial and error in the classroom. The lessons learned have evolved over multiple semesters of experimenting with alternative techniques to arrive at methods appropriate for the particular class. This paper documents those lessons learned in an attempt to help others with a similar challenge.


Mississippi State University’s ME Department has now implemented a laptop computer requirement for all of its courses. This requirement was phased in over several semesters with more courses added each semester. Thermodynamics I required the laptop early in the implementation process and has now had the laptop requirement for several semesters. Therefore, development of laptop use in this class has spanned a time frame from students needing the laptop for only one or two of their classes to students needing the laptop for all of their classes. Thermodynamics I is also the first course that students take from ME department professors, and there is no uniform, prerequisite computer experience for this course. These facts make the evolution of the laptop implementation in Thermodynamics I particularly interesting to study.

This paper will begin by reviewing the computer integration process in the MSU College of Engineering (COE). Policies set by the ME Department and issues encountered with implementing the laptop requirement into the entire ME curriculum at MSU will then be addressed. Finally, special emphasis will be placed on the challenges associated with implementation in a lower level course such as Thermodynamics I. The paper will

“Proceedings of the 2002 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright  2002, American Society for Engineering Education”

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Hudson, S. (2002, June), Laptop Computer Integration In A Lower Level Mechanical Engineering Course Paper presented at 2002 Annual Conference, Montreal, Canada.

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