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Machine Design Experiments Using Mechanical Springs to Foster Discovery Learning

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2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Indianapolis, Indiana

Publication Date

June 15, 2014

Start Date

June 15, 2014

End Date

June 18, 2014



Conference Session

Teaching Mechanics of Materials

Tagged Division


Page Count


Page Numbers

24.878.1 - 24.878.11



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Paper Authors


Peter W Malak Marquette University

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PETER MALAK is a senior in mechanical engineering at Marquette University. He is the President of the Society of Automotive Engineers Aero Team and the Mechanical Engineering Student Advisory Board and is also a member of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers at Marquette University. His professional experiences extend to Co-oping at STRATTEC Security Corporation, an automotive engineering firm and interning at Hanley, Flight and Zimmerman LLC., an intellectual property law firm. His professional interests include mechanical systems and automation.

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Mark L. Nagurka Marquette University

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Mark Nagurka is an associate professor of mechanical and biomedical engineering and Lafferty Professor of Engineering Pedagogy at Marquette University. He received his B.S. and M.S. in mechanical engineering and applied mechanics from the University of Pennsylvania and a Ph.D. in mechanical engineering from M.I.T. He taught at Carnegie Mellon University before joining Marquette University. His professional interests are in the design of mechanical and electromechanical systems, and in engineering education. He is a registered Professional Engineer in Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, a Fellow of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME), and a former Fulbright Scholar.

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Machine Design Experiments Using Mechanical Springs to Foster Discover LearningFor the typical undergraduate engineering student the topic of mechanical springs is introducedand discussed in several courses. A first exposure may be in a physics course, where springs arepresented as idealized mechanical energy storage components. Springs store potential energy,complementing masses that store kinetic energy and dampers that are resistive and offer noenergy storage capability. In an electrical circuit course, springs are often presented as the analogof either capacitors or inductors, depending on which analogy is used. For mechanicalengineering students, springs are a core component studied in machine design courses, where thenomenclature and design equations are developed for various types of springs. There may be arudimentary exposure to real springs in a mechanical engineering laboratory; more often,students may see real springs passed around in class and as part of demonstrations.In this paper we describe new experiments that were designed to provide mechanical engineeringstudents with discovery learning experiences with springs. The suite of practical experimentspresents students with a range of challenges that require them to analyze, measure, design, andfabricate springs. Activities in the experiments include: (1) Identifying spring types (tension, compression, torsion) and appropriate applications (automotive door latches, bicycle suspensions, pens). (2) Disassembling and re-assembling a padlock (with design and manufacturing questions related to its springs, and measurement of the stiffness of the shackle compression spring). (3) Creating linear and nonlinear stiffnesses from series and parallel combinations of a set of springs (requiring stiffness measurements of the given springs and determining desired stiffnesses to achieve target natural frequencies). (4) Designing linear, hardening, and/or softening springs for different applications, fabricating the springs via rapid prototyping (3D printing), and testing their suitability.In addition to reporting the details of the experiments, we share experiences of students andteaching assistants in their use and effectiveness. We provide insights into how well studentsbecame familiar with types and nomenclature of springs and understood the applicability ofdifferent springs to actual real-world problems. The intent of the experiments is to effectivelyenhance mechanical engineering students' awareness of springs and expand their knowledge andconfidence in spring design.

Malak, P. W., & Nagurka, M. L. (2014, June), Machine Design Experiments Using Mechanical Springs to Foster Discovery Learning Paper presented at 2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Indianapolis, Indiana. 10.18260/1-2--22811

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