New Orleans, Louisiana
June 26, 2016
June 26, 2016
August 28, 2016
Electrical and Computer
An unfortunate premise is that the undergraduate Electrical Engineering (EE) program seems to be able to accommodate within its curricula substantive Mechanical Engineering (ME) courses. This appears to be so because the EE discipline is rigid within its threads and prerequisites.
The EE discipline was once embellished with a significant number of ME courses suitable for between-the-world-wars technical training. Even as late as the 1960s EE students were required to take ME courses in statics, dynamics, materials and thermodynamics. The rapid development of digital logic integrated circuits and the microprocessor in the 1970s shifted the extent of the EE curriculum away from these courses.
Accelerating the shift were new topics such as microelectronics, probability and statistics, digital signal and image processing and digital communications and control. The result is that most, if not all, EE curricula today do not feature any substantive required courses in ME.
The relationship of the subdisciplines of EE and ME in electromechanics and energy and power in course work must go beyond the proverbial pressure is voltage, current is flow (force-voltage, velocity-current) analogy. Since ME students, generally, are still required to take the single EE for MEs course, often provided as the service course Electrical Systems, the analogy can be infused into ME courses quite naturally.
Unfortunately, the reverse, the ME for EEs course in the EE curriculum, is not endemic and infusing mechanics into such EE courses as electromechnical systems and control theory remains challenging. Research in Engineering education has identified perhaps the key barrier to interdisciplinary practice. Students apparently lack the ability to provide the salient connections between and understanding of the contributions of various disciplines.
To remedy this curricular deficit, a requisite course in Mechanical Systems for EE students has been developed, presented, assessed by direct and indirect methods for three semesters and described in detail here. The course utilizes The Mathworks’ SimMechanics to enhance the learning experience with CAD projects. The course features modules on statics, dynamics, materials and an introduction to thermodynamics and fluid mechanics.
The breath of the material is certainly no more than that provided by the endemic EE for MEs course which presents DC and AC circuit theory, power, electronics and digital logic. The initial trepidation seen about the course content by both EE and ME faculty has been assuaged by the feedback from students and employers.
Undergraduate EE students without such a requisite ME for EEs course remain at a distinct disadvantage in focused areas of employment such as electromechanical systems and energy and power. This should be a concern to EE educators. The implemented Mechanical Systems course replaced a single ME course in Statics in the EE curriculum that was on the verge of being removed entirely. The Mechanical Systems course was enthusiastically endorsed by the Industrial Advisory Committee and certainly contributes to continuous improvement of the EE program.
Ernst Weber and Frederik Nebeker. Evolution of Electrical Engineering: A Personal Perspective, 1994.
John D. Ryder and Donald G. Fink. Engineers and Electrons: A Century of Electrical Progress, 1993.
David M. Richter and Marie Paretti. “Identifying Barriers to and Outcomes of Interdisciplinarity in the Engineering Classroom”, European Journal of Engineering Education, 34:29-45, 2009.
Silage, D. A., & Sadeghipour, K. (2016, June), ME for EEs - Where Are All the ME Courses in the EE Curriculum? Paper presented at 2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, New Orleans, Louisiana. 10.18260/p.25688
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