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Model-Based Design in Mechanical Engineering: An Undergraduate Curriculum with a Coherent Theme

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2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


New Orleans, Louisiana

Publication Date

June 26, 2016

Start Date

June 26, 2016

End Date

June 29, 2016





Conference Session

Design throughout the Mechanical Engineering Curriculum I

Tagged Division

Mechanical Engineering

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Paper Authors


John Carmine Vaccaro Hofstra University

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John Vaccaro grew up on Long Island in Levittown, New York. After graduating with a B.S. in mechanical engineering from Hofstra University (’06), Dr. Vaccaro went on to earn his Ph.D. in aeronautical engineering in 2011 from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. His area of research is in the field of experimental fluid mechanics and aerodynamics with a focus on wind tunnel testing. Specifically, he has collaborated with the Northrop Grumman Corporation researching the use of flow control in aggressive engine inlet ducts.
After graduation, Dr. Vaccaro held a lead engineering position with General Electric Aviation in Lynn, Massachusetts. There, he designed the fan and compressor sections of aircraft engines. He frequently returns to General Electric Aviation as a consultant. Currently, he is an Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering at Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York where he teaches Fluid Mechanics, Compressible Fluid Mechanics, Heat Transfer, Heat Transfer Laboratory, Aerodynamics, Measurements and Instrumentation Laboratory, and Senior Design in addition to conducting experimental aerodynamics undergraduate research projects.

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Kevin C. Craig Hofstra University

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Kevin Craig graduated from the United States Military Academy, West Point, NY, with a B.S. degree and a commission as an officer in the U.S. Army. He received the M.S., M.Phil., and Ph.D. degrees from Columbia University, NY. He worked in the mechanical-nuclear design department of a major engineering firm in NYC and taught and received tenure at both the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy and Hofstra University. While at Hofstra, he received the 1987 ASEE New Engineering Educator Excellence Award, a national honor. From 1989-2008, as a tenured full professor of mechanical engineering at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, he developed the mechatronics teaching and research program focusing on human-centered, model-based design with a balance between theory and industry best practices. He collaborated extensively with the Xerox Mechanical Engineering Sciences Laboratory (MESL), an offshoot of Xerox PARC, during this time. At Rensselaer, he graduated 37 M.S. students and 20 Ph.D. students, and authored over 30 refereed journal articles and over 50 refereed conference papers. In 2006 at RPI, he received the two highest awards conferred for teaching: the RPI School of Engineering Education Excellence Award and the RPI Trustees’ Outstanding Teacher Award.
Over the past 20 years, he has conducted hands-on, integrated, customized, mechatronics workshops for practicing engineers nationally and internationally, e.g., at Xerox, Procter & Gamble, Rockwell Automation, Siemens Healthcare Diagnostics, Fiat, Tetra Pak, Johnson Controls, and others. He is a Fellow of the ASME and a member of the IEEE and ASEE. In January 2008, he joined the faculty of the Marquette University College of Engineering as Professor of Mechanical Engineering and the Robert C. Greenheck Chair in Engineering Design, a $5M endowed chair. He was given the 2013 ASEE North-Midwest Best Teacher Award and the 2014 ASME Outstanding Design Educator Award, a society award.
In the fall of 2014, he returned to the Hofstra University School of Engineering and Applied Science as a tenured full professor of mechanical engineering. He is the Director of the $1M Robotics and Advanced Manufacturing Laboratory, and also the Director of the Center for Innovation, a new center created to collaborate with business and industry to foster innovation where all intellectual property (IP) belongs to the sponsor.

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Alexander Hans Pesch Hofstra University

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Alexander H. Pesch was born and raised in northeastern Ohio. After graduating from Ohio University, he spent time in the jet engine overhaul industry before pursuing graduate studies at Cleveland State University. During his time studying at Cleveland State, he also taught undergraduate classes and participated in research at the Center for Rotating Machinery Dynamics and Control. Currently, Dr. Pesch is an assistant professor of engineering at Hofstra University. His duties include teaching undergraduate classes, engaging in scholarly research, and participation in the Hofstra University Robotics and Advanced Manufacturing Laboratory and Hofstra University Center for Innovation which grow the knowledge base of New York in the area of mechatronics in modern manufacturing and bridge the gap between university and industry development.

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What is model-based design and why is it the key to modern engineering practice? A physical model of a design concept, based on simplifying assumptions (which change as the project progresses and one learns better what effects matter more than others), is created. This is an approximation of the real system and a hierarchy of models is possible depending on the reason for modeling. Laws of nature (e.g., Newton’s Laws, Maxwell’s Equations) are applied to the model, along with component model equations, to generate the equations of motion for the multidisciplinary engineering system. These equations – nonlinear and coupled – are solved in Simulink / SimMechanics / LabVIEW to predict how the model will behave when various inputs – desired and disturbance – are applied. These predictions are then verified either from experience or by some experimental testing. A control system is then designed based on this system model. The controlled system is simulated and again predictions need to be verified. At that point, changes can be made either to the system design or to the control design, as nothing has been built yet. Once a design – system + control – meets the performance requirements, then assumptions can be relaxed and parasitic effects can be added to bring the model as close to reality as possible. Response and actuation plots, are the deliverables, along with model equations and the accompanying block diagrams. If this is not done, then the only alternative is to the take the concept, which existed only in animation form with no substance, and build it hoping for the best. How does one create this system without modeling? The only answer is – let’s build it and see if it works. If one has done this before and has a lot of experience, maybe that approach will be successful. But if something happens that is not understood or there is a need to improve the performance of the system, there is no way to do that other than by trial and error and that leads to huge cost and still no understanding. In the end the deliverable is a working system along with a complete understanding of how the system works, so in the future it can be improved with minimal effort because one already understands how it works.This paper will show how Model-Based Design is integrated in all four years of the Mechanical Engineering Undergraduate Curriculum

Vaccaro, J. C., & Craig, K. C., & Pesch, A. H. (2016, June), Model-Based Design in Mechanical Engineering: An Undergraduate Curriculum with a Coherent Theme Paper presented at 2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, New Orleans, Louisiana. 10.18260/p.25740

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