Asee peer logo

Model-Eliciting Activities in a Mechanical Engineering Experimental Methods Course

Download Paper |


2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Vancouver, BC

Publication Date

June 26, 2011

Start Date

June 26, 2011

End Date

June 29, 2011



Conference Session

ELOS Best Paper Nominations

Tagged Division

Division Experimentation & Lab-Oriented Studies

Page Count


Page Numbers

22.1072.1 - 22.1072.12



Permanent URL

Download Count


Request a correction

Paper Authors


John Ridgely California Polytechnic State University

visit author page

John Ridgely is an Associate Professor of mechanical engineering at California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo.

visit author page


Brian P. Self California Polytechnic State University

visit author page

Brian Self is a Professor in the Mechanical Engineering Department at California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo. Prior to joining the faculty at Cal Poly in 2006, he taught for seven years at the United States Air Force Academy and worked for four years in the Air Force Research Laboratories. Research interests include active learning and engineering education, spatial disorientation, rehabilitation engineering, sports biomechanics, and aerospace physiology. He worked on a team that developed the Dynamics Concept Inventory and is currently collaborating on a grant to develop and assess Model Eliciting Activities in engineering. Brian was the 2008-2010 ASEE Zone IV Chair and serves as Cal Poly’s ASEE Campus Representative.

visit author page

Download Paper |


In the senior level undergraduate curriculum at XXXX, we have strived to step away from recipe driven,step-by-step instructional laboratories and to provide students with problems that have moreprofessional engineering context. To do this, we have developed a series of Model Eliciting Activities(MEAs) which require teams of students to attack problems of a scope and nature very similar to thosethat they are expected to encounter in their future engineering careers. While the assignments sharemany of the same characteristics as other problem and project-based learning (PBL) activities, the MEAsare built upon six guiding principles that differentiate them from PBL. The principles are:(a) The Reality Principle: The task provided to students should occur in professional practice. Studentsshould be able to make sense of the situation based on extensions of their own personal knowledge andexperiences.(b) The Model Construction Principle: The task must create the need for a model to be constructed,modified, extended, or refined. For example, this could be a mathematical model, a decision algorithm,or a computer program.(c) The Self-Assessment Principle: Criteria for self-assessment must be clear. Students must be able todetermine for themselves when their solution meets the needs of the client and when the model is“good enough”.(d) The Model-Documentation Principle: The students must document their solution, typically in theform of a written memo to the client. This might also be in the form of hardware, a student-createdvideo, or a computer program.(e) The Generalizability Principle: The model should be applicable to a broader range of similarsituations than just those presented in the problem statement.(f) The Effective Prototype Principle: The concepts that students must formulate, construct, modify, etc.must be robust in terms of their applicability to the future academic and professional life of theengineering students. A high-quality MEA will help students work with several important and commonconcepts.We have created and tested three different MEAs for use in a senior level experimental methods course.The first involved creating a force transducer to be used in rehabilitation equipment. The students hadto develop a sizing algorithm to create transducers that could measure forces varying from 2 to 100 lbs.For self-assessment, they then built a strain gage based transducer and tested it on various weights. Asecond MEA built on the first, and required the students to design a tilt sensor using an accelerometerbased inclinometer to measure the position of a patient's arm or leg during different rehabilitationexercises. The final MEA asked students to use accelerometry to develop a test protocol to characterizedifferent packaging materials for impact reduction.We discuss our implementation of the MEAs, improvements to be made in our next iteration of them,and student performance on the laboratory assignments.

Ridgely, J., & Self, B. P. (2011, June), Model-Eliciting Activities in a Mechanical Engineering Experimental Methods Course Paper presented at 2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Vancouver, BC. 10.18260/1-2--18686

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2011 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015