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Multidisciplinary Research Projects For Engineering Students

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2005 Annual Conference


Portland, Oregon

Publication Date

June 12, 2005

Start Date

June 12, 2005

End Date

June 15, 2005



Conference Session

Integrating Mathematics and Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

10.952.1 - 10.952.10



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Paper Authors

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Ranjith Munasinghe

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Multidisciplinary Research Projects for Engineering Students

Ranjith A. Munasinghe

Department of Mathematics West Virginia University Institute of Technology Montgomery, WV 25136


Undergraduate engineering students learn calculus during the first three semesters in college. Most of the calculus topics are taught as abstract concepts without any science or engineering applications. It is not any better in other classes such as differential equations and linear algebra. Students are asked to solve algebraic and differential equations, integrate and differentiate functions, invert matrices, and sketch graphs of several types of functions. Occasionally, we make them solve textbook application problems: They find volumes of solids, lengths of arcs, areas of surfaces, centroids of regions, and shortest distance from a point to a plane, etc. These so-called application problems are highly geometric in nature and designed for helping students to understand the concepts. They serve their purpose for the already motivated students. Many students raise the question in classrooms: What are the real applications? We do not discuss enough problems related to real engineering applications to show the students the connection between subject matter and the real world. Without making this connection it is difficult to emphasize the importance of learning fundamental principles of Mathematics. It is not possible to include many real applications in mathematics syllabi for a simple reason. The syllabi are too long and the students are not exposed to enough science and engineering concepts at the time they are taking lower level classes. In order to discuss real applications the instructor needs extra time to teach the engineering concept that is related to the problem. Perhaps, a complete reform of the way we teach mathematics to engineering students is necessary. We do not wish to discuss better ways to teach mathematics at this time. The goal of this paper is to provide resources and some ideas for undergraduate research projects and class projects suitable for mathematics and engineering students. Many teachers of mathematics, science, and engineering have identified research projects and class projects as important tools for motivating students to learn basic concepts. Research projects and class projects, if they are properly designed, can be the application problems we do not have time for in classrooms.

What are the Properties of a Good Undergraduate Research Project?

In order to identify properties of research projects suitable for undergraduates, we must "Proceedings of the 2005 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright © 2005, American Society for Engineering Education"

Munasinghe, R. (2005, June), Multidisciplinary Research Projects For Engineering Students Paper presented at 2005 Annual Conference, Portland, Oregon. 10.18260/1-2--14913

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