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Online Computer-aided Design Class

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2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Tampa, Florida

Publication Date

June 15, 2019

Start Date

June 15, 2019

End Date

October 19, 2019

Conference Session

Mechanical Engineering Division Technical Session 9

Tagged Division

Mechanical Engineering

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Paper Authors


Dani Fadda University of Texas, Dallas

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Dr. Fadda is Clinical Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering. His background includes two decades of professional engineering practice in the energy industry where he has held numerous positions. Dr. Fadda has worked in product research and developed patented products for chemical, petrochemical, and nuclear applications. He is a professional engineer and an ASME fellow.

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Oziel Rios University of Texas, Dallas

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Dr. Oziel Rios earned his Ph.D. in mechanical engineering from the University of Texas at Austin in 2008 where his research focused on design of robotic systems with an emphasis on kinematic and dynamic modeling for analysis and control. Dr. Rios teaches the first-year and CAD courses in the Mechanical Engineering Department at the University of Texas at Dallas. Dr. Rios has also taught kinematics and dynamics of machines and graduate-level CAD courses. Dr. Rios’ research and teaching interests include: robotics, design, kinematics and dynamics of machines and engineering education.

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This work in progress (WIP) paper describes a sophomore level computer aided design (CAD) class. One section of the class is offered in a 100% online format while another section is simultaneously offered in a traditional format. While the traditional section is well established, well appreciated by the students, and meets its educational objectives, the online section was developed during the summer of 2018 for a first time offering in the fall of 2018. The objective of this paper is to describe the two sections and share the online experience with the mechanical engineering educational community.

The motivation for offering an online section of the CAD class is twofold. Firstly, we observe practicing mechanical engineers who are involved with design projects. They often work with team members spread around distant geographical locations. Successful teams master and use communication tools effectively to work with their teammates. Sophomore students are already capable of using smart phones, computers, and other technology for communication. However, their use is often for personal needs, entertainment, or social interaction. Using technology to communicate in engineering is not simple. Brewer1 writes on the difficulty of working virtually in a global environment using a variety of technological communication tools because it takes longer to build trust without social communication. We intend for the online section to help the students in relying on technology for learning and communication.

A second motivation for offering the online section is to eliminate a physical cap on the number of students who can take the class at one time. Our mechanical engineering department has a new lab for teaching CAD (established in 2018). While the new lab is well designed for effectiveness and is conducive for learning, it is strictly limited to 40 students. The online section is also intended for 40 students but offers room for expansion should there be a need.

The same course learning outcomes of the course are used regardless of the format of the section. Specifically, upon completion of the course, the students are expected to (1) be able to create 3D geometric models, assemblies, and engineering drawings that are suitable for manufacturing. (2) Be able to determine degrees of freedom of sketches and assemblies. (3) Be able to generate fabrication packages to represent mechanical assemblies ready for traditional and emerging manufacturing processes and (4) be able to function effectively in teams to generate concepts and prototypes for the design of mechanical assemblies. To meet these outcomes, a typical timeline of a 16-week semester is shown in Table 1. The number of weeks can vary between the sections and one additional week, not included in Table 1, is a holiday week.

Table 1, Typical Course Timeline (Subject and Number of Weeks) 3D Part Creation 2.5 weeks Assembly 1.5 weeks Engineering Drawings 2 weeks Degrees of Freedom 1.5 weeks Fabrication Packages 2 weeks Special Sweeps 1.5 weeks Parametric Curves 1.5 weeks Surfaces 1 week Finite Element Modeling 1.5 weeks

The traditional course is offered in two 75-minute sessions per week. Part of each session is a lecture while the other includes class work to support the students as they work on homework assignments. The class includes 40 computer stations in addition to the professor’s station, which is connected to a projector.

The online class is offered through the Black Board learning management system (LMS), eLearning. A folder includes all the lectures, which are introduced according to timeline shown Table 1. The format is asynchronous so the students can view the recordings at any convenient time while staying within the imposed course timeline. The introduced lectures remain available for the duration of the semester for reference. The lectures are recorded in a voice over slides format spanning 2 to 10 minutes per recording. Only a few recordings with demonstrations extend up to 15 minutes. Each complete lecture (series of recordings) is offered as a module with individually titled recordings and some guiding text for easy reference and access.

A quiz is required at the end of modules allowing two attempts with the highest grade entered in the gradebook. Each quiz includes just over 10 multiple-choice questions and is worth one percent of the grade for the class. Offering the quiz incentivizes the students to follow the course’s timeline and to watch the recordings attentively. These quizzes in the inline class are intended to be comparable to taking attendance and asking questions in the traditional class.

A separate directory in the LMS system is used for the homework assignments. All the assignments are revealed on the first day of the semester with a clearly stated deadline for each assignment to match the course’s timeline. The assignments and their scaffolding recordings remain available throughout the semester (beyond the deadline) for reference. These recordings include tutorials and assignment-specific help similar to help offered in the traditional class.

A discussion board is included in the LMS system to give the online course a sense of community. This board includes “Ask the Professor,” a “Student Lounge,” and a “Self-Introduction.” Questions or remarks posed in the discussion board are visible and beneficial to all the class. The students used the self-introduction at the start of the semester in a way qualitatively consistent with the survey results provided by Ray4. Only a few used “Ask the Professor” and “Student Lounge,” which was different from our expectations based on Ray4 where the discussion boards were reported to provide the biggest impact on community. Instead, most communicated by email, which is consistent with Brewer1 whose research indicates that email is the preferred and most used mean of communication among engineering professionals.

The traditional and online sections of the class also include a mechanical design project. Students self-enroll in teams of six (maximum of 6) members and select a project of interest to them. They create hand sketches of their design, model all their components and assemblies, and generate a complete fabrication package. They also are asked to fabricate a scaled down prototype of the complete assembly or a notable part of the assembly.

The teams form during the class in the traditional section and kick off the project before or after the class period. As for the online section, empty teams that can accommodate six members are created in the LMS. The students are allowed to self-enroll into any team. Each team is offered a space for file exchange, blog, discussion board, group journal, tasks list, and group email link. Since this was a first offering of the online class, the use of these tools is optional and other communication tools are allowed.

Getting the project teams to form and work effectively has been challenging over the years in a traditional teaching format. The team formation happened quickly and efficiently in the online section using the self-enroll functionality within the LMS. Students self-enrolled and joined the teams, assigned a leader, and started to work together, which was encouraging during the first few weeks of the semester. All teams selected online free file storage and sharing sites instead using the LMS. The start was encouraging. However, some teams experienced conflict regarding the selection process of a subject for their project. Since they do not meet in a class, students in the online section find it easy to take a passive aggressive route and simply stop communicating. Since communication is outside the LMS and away from the professor’s control, the project halts before this can be detected and an intervention can be developed to persuade the team to compromise, come back together, and start working again.

At the time of submitting the abstract, the first half of the semester is complete. The homework assignments submitted by the students are well done and comparable in quality to traditional offering of the course. The project is underway, project themes are developed, and design sketches of the parts are complete. By the time we submit the final paper, more information will be available and some student work will also be presented.

References 1. Brewer, Pam Estes, “International Virtual Teams – Engineering Global Success,” IEEE PCS Professional Engineering Communication Series, Wiley, ISBN 978-1-118-33900-8, 2015 2. Engineering Drawing and Design by Jensen, Helsel, and Short, 7th Edition, ISBN-978-0-07-352151-0 3. Computer Aided Engineering Design, Anupam Saxena and Birendra Sahay ISBN-13: 978-1402025556. 4. Ray, V. M. and Tabas, J., “Developing Improved Methodology for Online Delivery of Coursework Providing a Framework for Quality Online Education,” Proceedings of the ASEE Annual Conference and Exposition, Salt Lake City, Utah, 2018. 5. The full set of references will be added with the full paper.

Fadda, D., & Rios, O. (2019, June), Online Computer-aided Design Class Paper presented at 2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Tampa, Florida. 10.18260/1-2--33144

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