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Revising Mechanical Engineering Laboratories for Improved Student Outcomes

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2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Seattle, Washington

Publication Date

June 14, 2015

Start Date

June 14, 2015

End Date

June 17, 2015





Conference Session

Engineering Laboratory Experiences

Tagged Division

Mechanical Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

26.1341.1 - 26.1341.8



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Paper Authors


André J. Butler Mercer University

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Dr. Butler is an Associate Professor and Chair of the Environmental Engineering Department at Mercer University. His research interests include air pollution and public health.

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William Moses Mercer University

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William Moses is an associate professor and former chair of the Mechanical Engineering Department at Mercer University. He earned a B.M.E. and M.S.M.E. in mechanical engineering from the Georgia Institute of Technology, and a Ph.D. from North Carolina State University. Research interests include experimental work in thermal contact conductance and thermal property measurement.

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Stephen Hill Mercer University

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Dr. Stephen Hill received his doctorate from Georgia Institute of Technology in 1999. He is currently an associate professor in the School of Engineering at Mercer University. He worked for the oilfield services giant Schlumberger for 14 years before returning to academia in 2013 to pursue his goal of educating the next wave of engineers entering the work force. His experience in the work force was in product development of downhole tools related to the extraction of oil and natural gas from various reservoirs. His current research interest include impact erosion, two phase flow phenomena, solid/liquid phase change, and highly ionized plasma.

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Revising Mechanical Engineering Laboratories for Improved Student OutcomesStudents in the mechanical specialization at XXX University are currently required to take twomechanical engineering laboratory courses – one in the third year of the curriculum and the otherin the fourth year. The first course consists of seven or eight single-period, well definedactivities (e.g., hardness testing and beam bending); followed by three activities that aresomewhat more substantial and open-ended (e.g., determine the coefficient of performance of arefrigeration system). The second course consists of two 7-week, open-ended activities in whichstudents are expected to define, plan, and conduct a series of experiments to meet an objective(e.g., determine a free convection correlation for a fixed geometry).Instructor feedback and ABET assessment indicated that students were unable to conduct andevaluate the experiments in the second course with the desired level of confidence andcompetence. In particular, it was apparent that students were deficient in their understanding ofvarious measurement devices and procedures, as well as technical writing practice. As a result,mechanical engineering faculty decided to implement a change to the first course in order toimprove student performance in the second.The initial delivery method of the first course included one hour of lecture and three hours of lab(1-3-2). The modified course included 3 hours of lecture and three hours of lab (3-3-4), with theintent of providing additional time for instruction on measurement and writing. The facultydecided not to alter the laboratory content, in order to more clearly evaluate the change to thelecture component.This paper presents an overview of the revised laboratory structure and examines early results ofan assessment scheme for demonstrating the ability to design and conduct experiments, as wellas to analyze and interpret data. While there is anecdotal evidence suggesting improved studentoutcome based on this preliminary review, differences are not statistically significant.

Butler, A. J., & Moses, W., & Hill, S. (2015, June), Revising Mechanical Engineering Laboratories for Improved Student Outcomes Paper presented at 2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Seattle, Washington. 10.18260/p.24678

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