New Orleans, Louisiana
June 26, 2016
June 26, 2016
August 28, 2016
Division Experimentation & Lab-Oriented Studies
Revitalization of an Intro to ME Course Using an Arduino Controlled Potato Cannon Project
Amongst their required courses in calculus, chemistry and the humanities, most freshmen engineering students take part in some form of “Intro to Engineering” course that describes their chosen field of study through labs and demonstrations designed to be simple and entertaining. In many engineering schools “Intro to Engineering” courses are worth only a single credit with students viewing it as the least important course on their schedule. Similarly, these courses are not always the top priority of the professors that teach them, and as such it is common to see labs and demos that remain unchanged for years at a time. Sadly, the potential of “Intro” courses to spark students’ interest, as well as to motivate them for future studies often goes unrealized.
At the University of X, the Mechanical Engineering has completely over hauled its Intro course in order to provide students with relevant experiences in the areas of:
• Machine shop practices/Fabrication • Electro-mechanical actuators • Computer Programming • Design
The centerpiece of the new Intro to ME curriculum is a 9 week lab sequence in which students build a small bore pneumatic powered potato gun that is controlled using an Arduino microcontroller. In the initial 3 weeks of the course, students learn to use the machine shop to fabricate the potato gun components. In the next four weeks, students are introduced to the Arduino microcontroller and use it to control a solenoid piloted pneumatic valve, (used to fire the gun), as well as a stepper motor, (used to adjust the angular position of the gun). Finally, in the last 2 weeks of this project, students integrate the electrical and mechanical components, along with a firing control program to operate the gun. While potato cannons are undeniably fun for students, the sequence of labs defined for the project has the more important benefit of creating a “hands-on” perspective from which to scaffold the abstract analytical material students will be exposed to as they progress through the mechanical engineering curriculum.
In this paper the authors will provide a detailed description of the lab sequence, emphasizing the skill sets developed over each part of the project. In addition, the results of a self-assessed skill-set inventory administered to students before starting the potato cannon project and then again at the end of the course will be discussed to show how the lab sequence influenced students’ beliefs about their capabilities in the area of mechanical design, electronics, and programming.
Sullivan, G., & Hardin, J. (2016, June), Revitalization of an Intro to ME Course Using an Arduino-Controlled Potato Cannon Paper presented at 2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, New Orleans, Louisiana. 10.18260/p.26109
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: © 2016 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