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Revolutionizing the Mechanical Engineering Undergraduate Curriculum

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2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access


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Publication Date

June 22, 2020

Start Date

June 22, 2020

End Date

June 26, 2021

Conference Session

Mechanical Engineering Technical Session: Curriculum and Education

Tagged Division

Mechanical Engineering

Tagged Topic


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Paper Authors


Shelby Ann McNeilly Boise State University

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Shelby McNeilly is a student at Boise State University, graduating in May 2020 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Mechanical Engineering and a Minor in Applied Mathematics. In 2019, she was selected as the Top Junior Mechanical Engineering Student at BSU by the Southwest Chapter of the Idaho Society of Professional Engineers. Shelby currently works as an Undergraduate Research Assistant under department chair and another professor to co-author two papers for ASEE publication. She is also actively involved with her department’s Student Advisory Board and the Idaho Gamma Chapter of Tau Beta Pi Engineering Honor Society. Shelby is also one of the cofounders of the university’s revitalized Baja SAE Team, Bleed Blue Racing.

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Krishna Pakala Boise State University

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Krishna Pakala, Ph.D, is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Mechanical and Biomedical Engineering at Boise State University (Boise, Idaho) where he has been since 2012. He is the Faculty in Residence for the Engineering and Innovation Living Learning Community. He is the Director for the Industrial Assessment Center at Boise State University. He served as the inaugural Faculty Associate for Mobile Learning and as the Faculty Associate for Accessibility and Universal Design for Learning. He has a Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Wyoming (Laramie, Wyoming). He has approximately 25 publications/presentations. He is a member of the American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE). He is the recipient of David S. Taylor Service to Students Award and Golden Apple Award from Boise State University. He is also the recipient of ASEE Pacific Northwest Section (PNW) Outstanding Teaching Award, ASEE Mechanical Engineering division’s Outstanding New Educator Award and several course design awards. He serves as the campus representative (ASEE) for Boise State University and as the Chair-Elect for the ASEE PNW Section. His academic research interests include innovative teaching and learning strategies, use of emerging technologies, and mobile teaching and learning strategies.

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Donald Plumlee P.E. Boise State University

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Dr. Plumlee is certified as a Professional Engineer in the state of Idaho. He has spent the last ten years establishing the Ceramic MEMS laboratory at Boise State University. Dr. Plumlee is involved in numerous projects developing micro-electro-mechanical devices in LTCC including an Ion Mobility Spectrometer and microfluidic/chemical micro-propulsion devices funded by NASA.
Prior to arriving at Boise State University, Dr. Plumlee worked for Lockheed Martin Astronautics as a Mechanical Designer on structural airframe components for several aerospace vehicles. He developed and improved manufacturing processes for the Atlas/Centaur rocket program, managed the production implementation of the J-2 rocket program, and created the designs for structural/propulsion/electrical systems in both the Atlas/Centaur and J-2 programs. Dr. Plumlee also worked at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center as an engineer in the Propulsion Laboratory.
In practicing the engineering profession as a conduit for preparing future generations of engineers, he wants to provide students with both a technical competency and the ability to understand and respect the trust that is invested in us by society. As an educator, he guides future engineers through a learning process that develops a strong technical foundation and the ability to independently cultivate further technical competencies. He is particularly interested in advocating for project-oriented engineering education. He and a research team at Boise State University is currently participating in a project focused on encouraging the adoption of project-based techniques.

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As the age of technological advancement and occupational opportunity continues to progress, companies must be constantly adjusting and transforming in order to accommodate industry demands. With these quickly developing requirements comes an expectation of employee experience and skill sets. For individuals seeking a career in mechanical engineering, moving forward with the tools necessary for success in this continuously evolving world begins with higher education. This paper is the first of a three-part series to report on the progress of Boise State University’s Mechanical and Biomedical Engineering Department’s mission to implement a revolutionized curriculum in their academic program. This paper will describe the establishment of goals and processes used to design a curriculum that will provide undergraduates with an effective foundation for the future. Integrating a change of this magnitude necessitated consideration of a multitude of factors. The primary motivation being to allow students to pursue more diverse and relevant fields of knowledge; this includes more flexibility within course requirements, as well as offering more availability in degree emphases. Incorporating experiential learning was also given acute attention; constructing courses with an increase in hands-on learning, creating class curriculum focused on instilling proper communication and presentation skills, and merging previously taught subjects to better assist student understanding. With these initiatives in mind, the department began formulating a reformed mechanical engineering curriculum based off review of peer institutions and educational literature. Faculty, as well as student and industrial advisory boards, aided in validating this adjusted degree program. During this development phase, several constraints had to be addressed: the curriculum must continue to be ABET accredited, align with university degree policies, appease stakeholders, and serve as an overall practical solution. With all of these factors carefully considered, faculty can begin to develop a curriculum outline to be revised and implemented into their programs. The process of developing goals and constraints for a revolutionized mechanical engineering curriculum that will serve the students of the future is described in this paper.

McNeilly, S. A., & Pakala, K., & Plumlee, D. (2020, June), Revolutionizing the Mechanical Engineering Undergraduate Curriculum Paper presented at 2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual On line . 10.18260/1-2--35164

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