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Scaffolded Laboratory Sequence: Mechanics Lab

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2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access


Virtual On line

Publication Date

June 22, 2020

Start Date

June 22, 2020

End Date

June 26, 2021

Conference Session

Experimentation and Laboratory-oriented Studies Division Technical Session 4

Tagged Division

Experimentation and Laboratory-Oriented Studies

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Paper Authors


Natasha Smith P.E. University of Virginia

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Dr. Smith is an Associate Professor at the University of Virginia

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Laboratory courses are a platform for students to practice skills essential to the engineering profession. They should also foster lower-level learning (e.g. understanding of fundamental concepts) and higher-level synthesis and creativity. The undergraduate programs for Mechanical and Aerospace (MAE) Engineering are being enriched with an updated experimental laboratory sequence, which include three 2-hour courses: 1) Mechanics Laboratory, 2) Thermal Fluids Laboratory, and 3) Aerospace or Mechanical Laboratory. The first two courses are being designed to supplement lecture-based theory courses during the same semester students are taking them. The third course will challenge students to design and execute their own experiments, building upon skills they learn in the earlier labs. Thus, the new sequence includes horizontal integration with discipline courses across the curriculum, and vertical scaffolding of skills related to experiment design and analysis.

The Mechanics Laboratory course was offered to the first cohort in Spring 2019. It was designed to give hands-on experiential learning to complement theoretical courses such as Statics, Dynamics, and Strengths of Materials. Students used research grade equipment in the new Undergraduate Materials Testing (UTM) lab including a 250 kN universal test machine, a 2000 in-lb torsion tester, new hardness testing machines, and heat treatment ovens. In addition to supporting theoretical material, the lab introduced students to principles of experimentation including data acquisition, data analysis, and presentation of results. Several experiments were conducted using PASCO Capstone or National Instruments LabView software to collect data from a variety of sensors including load cells, accelerometers, and motion sensors.

This paper describes the integration of the new sequence into the curriculum and includes details on the development and implementation of the first course, Mechanics Laboratory. It will describe the motivation behind the redesign, discuss logistical challenges and solutions, and outline specific modules within the Mechanics lab. Finally, the paper will include student feedback, an assessment of student learning, and recommendations for improvement.

Smith, N. (2020, June), Scaffolded Laboratory Sequence: Mechanics Lab Paper presented at 2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual On line . 10.18260/1-2--35173

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