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"Smart Cars" And Freshman Engineering

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2003 Annual Conference


Nashville, Tennessee

Publication Date

June 22, 2003

Start Date

June 22, 2003

End Date

June 25, 2003



Conference Session

Teaching Design Through Projects

Page Count


Page Numbers

8.4.1 - 8.4.10



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Paper Authors

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George Wise

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Philip Kosky

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Robert Balmer

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Session Number 1353

Smart Cars and Freshman Engineering

Robert Balmer, George Wise, Philip Kosky Union College, Schenectady New York

Abstract The engineering programs at Union College draw heavily upon its two-century old tradition in the liberal arts, believing engineering to be an appropriate part of a liberal education for an increasingly complex technological world. Founded in 1795, Union College has a long tradition of innovation in its science and engineering programs. It was among the first college to offer chemistry (1809), to create a bachelor’s degree in science and mathematics (1822), to establish a degree program in engineering within a liberal arts context (1845), and to establish an Electrical Engineering department (1895).

The introductory engineering course described in this paper was designed to help entering freshman engineering students make the transition to college level work, and to offer liberal arts students an exposure to engineering that would help fill their breadth requirement. The theme chosen to accomplish these goals is “Smart Cars.” The students are introduced to the engineering areas in which they can major at Union College (mechanical, electrical, and computer) in three ways. First, in two lecture hours per week, the students study traditional analytical areas such as unit systems, energy conversion, electric circuits, computers, and control systems. Second, in one three-hour design studio each week, the students carry out hands-on design exercises. The basic principles of design are taught, the role of ethics is introduced, and the students form competitive teams that build devices that utilize course principles. Following the “Smart Cars” theme, a head- to-head end-of-term team competition involves building a powered and controlled model vehicle. Phases of the design and construction process (such as choosing gear ratios) are tied to lecture topics. The third part of the course takes advantage of Union College’s location in a high tech geographical area. External lecturers are invited to make presentations on leading edge technologies consistent with Union’s Converging Technologies initiative (nanotechnology, bioengineering, mechatronics, and pervasive computing). These lectures are intended to motivate and excite interest in modern engineering and technology rather than convey testable material. The integration of these elements - basic principles for several disciplines, teaming, ethics, hands- on design experience, and inclusion of non-engineering majors—are all consistent with ABET Criteria 2000 for undergraduate engineering programs.

Introduction This paper discusses the evolving development of an “Introduction to Engineering and Mechatronics” course given to first term students at Union College, Schenectady, New York. The main aspect of this course is its organization into a three-part format – small group lecture sessions, team design projects, and presentations of leading edge technologies by working

Proceedings of the 2003 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright © 2003, American Society for Engineering Education

Wise, G., & Kosky, P., & Balmer, R. (2003, June), "Smart Cars" And Freshman Engineering Paper presented at 2003 Annual Conference, Nashville, Tennessee. 10.18260/1-2--11704

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