June 24, 2007
June 24, 2007
June 27, 2007
New Engineering Educators
12.1362.1 - 12.1362.15
Teaching Mechanical Engineering to the Highly Uninspired
It is widely accepted that undergraduates require a general education in numerous disciplines as part of being a well rounded, educated citizen. Courses in arts, humanities, foreign languages and many other disciplines populate the student schedule. At the United States Military Academy (USMA) at West Point, all non-engineering majors are required to complete a three course engineering sequence as part of their undergraduate degree program. This sequence typically begins in the fall of their junior year and can be conducted in one of seven engineering disciplines. Predictably, the students taking these sequences have tended to view this experience more as a distraction from their academic program rather than an enhancement to it.
In response to student and faculty dissatisfaction with the final course in the mechanical engineering sequence in 2004, the lead author of this paper undertook a major revision of the course prior to the fall of 2005. The primary question posed: How do I motivate a student who does not want to be here in the first place? As part of the revision process, he examined techniques that could be used to promote a team environment in the classroom. Demonstrating the relevance of the course material and increasing student involvement were also areas of focus.
These goals were achieved by implementing a program of short term goal setting and hands-on projects that supported the overall objectives of increased student learning and achievement of USMA’s Engineering and Technology Goal outcomes. The results were remarkable. Students, who expressed concern about their abilities to perform well in the sequence at the beginning of the second course, completed the program wondering if they had made a mistake in NOT majoring in mechanical engineering.
This paper describes the issues, examination of methods used in other courses to enhance student motivation, implementation of techniques in the second and third courses of the sequence, assessment of the results, and recommendations for its applicability outside of USMA. Student feedback and the comparative results of student surveys from previous iterations of the course as well as current student surveys are presented. The students discuss their own motivations and reactions to the course. From the teachers’ perspective, we discuss what worked well and what items could be improved or deleted. Finally, we will make the case that engineering should be an integral part of every student’s undergraduate experience due to such factors as an increasingly technologically based society and the lag in engineering education in the United States as compared to the rest of the world.
Crawford, B., & Jones, T. (2007, June), Teaching Mechanical Engineering To The Highly Uninspired Paper presented at 2007 Annual Conference & Exposition, Honolulu, Hawaii. https://peer.asee.org/2186
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