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Teaching Problem Solving in Engineering using Analysis and Simulation

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2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Vancouver, BC

Publication Date

June 26, 2011

Start Date

June 26, 2011

End Date

June 29, 2011



Conference Session

Modeling and Problem-Solving

Tagged Division

Educational Research and Methods

Page Count


Page Numbers

22.1400.1 - 22.1400.23



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Paper Authors


Keith B. Fisher Montana State University

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Mr. Keith Fisher, P.E. Mr. Fisher has been teaching Mechanical Engineering Technology and Mechanical Engineering courses and related labs for Montana State University for the past five years. Prior to entering the teaching profession, Mr. Fisher obtained over 20 years of industrial mechanical engineering experience. He has developed four new courses, including MET 303 – Computer Aided Engineering for Mechanical Design, in the last four years, and was selected by the students as the outstanding Mechanical Engineering Technology teacher at MSU for the past two years.

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Kevin R. Cook Montana State University

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Kevin Cook is an Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering Technology (MET) at Montana State University. He is also the Program Coordinator of the MET Program. Mr. Cook holds a B.S. degree in MET and a M.S. degree in Industrial and Management Engineering, both from Montana State University. Mr. Cook has significant industrial experience and is a registered Professional Engineer in the state of Montana. His research interests relate to education improvement, as well as curriculum design and integration.

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Teaching Problem Solving in Engineering using Analysis and SimulationAbstractAt its core, engineering is essentially a problem solving discipline, and yet many studentsgraduating from engineering and engineering technology programs have poor problemsolving skills. Problem solving proficiency was one of the deficiencies identified in theMechanical Engineering Technology program at _____________ during acomprehensive curriculum review and revision undertaken beginning in 2006.As part of the curriculum revision several new courses were developed including a courseusing computer aided engineering analysis and simulation tools in design. Whiledeveloping and delivering this course, a conscious effort was made to focus the course onthe development of problem solving, rather than some of the more common approachesin courses using similar material, such as a focus on analysis theory, or simply learning touse a set of software tools.The background literature suggests that not all learning using simulation has been equallyeffective. A combination of simulations with well timed and applied conceptualbackground instruction has often resulted in significantly improved results. Detail isprovided in this paper to describe the methods through which learning has beenenhanced.In this case the emphasis on problem solving has fit extremely well with the use ofcomputer aided engineering analysis and simulation tools since the proper use of thesetools is conducive to the students investigating and understanding a number of problemsolving aspects, including: how to approach and explore a new problem how to effectively model a given problem how model and boundary condition assumptions affect results how analytical changes impact problem solutions how to validate and interpret results accuratelyThe peculiar ability of the students to use these methods to visualize the ramifications ofproblem solving decisions and relate fundamental engineering concepts and assumptionsto physical behavior that they can see through simulation techniques has had a verypositive impact on student learning at this institution. The first class to pass all of theway through the revised curriculum, including the described course, had a higherinvolvement in their capstone designs, improved performance in design courses, anddramatically improved scores on the fundamentals of engineering exam.

Fisher, K. B., & Cook, K. R. (2011, June), Teaching Problem Solving in Engineering using Analysis and Simulation Paper presented at 2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Vancouver, BC. 10.18260/1-2--18478

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