June 15, 2019
June 15, 2019
June 19, 2019
Design in Engineering Education
Engineers involved in product design and development have been facing a clear trend towards the integration of multiple subsystems into existing and new devices. Sensors, actuators, and processors are now ubiquitous components in design, which has led to the rise of mechatronics engineering and subsequent curriculum changes in conventional disciplines such as mechanical engineering. Moreover, along with the expansion of technical knowledge requirements, the trend towards greater product complexity brings with it an increased need for students to learn and apply holistic, systems-level approaches to design problems. This paper describes the effects of infusing systems thinking concepts into a capstone mechatronic design course for mechanical engineers.
Given the importance of systems thinking skills, there has been much prior work on infusing the undergraduate curriculum in traditional disciplines with basic systems thinking and systems engineering concepts. This work expands on prior efforts by the authors that introduced systems thinking concepts to sophomore mechanical engineering students. While sophomore-level students can gain an understanding about conceptual design, their analytical skills are generally not refined enough to understand the connections between conceptual and detail design activities. For senior students, these connections can be made more explicit, ideally increasing student interest in topics that they may incorrectly perceive as less relevant than technical courses focusing only on analysis.
This work focuses on training mechanical engineering undergraduate students in the following product development activities: identifying customer needs, setting target specifications, concept generation, and system architecture. Case studies originally developed for sophomore students are adapted for use with senior students by illustrating the impact of each of the selected product development activities in the analysis that takes place during detailed design. By including a brief analysis example, the aim is to better engage senior students by showing the connection between design and analysis activities while increasing students' appreciation of the life-long learning that is required in the engineering profession.
The intervention’s effectiveness is gauged by measuring changes in students' systems thinking skills via a concept inventory, studying changes in students' self-efficacy, and surveying students on the appeal of the new learning materials. Results are presented for a class of 37 students that features a mix of undergraduate and graduate students. The graduate students form a particularly interesting cohort in that they have presumably previously taken a conventional capstone design course.
Bedillion, M. D., & Lovett, M., & Muci-Kuchler, K. H., & Degen, C. M. (2019, June), Teaching Systems Thinking in a Capstone Mechatronic Design Course Paper presented at 2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Tampa, Florida. https://peer.asee.org/33355
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