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The Changing Role Of Mechanics In Engineering Curricula

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1996 Annual Conference


Washington, District of Columbia

Publication Date

June 23, 1996

Start Date

June 23, 1996

End Date

June 26, 1996



Page Count


Page Numbers

1.446.1 - 1.446.7

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Paper Authors

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Dr. Mihir K. Das

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

Session 2668


Dr. Mihir K. Das Associate Dean of Engineering California State University, Long Beach


Mechanics is the corner stone of the engineering curriculum because it helps to develop essential design skills in engineering students. In the past, the mechanics curriculum was too inflexible with too much attention paid to solving classical problems resulting in unique situation-specific solutions. This rigid approach is now being challenged as the undergraduate curricula go through restructuring to accommodate open-ended problems for students to solve using flexibility and creativity. ABET also has adopted an integrated approach toward design with more flexible definitions. The author examines the subject matters relating to mechanics in the context of recent developments in the field of design teaching. Professional design practice has become interdisciplinary with an emphasis on a team approach leading to Integrated Product Development (IPD). This approach offers a competitive edge in the global market place in terms of cost, quality, and reduced lead time in bringing forth a new product.


Mechanics plays a significant role in Engineering Design for both structures and machinery. Recently, engineering curricula have exploded so many subjects and all of these courses have been compressed to fit inside a 4-year B.S. degree program. This has created a situation with some subjects demanding innovative approaches to teaching and mechanics is no exception. With renewed emphasis on Integrated Approach to Design and Integrated Product Development, the teaching of mechanics is receiving considerable attention once more. For example, in the past, educational techniques in mechanics have been too concerned with obtaining unique, deterministic solutions by students, i.e. everyone must get the same answer. With this approach, students oflen have difficulty in developing realistic models and in exploring the vast arena of possibilities of creative solutions with an open mind. The open-ended problems, as recognized by ABET, offers a better understanding of the applications of mechanics to the design of real-life products [1-3].

The availability of sophisticated analytical and graphical tools in the form of commercial software as well as courseware has also added to de-emphasizing the fundamental aspects of mechanics. This has additionally diminished the ability of students to analyze and solve problems on their own. The “black box” approach yields identical output from the input irrespective of the user’s knowledge of the fi,mdamentals. Our curriculum must be effective to ensure that students grasp the fimdamentals of mechanics and be able to predict ball-park results and provide realistic solutions. However, these computer based tools are essential in our educational arsenal for optimizing solutions as well as reducing the time required to solve realistic problems with various “what-if’ scenarios.

{’hi~~ 1996 ASEE Annual Conference Proceedings ‘O.

Das, D. M. K. (1996, June), The Changing Role Of Mechanics In Engineering Curricula Paper presented at 1996 Annual Conference, Washington, District of Columbia.

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