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The Wobbler Steam Engine: A Connection Between The Past, Present, And Future Of Mechanical Engineering

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2004 Annual Conference


Salt Lake City, Utah

Publication Date

June 20, 2004

Start Date

June 20, 2004

End Date

June 23, 2004



Conference Session

Design in Freshman Year

Page Count


Page Numbers

9.1304.1 - 9.1304.9



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Paper Authors

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H. Joel Lenoir

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

Session 1595

The Wobbler Steam Engine: A Connection Between the Past, Present, and Future of Mechanical Engineering H. Joel Lenoir Western Kentucky University

Abstract The Mechanical Engineering Freshman Experience at Western Kentucky University is a blend of contemporary student success topics with a return to some of the traditional roots of mechanical engineering. Students in this course are provided basic instruction in hand sketching and the safe use of fundamental machine shop tools. Each student designs, documents, and machines their own small steam engine. This experience is a response to the broadening gap between the background of new engineering students and the diminishing opportunties to learn practical skills in modern companies actively moving production overseas.

This paper documents three years of this course and will share lessons learned by faculty, responses from industrial constituents, and student course assessments. Examples of engine designs are presented, along with a description and budget for the necessary infrastructure.

Introduction Every student who begins the Mechanical Engineering (ME) program at Western Kentucky University (WKU) enrolls in ME 101: The Mechanical Engineering Freshman Experience. As with most freshman seminar courses in engineering, components of this course deal with college life, academic success, introductory professional skills, and ethics. However, this course adds a unique element in an attempt to counteract several evolving trends in the ME profession.

As globalization moves through American industry, fewer companies have domestic manufacturing facilities where young engineers are exposed to a range of traditional production processes during a period of onsite practice. Too often, these young engineers will not have mentoring from experienced engineers, designers, and machinists who possess vast knowledge of these processes and their impact on design. In addition, the students who come to college to study engineering now typically possess few of the traditional fabrication skills learned in high school “shop.” Thus, many young engineers never have the opportunity to participate in any of these manufacturing processes.

ME 101 is the first in a series of four integrated ME design courses at WKU attempting to deal with emerging issues such as these. The course is not a shop course, nor is it a theoretical course in manufacturing engineering. It is an integrated experience where students spend part of the semester focusing on improving their innate design abilities with practice in basic mechanical sketching and the production of a “proof-of-concept” prototype.

The prototype expected from each student is a small steam engine, blending well with concurrent seminar discussions about the historical use of steam and the rise of the ASME. Each student is expected to design, machine, and demonstrate a unique “Wobbler” steam engine powered by

Proceedings of the 2004American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright © 2004, American Society for Engineering Education

Lenoir, H. J. (2004, June), The Wobbler Steam Engine: A Connection Between The Past, Present, And Future Of Mechanical Engineering Paper presented at 2004 Annual Conference, Salt Lake City, Utah. 10.18260/1-2--13101

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