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Transitioning Students from Analysis to Design with an Active Incremental Learning Approach

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2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


New Orleans, Louisiana

Publication Date

June 26, 2016

Start Date

June 26, 2016

End Date

August 28, 2016





Conference Session

Active Learning and Undergraduate Research in ET

Tagged Division

Engineering Technology

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Paper Authors


Jyhwen Wang Texas A&M University Orcid 16x16

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Jyhwen Wang joined the Department of Engineering Technology and Industrial Distribution at Texas A&M University after working for 10 years as a researcher and R&D manager in industry. He teaches mechanics of materials, mechanical design applications and manufacturing processes. His research interest is in design and analysis of material processing technologies. He received his Ph. D. degree in mechanical engineering from Northwestern University.

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Ying Zhang Texas A&M University

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Ying Zhang is a PhD candidate in Mechanical Engineering department at Texas A&M University, working under the supervision of Dr. Jyhwen Wang. Currently, she is a graduate assistant. Her doctoral research is focused on fabrication, Finite Element simulation, and mechanical modeling of layer-by-layer composites. She is also interested in product and process design and composite mechanics. She holds a master’s degree and Bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering in Wuhan University of Technology, Wuhan, China. She is currently a member of ASEE, ASME and SWE.

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In a typical mechanical engineering technology curriculum, a mechanical design course is preceded by physics, mechanics, and mechanics of materials courses that focus on developing students’ analytical skills. While strong analytical skills are required in mechanical design, the open-ended nature of design problems often prevents students from making a smooth transition. Students are used to problems with a unique, standard solution. Introducing the concept of multiple unknown parameters that lead to plurality of design solutions can be a challenging task. Given the critical need in developing students’ competence and confidence in design, an effective approach to guiding students to transition from analysis to design thinking is of significant interest.

The present work examines the effects of active learning activities on students’ progression in applying their analytical skills to solve design problems. In the beginning of the semester, a survey is first conducted to evaluate students’ aptitude for design with questions such as if they are comfortable dealing with problems that has no standard solution and if they enjoy creative activities involving synthesis. The survey gives an indication regarding the level of readiness for student to tackle mechanical design problems. Through the semester, in-class exercises, quizzes, and homework assignments are given in the formats of both analysis and design. Students are initially given the freedom of selecting the types of problems they prefer, and then are encouraged to work on design problems as the semester progresses. The transition is characterized by the types of the problems the students select and the performance of the students in design problems. A final exam consisting of only design problems and a summative survey, similar to the initial survey, are to be administrated at the end of the semester.

This paper presents the methodology of the study, the survey questionnaires, the design course outline, and examples of the analysis and design problems. Data comprising students’ initial survey response, selection of problem types and the competence with the design skills are reported.

Wang, J., & Zhang, Y. (2016, June), Transitioning Students from Analysis to Design with an Active Incremental Learning Approach Paper presented at 2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, New Orleans, Louisiana. 10.18260/p.27080

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