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Using A Mechatronics Independent Study Course To Develop New Course Materials And Train Students For Research

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2002 Annual Conference


Montreal, Canada

Publication Date

June 16, 2002

Start Date

June 16, 2002

End Date

June 19, 2002



Conference Session

Trends in Mechanical Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

7.1244.1 - 7.1244.9



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Paper Authors

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Scott Kiefer

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

Main Menu Session 1566

Using a Mechatronics Independent Study Course to Develop New Course Materials and Train Students for Research

Scott Kiefer University of Puerto Rico at Mayaguez


It can be very difficulty for today’s young faculty members to find the time required to develop new courses and establish a research program while continuing to dedicate the time necessary for students in their regular teaching load. One way to maximize the benefit of time spent is to teach small independent study courses that evaluate course material to be used later in new course offerings. Teaching independent study courses of six to eight students does not require the course material to be completely polished, and the students can be evaluated without spending a lot of time grading written homework or exams. Furthermore, the students can be used to develop projects and handouts that will later be used as hands-on laboratory exercises or classroom demonstrations. At the same time, the students are getting the background necessary for them to be valuable to a research program.

This paper presents the results of teaching an independent study course in mechatronics to a group of six mechanical engineering students. The course included both undergraduate and graduate students working in teams of two. The first ten weeks of the course included weekly projects to teach the students the basics of microprocessors and electronics. For the last six weeks of the course, each group was given a design project that used the skills developed in the first ten weeks of the course. Student feedback is included with a commentary about the successes and failures of the project.

The course was determined to be successful for both the students and the professor. The students were able to learn a great deal about mechatronics while developing their communication skills, and they developed a great deal of pride in the fact that they had helped develop teaching tools that could be used to instruct future students. In addition, the graduate students involved in the project were given the preparation they needed to begin graduate thesis projects in mechatronics.


After teaching a normal course load, advising students, grading papers, and writing proposals for funding there is little time left for young faculty members to develop the new courses they would like to offer. In addition, as a faculty member seeking tenure, it is difficult to devote time to developing new courses or laboratory exercises because they are often perceived as not as valuable as bringing in external funds and presenting research in refereed journals. This paper presents a way to “multi-task” and develop new course material while preparing graduate students to do research that will later turn in to publications and help with external funding efforts. Specifically, a mechatronics course was developed in an independent study course atmosphere using six students (four undergraduate and two graduate).

Proceedings of the 2002 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright Ó 2002, American Society for Engineering Education

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Kiefer, S. (2002, June), Using A Mechatronics Independent Study Course To Develop New Course Materials And Train Students For Research Paper presented at 2002 Annual Conference, Montreal, Canada. 10.18260/1-2--10925

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