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Using Computer Simulations in a Freshman Mechanical Engineering Course to Make Informed Design Decisions

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2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Tampa, Florida

Publication Date

June 15, 2019

Start Date

June 15, 2019

End Date

June 19, 2019

Conference Session

First-Year Programs: Integrating Computing into the First Year

Tagged Division

First-Year Programs

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Paper Authors


Oziel Rios University of Texas, Dallas

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Dr. Oziel Rios earned his Ph.D. in mechanical engineering from the University of Texas at Austin in 2008 where his research focused on design of robotic systems with an emphasis on kinematic and dynamic modeling for analysis and control. Dr. Rios teaches the first-year and CAD courses in the Mechanical Engineering Department at the University of Texas at Dallas. Dr. Rios has also taught kinematics and dynamics of machines and graduate-level CAD courses. Dr. Rios’ research and teaching interests include: robotics, design, kinematics and dynamics of machines and engineering education.

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Dani Fadda University of Texas, Dallas

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Dr. Fadda is Clinical Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering. His background includes two decades of professional engineering practice in the energy industry where he has held numerous positions. Dr. Fadda has worked in product research and developed patented products for chemical, petrochemical, and nuclear applications. He is a professional engineer and an ASME fellow.

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In this complete evidence-based paper, it will be shown how computer simulations can be introduced in a freshman mechanical engineering course and how students can use computer simulations to make informed design decisions. Freshman-level engineering students may have insights about the workings of mechanical systems even though they may not be versed in the mathematical descriptions of such systems. The motivation for this work is three-fold: (1) allow freshman students to apply and expand their insights into mechanical systems without the need for mathematical descriptions which they may not yet be prepared to understand; (2) expose students to computer simulations at an early stage of their curriculum to solve engineering problems; and (3) offer opportunities for team work within the course on a large scale (200+ students) with reasonable resources. This paper shows how the course and computer simulation activities are set-up and administered and it provides a description of the design activity. Some samples of student work are provided. Student work is assessed based on their ability to: (1) specify design goals, (2) describe the design alternatives, (3) list relevant assumptions and constraints, (4) provide a procedure for using computer simulations to obtain data, and (5) use simulation data to make design decisions. There are several benefits to the method described in this paper including allowing instructors to cater to diverse student interests with limited resources. Specifically, it allows students to expand on course topics easily and meaningfully, allows students to apply existing knowledge and experience to create something new, motivates students, and interests them as they prepare for their future engineering courses.

Rios, O., & Fadda, D. (2019, June), Using Computer Simulations in a Freshman Mechanical Engineering Course to Make Informed Design Decisions Paper presented at 2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Tampa, Florida. 10.18260/1-2--33499

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