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Using Mechatronics to Develop Self Learners and Connect the Dots in the Curriculum

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2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Salt Lake City, Utah

Publication Date

June 23, 2018

Start Date

June 23, 2018

End Date

July 27, 2018

Conference Session

Division for Experimentation & Lab-oriented Studies Technical Session 4

Tagged Division

Experimentation and Laboratory-Oriented Studies

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Paper Authors


Robert J. Rabb P.E. The Citadel

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Robert Rabb is an associate professor and the Mechanical Engineering Program Director at The Citadel. He previously taught mechanical engineering at the United States Military Academy at West Point. He received his B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from the United States Military Academy and his M.S.E. and PhD in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Texas at Austin. His research and teaching interests are in mechatronics, regenerative power, and multidisciplinary engineering.

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Nathan John Washuta P.E. The Citadel Orcid 16x16

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Dr. Nathan Washuta is an Instructor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at The Citadel in Charleston, SC. He received both his B.S. and Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering from The University of Maryland – College Park. His primary research interests include Hydrodynamics, Turbulence, and Experimental Methods.

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Coleman D. Floyd

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Coleman Floyd is a senior Mechanical Engineering student at The Citadel. From Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, he is an active student in a variety of student organizations to include the SAE Mini-Baja and Student Chapter of ASME. He plans to pursue a Ph.D. in Aerospace Engineering upon graduation.

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Mechatronics originally was a simple combination of mechanical and electrical systems, but as technology and capability advanced, mechatronics expanded to include mechanical engineering, electronics, computer engineering, and control engineering. This multidisciplinary nature of mechatronics makes it ideal to construct new capabilities and knowledge. As a mandatory senior level course for mechanical engineers at (Institution), mechatronics is a course that allows students to exercise their creativity and problem solving skills in an environment where they comprehend some basics of several of these disciplines, but now they must work to integrate these areas while implementing new devices. This paper describes four hands-on labs that progress in difficulty. These challenges follow the course material and design, pushing them to work through the lecture material and example problems. Students are encouraged to think about the final product they will present, and work towards implementing portions of it in each lab requirement. For those that adhere to this advice, the final integration is much easier than those who treat each lab as a disjointed exercise. Each lab requirement has at least one in-class work session, and two require the student teams to present their prototype or proof of concept. The faculty member and a lab technician are available to support the groups and provide additional information or assistance on implementing their devices. Student reviews and grades show they are meeting the desired learning objectives and enjoy the challenges. Students with no prior programming experience in C++ quickly gain proficiency and are more confident with their critical thinking, creativity, and problem solving skills as well as their ability to be self-learners. Instructors report that the hands-on nature motivates students to achieve more than the bare minimum and be creative. Their imaginations and innovative solutions require the integration of introductory computer programming and microcontroller functions with electrical and mechanical engineering applications. Students mention the open ended, hands-on activities in the course feedback as relevant applications that helped them improve their understanding and appreciation for the theory learned in the classroom. Additionally, students have learned to incorporate some of the lab requirements into their senior capstone projects. Working through the labs provides an excellent vehicle for deeper understanding and solving open-ended problems while contributing to a number of ABET student outcomes.

Rabb, R. J., & Washuta, N. J., & Floyd, C. D. (2018, June), Using Mechatronics to Develop Self Learners and Connect the Dots in the Curriculum Paper presented at 2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Salt Lake City, Utah. 10.18260/1-2--31209

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