Asee peer logo

Utilization Of The Learning Cycle And Design Of Experiments To Enhance Understanding Of Mechanical Engineering Concepts

Download Paper |


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

7.1289.1 - 7.1289.18



Permanent URL

Download Count


Request a correction

Paper Authors

author page

John Brader

author page

Jed Lyons

Download Paper |

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

Main Menu Session 1566

Utilization of the Learning Cycle and Design of Experiments to Enhance Understanding of Mechanical Engineering Concepts

John S. Brader, Jed S. Lyons

Department of Mechanical Engineering - University of South Carolina

Abstract Through design of experiments, as part of an increasingly difficult series of laboratory exercises, students gain a greater understanding of the relevant engineering theory. This paper outlines a three part laboratory experience specifically designed to introduce freshmen to the variety of engineering disciplines. The three experiments increase in difficulty as the laboratory handouts become increasingly vague. The student’s responsibility for their own learning is steadily increased through the reduction of detail associated with the laboratory handout. Ultimately, the students are provided only background theory and are required to design their own experiment and analysis to arrive at the required results. As described in education instruction theory, students who have a greater personal need for the knowledge are more apt to understand the information. This paper identifies the increased understanding of theory gained by students who personally created experiments and analysis regimes.

Introduction As with many freshmen students, their understanding of their chosen major is limited to campus tours and some fragmented experiences. Engineering students are especially prone to have misconceptions about their impending four year experience; therefore, the University of South Carolina has initiated an “Introduction to Engineering” class for incoming freshmen. One of the primary goals of the class is to provide an overview of some introductory engineering concepts. An effective means of introducing complex concepts is through the use of experimental activities. Recently, these laboratory experiences, and especially the provided information, has been critically examined.

The laboratory handouts have been altered to take advantage of a proven educational method that has shown a student’s understanding increases as the information becomes more personally meaningful. New engineering concepts are difficult to make personally meaningful; therefore, by requiring the students to become increasingly responsible for their learning, the theory becomes a personally needed aspect of their successful completion of the activity. This is in contrast to many traditional engineering laboratory experiences, in which, the theory, experimental procedure, and analysis expectations are outlined in great detail for the student.

The three laboratories focus on Statics and Mechanics of Materials, Fluid Dynamics, and Electric Circuit Theory. As the semester progresses, the students are provided less information at the beginning of their laboratory sessions and, in turn, are responsible for more of their learning.

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

Main Menu

Brader, J., & Lyons, J. (2002, June), Utilization Of The Learning Cycle And Design Of Experiments To Enhance Understanding Of Mechanical Engineering Concepts Paper presented at 2002 Annual Conference, Montreal, Canada. 10.18260/1-2--11104

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2002 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015