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Water Turbine: Improving A Project For Reinforcing Machine Component Design

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2010 Annual Conference & Exposition


Louisville, Kentucky

Publication Date

June 20, 2010

Start Date

June 20, 2010

End Date

June 23, 2010



Conference Session

Design Projects across the Curriculum

Tagged Division

Design in Engineering Education

Page Count


Page Numbers

15.1355.1 - 15.1355.10



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Paper Authors


Harold Henderson United States Miliary Academy

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MAJ Harold Henderson graduated as an Armor officer from the United States Military Academy in 1998. He has served in the U.S. Army in the United States and Iraq. He holds a Masters Degree in Mechanical Engineering from Auburn University. His research interests include unmanned ground vehicles, energy harvesting, instructional technology and distance education. He is currently serving as an Instructor in the Department of Civil and Mechanical Engineering at West Point.

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Joel Dillon United States Military Academy

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

Water Turbine: Improving a Project for Reinforcing Machine Component Design


A competitive water wheel design assignment has recently been revised for use as the culminating project for the Manufacturing and Machine Component Design course at the United States Military Academy (West Point). The project integrates material from other engineering courses and uses the skills and machining techniques from the current course. Previously, the project proved to be anticlimactic, relegated to the corner of a lab at the end of course, and had mixed reviews from instructors and students alike.

A concerted effort was made to improve the project to maximize its potential. The most dramatic change was made possible through the use of a mobile test stand constructed to allow two water wheels to test simultaneously as the focus and challenge for the final phase of the course. The mobile test stand enhances the students’ learning and performance with the design project. As a stand-alone, portable unit, the mobile test stand can be moved to different rooms or auditoriums allowing more students to observe the employment of their devices. Use of the stand allows the students to directly observe the outcomes of their design decisions as gear teeth shear, shafts deflect, and fasteners fail while each turbine produces power. The side-by-side comparison also allows the students to gauge their performance against their peers in a challenging yet low threat environment. Their grades are determined by the device’s performance on a predetermined scale; however, bragging rights are tied to their performance, relative to their peers.

This paper illustrates some of the project details employed to enrich the course and provides a qualitative assessment of the benefits of the mobile test stand through a comparison of this year’s results to previous semesters. The assessment uses student grades and performance, quality and performance of the water wheels, and course end feedback and surveys. The results of this assessment should be useful for any program seeking to implement a competitive project.


Competition has been touted as a useful tool for teaching engineering. Competitions are strong motivators for encouraging students to perform.1,2 They also support the “student involvement theory” of education. Student involvement refers to the amount of physical and psychological energy that the student devotes to the academic experience. 3 A great deal of analysis has been devoted toward analysis of competitions used to support design courses. These competitions range from multiyear competitions such as the North American Solar Challenge to national annual events such as Mini Baja to institution-specific contests for a given course.

Group projects have proven to be effective methods to teach the design process.4 They tend to be open-ended designs that focus on the process used to determine an appropriate solution to the problem. They also rely heavily on commercially available components or prototyping kits such as Technic®, K’nex®, or Erector®.5 At West Point, a competitive group project is used to

Henderson, H., & Dillon, J. (2010, June), Water Turbine: Improving A Project For Reinforcing Machine Component Design Paper presented at 2010 Annual Conference & Exposition, Louisville, Kentucky. 10.18260/1-2--16462

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