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Weigh Dr. Lyons: An Application Of Problem Based Learning

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2004 Annual Conference


Salt Lake City, Utah

Publication Date

June 20, 2004

Start Date

June 20, 2004

End Date

June 23, 2004



Conference Session

TIME 2: Laboratories

Page Count


Page Numbers

9.1417.1 - 9.1417.8

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Paper Authors

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Jed Lyons

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

Session 2166

Weigh Dr. Lyons: An Application of Problem-Based Learning Jed S. Lyons, Ph.D., P.E. Department of Mechanical Engineering University of South Carolina Columbia, SC 20208

Abstract A laboratory project is described that was developed for a mechanical engineering measurements and instrumentation course. Each student designs, constructs, calibrates and uses a strain gage based load cell to weigh the instructor. The project takes about three weeks to complete. Besides learning how strain gages work, each student significantly improves his or her ability to design experiments and practice mechanical engineering.

Introduction In problem-based learning, students have the primary responsibility for their learning. The instructor serves as a resource or tutor, guiding the students in their problem solving efforts. Intended outcomes are increased student motivation and confidence, which lead to improved learning in the classroom and beyond. This paper discusses the implementation of problem- based learning strategies in a laboratory course called EMCH 361 - Measurements and Instrumentation. This is the first engineering laboratory course for mechanical engineers at the University of South Carolina.

The laboratory experience of many of our students prior to taking the measurements lab is restricted to cook-book style science experiments with fill-in-the-blank laboratory reports. These students are not prepared for an engineering experience where they must design, conduct and report upon their own experiments. Therefore, a scaffolding approach is used throughout the semester where the students are given increasing responsibility for developing experimental procedures and data analysis formats in successive experiments. For the final laboratory project in the course, the students must design, construct, calibrate and use a strain-gage based load cell. The load cell must accurately measure the weight of the instructor. A representative finished product is shown in Figure 1. Typical load cell designed and constructed by a Figure 1. mechanical engineering student to weigh Dr. Lyons.

Proceedings of the 2004 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright © 2004, American Society for Engineering

Lyons, J. (2004, June), Weigh Dr. Lyons: An Application Of Problem Based Learning Paper presented at 2004 Annual Conference, Salt Lake City, Utah.

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