Implementation of a Design Project in a Freshman Engineering Physics Course
2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition Proceedings
Scott Kiefer has spent the past eighteen years teaching mechanical engineering at four institutions. As an exemplary teaching specialist in mechanical engineering at Michigan State University, Scott received the Withrow Award for Teaching Excellence, given to one faculty member in the College in Engineering for outstanding instructional performance. Scott specializes in machine design, vibrations, and controls. He started his career at the University of Puerto Rico at Mayaguez in the
... z in the traditional role of teaching and administering a modest research program. At Trine University, a small private school in Angola, Indiana, Scott taught ten different courses from introductory freshman courses to senior design, while serving as advisor to many undergraduate research projects. For the last seven years, Abstract Published literature clearly agrees that one of the key factors contributing to good students leaving engineering in their freshman year is that the students get bogged down in technical courses and fail to see the application of engineering in a real-world context. Students often fail to see the relevance of the technical skills they are learning in their basic math and science courses because they are presented with very few opportunities to apply these skills in actual engineering problems. In addition, many schools have included hands-on projects in first year engineering courses that concentrate on developing project management and teamwork skills. While these projects are certainly beneficial to student development, the types of projects assigned are usually solved using trial and error methods and rarely require the application of the concepts the students are learning in their math and science courses. These projects can solidify the idea students hold that math and science background is not required for design work and that the courses are merely intended to "weed out" students. Furthermore, it can cause students to become disillusioned with the engineering curriculum. This paper suggests that physics classes are a good place to apply the basic skills being covered in the course to real-life situations. Specifically, it explains how to take a large-scale design problem actually encountered in a capstone course (the design of a SAE design competition vehicle), break it down into smaller pieces, and examine it within the structure of a physics course in engineering mechanics. The project is divided into parts that are covered throughout the semester focusing on force, power, and torque analysis. The overall goal of the project is to access preliminary design specifications given for the engine and transmission system in a new vehicle. The analysis includes an exploration of minimum torque and power requirements, gear ratios, efficiencies, and vehicle performance goals.