ASEE Zone 2 Conference 2017

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Review of Project-Based Learning in a Junior Level Mechanical Engineering Course

Final Paper
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The use of project-based learning in a junior level mechanical engineering course, Machine Design, is reviewed and discussed in this manuscript. The Machine Design course focuses on application of engineering analysis to the design and selection of machine elements. A significant part of the course is an open-ended design experience via project work. The project component was typically a semester long exercise, culminating in a formal written report. Project goals were to provide a realistic mechanical engineering design experience for the students, similar to what a new graduate engineer might do, but to a limited degree. The specific project varied from year to year. In some instances students were allowed to suggest and vote on projects, while in other instances projects were developed without student input.
Starting with a machine functional description, operating conditions, and limited specifications/ design requirements, students interpreted the given information in engineering terms of parameters and values, creating detailed engineering specifications. All projects required visualization and modeling. Stress analysis was performed using a combination CAD models and hand calculations. Students were tasked with developing static, dynamic, and cyclic loads. Fatigue life and maximum loadings were to be considered in the stress analyses. Students were limited to designing specific engineering elements to focus their efforts into time-appropriate projects. Design work included making an engineering drawing of the device assembly, determining power requirements, stress analysis of major frame/body in critical locations. Shafts, threaded fasteners, springs, , power transmission (belts, chains or gearing), keys, couplings, and bearings were also required design elements, selecting actual commercial components where possible, applying appropriate vendor engineering data in lieu of generic textbook data. Students were required to critic their final design, suggesting revisions based on their final design results.
Variations in the project implementation were reviewed and analyzed over 10 years for success, with varying project content and structure. Course size also varied and had much to do with the project structure.
Project implementation was compared to those found in the current literature for project-based learning, focusing on machine design.


Hodge Jenkins    
Mechanical Engineering
Mercer University
United States


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