This project aims to serve the national interest by creating active learning exercises that help students learn abstract concepts in mechanical engineering. The project focuses specifically on concepts related to vibrations and control. Learning abstract concepts can be enhanced through guided explorations that involve real world phenomena. Such explorations often occur in the laboratory, where students use special equipment to explore applications of the concepts. Unfortunately, engineering laboratory equipment is not usually portable for use outside of the lab and can be expensive. This project will develop 3D printed laboratory devices that support student learning of mechanical engineering concepts and that are also inexpensive, compact, modular, and portable. The devices can be used in the laboratory, but also in classroom demonstrations and at home. Analogous to engaging in undergraduate research experiences, an undergraduate Research Design Group will plan, print, and evaluate the new devices. Thus, undergraduates will be involved in design and production of laboratory devices that are intended to support the learning of other students. The devices will be bundled with ready-to-use learning activities designed using a learning sciences approach. An online repository containing device plans and associated learning activities will enable other engineering programs to adopt this approach. The results of this project may present a new approach for improving engineering education while decreasing the cost of education.

The goal of this project is to improve student learning in core mechanical engineering courses, namely, dynamics, vibrations, machine design, and control theory. The devices and classroom activities will be designed by adapting Hanson?s Activity Design Methodology and will focus on demonstrating fundamental concepts of vibrations such as natural frequency, free response to an initial disequilibrium condition, and forced response to an external input applied to a system. The project will address two research questions: (1) What types of devices will enhance student learning by measuring key physical behaviors of mechanical, electrical, and electromechanical systems? (2) What is the impact on learning for students using these devices in classroom learning activities and for the students who design these devices? Student learning and professional outcomes will be assessed in lecture and laboratory courses, comparing the results of students who used the devices in the learning activities to a control group that did not have the learning activities. Student learning will be assessed using exam questions, homework, and reflective writing. Students? professional development will be assessed using established instruments for growth mindset, motivation, and engineering identity. Given the low cost of producing these devices, this approach could be widely adopted in the mechanical engineering education community to improve student learning. This project is supported by the NSF Improving Undergraduate STEM Education Program: Education and Human Resources Program, which supports research and development projects to improve the effectiveness of STEM education for all students. Through the Engaged Student Learning track, the program supports the creation, exploration, and implementation of promising practices and tools.

This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.

National Science Foundation (NSF)
Division of Undergraduate Education (DUE)
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John Jackman
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Kennesaw State University Research and Service Foundation
United States
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