Teaching engineering analysis through a stand-alone junior project course in a multidisciplinary, project-based engineering program

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Project-based learning (PBL) follows an inductive learning approach by which students are taught to undertake a materials self-study after the need has been identified through a project's context. It has been used in many senior capstone and freshman design courses to enhance students' competence in design and other outcomes required by ABET. In most engineering programs, engineering analysis is still taught mainly through sequences of traditional lecture-based courses. PBL, if adopted, usually is embedded in various courses that focus on specific technical areas to facilitate the learning process. Compared with independent project courses, such embedded PBL approach usually faces more restrictions on its open-ended nature, project selection and technical topics covered. This paper presents the results of a study on the effectiveness of teaching engineering analysis in a stand-alone project course as a part of the curriculum of a multidisciplinary undergraduate engineering program that has an independent project course in every semester. In addition to addressing outcomes usually emphasized in other project courses, such as design, communication, teaming, etc., the critical technical issues involved in the design and trajectory of a solid propellant rocket were identified at the beginning of the project course. Then, the instructors covered the related technical topics, such as dynamics, stability and aerodynamic forces, before the students were introduced to the details of the project assignment. In this manner the approach distinguishes a portion during which topics are discussed based on the traditional predominantly theoretical instruction and a subsequent portion during which students explicitly apply such topics to the design, construction and operation of a solid rocket. The project was carefully designed such that the technical topics introduced early in the course have a direct application to the project, hence, it was required that students go through detailed analysis when they conduct design, analysis and construction of their rockets based on those topics. Tests were administered before and after the project so as to evaluate possible improvements in students' understanding of the major technical topics due to their hands-on project experience and distinguish from the traditional instruction method. Since an engineering project usually involves more technical issues than those covered in a traditional engineering analysis course, the teaching approach presented in this paper provides a broad, flexible contextualized alternative to cover technical competence that is different from traditional engineering programs which are made up of structured sequences of lecture-based and laboratory courses.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalASEE Annual Conference and Exposition, Conference Proceedings
StatePublished - 2011

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Engineering(all)


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