Using a stand-alone junior project course as a platform for teaching engineering analysis of mechanical systems

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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' competences 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. Is it possible to use an independent project course to effectively teach engineering analysis and the challenging technical concepts that it involves? This paper presents the results of a study on the effectiveness of teaching engineering analysis of mechanical systems through a stand-alone project course. Our approach introduces the technical topics in the traditional academic manner prior to introducing the students to the project details. The model-rocket project was carefully and very specifically designed such that the technical topics of the pre-project lectures had direct and meaningful applications and were essential to its success. Based on this approach, the results demonstrated that the predictive success of the students' theoretical models of their rocket systems' behavior reached as high as 92%. Identical pre- and post-project tests showed consistent performance improvement reaching as high as 35%. This data suggests that it is possible to effectively utilize the PBL approach to teach the challenging technical subjects associated with engineering analysis. The main ingredient is the specific design of the projects such that the predictive capability of theoretical models is essential in evaluating students' project success.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)554-562
Number of pages9
JournalInternational Journal of Engineering Education
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • Engineering analysis
  • Modeling
  • Project-Based Learning

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • General Engineering


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