S10-DISC5-3 - Integrating Electrical Engineering Fundamentals with Instrumentation and Data Acquisition in an Undergraduate Mechanical Engineering Curriculum

1. Innovative Practice Work In Progress
Yen-Lin Han1 , Greg Mason1, Kathleen Cook1, Teodora Shuman1, Jennifer Turns2
1 Seattle University
2 University of Washington

The Seattle University Mechanical Engineering (ME) Department was awarded an NSF RED (Revolutionizing Engineering and Computer Science Departments) grant in July 2017. This award provided the opportunity to create a program where students and faculty are immersed in a culture of doing engineering with practicing engineers that in turn fosters an identity of being an engineer.

One step in creating this new culture was a careful review of the curriculum. The review surfaced an issue common in ME programs- that many ME students see Electrical Engineering (EE) concepts as abstract and removed from ME. That EE was taught by an EE faculty during one term, and an Instrumentation and Data Acquisition (DAQ) taught by ME faculty the next, exacerbated this disconnect. ME students and faculty noted the ineffectiveness of this arrangement and recommended a stronger connection between the faculty and these two subject areas. Industry partners also expressed their needs for skilled engineers who can integrate the fundamentals of EE and ME. How to integrate EE and ME in the new curriculum became the challenge. This paper focuses on the curricular changes made to address this challenge. It describes its development, deployment, and assessment, and explains how this change contributes to the culture of doing engineering. 

In our new ME curriculum, a two-quarter sequence integrating EE and DAQ was developed. This sequence has a unique format: there are two lecture/laboratory combinations every week, one for EE and one for DAQ. EE content is discussed in a 50-minute lecture followed by a 100-minute laboratory early in the week, and a 50-minute DAQ lecture and 100-minute laboratory occurs later in the week. The EE and DAQ content are carefully designed and coordinated. Both emphasize hands-on learning with team laboratory exercises connected to in-lecture examples. Many researchers have discussed the benefits of hands-on laboratory work to engineering education. Two ME faculty co-teach this sequence, one leads the EE and the other guides the DAQ portion. To build the collaborative culture of doing engineering, other faculty are consulted to design appropriate experiments throughout the sequence. Some laboratory experiments are related to other ME courses students are taking concurrently, helping students connect concepts and apply their knowledge in an integrated manner. Details of the course content and examples of the laboratory exercises will be presented in the full-length paper. 

This sequence is in progress in Winter and Spring quarters 2020. As students go through the sequence, they are being assessed in traditional ways such as exams, and also through more real-world mechanisms like online engineering notebooks. Students also regularly reflect on their experiences and participate in focused interviews. Selected assessment results will be presented in the full-length paper. 

Our department’s goal in creating a program that supports a culture of doing engineering with practicing engineers to foster engineering identities necessitates a curriculum that is inclusive and engaging, both in design and in the way it’s experienced. An integrated EE/DAQ sequence is one essential part of such a curriculum.