Student competitions enhance the learning of nontechnical skills for large cohorts of freshman engineers

Forero Rueda, M. A. and Gilchrist, M. D. (2010) Student competitions enhance the learning of nontechnical skills for large cohorts of freshman engineers. [Conference Proceedings]


As a cornerstone subject for all undergraduate engineering degree programs, mechanics is best taught from fundamental principles and by reinforcing students' learning through active learning strategies. This approach provides students with a solid understanding of basic concepts before they subsequently study more advanced topics such as applied dynamics, mechanics of solids & structures, and mechanics of fluids. MEEN10030, Mechanics for Engineers, is a compulsory course taught annually in Semester I to 280 First Year engineering students at University College Dublin, Ireland's largest university. The syllabus topics include forces, Newton's laws of motion, statics in two and three dimensions, equilibrium, friction, trusses and cables, distributed forces, centers of mass and centroids, motion, and kinematics of a particle and of a rigid body. Traditional teaching of this subject relies solely on formal lectures and tutorials, without any laboratory sessions or student assignments, both of which are resource intensive. Following an overall program review in 2004-05, this course was completely revised and the subject material was rationalized with regard to what is taught in subsequent 2nd year courses. A major innovation involved providing team-based assignments to the entire 280 students in which groups of up to 5 students are set a design competition directly related to one specific topic from the course material. Competitions have been held for the past two years, with very satisfactory outcomes in terms of not only their application of concepts learned in the course, but also in terms of reinforcing soft skills essential for a satisfactory and successful engineering career. ©2010 IEEE.

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