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This paper describes a laboratory experiment that was designed to increase student engagement and enhance student development in a materials laboratory. The laboratory module described is part of a broader effort to enhance the mechanical engineering laboratory curriculum to incorporate modern pedagogical methods and to improve student outcomes using backward design.

The new laboratory modules encourage students to work in small groups, develop team skills, and learn about basic measurement methods. The first module is a simple cantilever beam mounted with a strain gage. Students develop an understanding of the correlation between bending stress and strain. While doing so, they also determine a calibration factor for the beam in order to use the beam as a load cell to measure the weight of an object. For the second module, students are provided an instrumented beam with a known calibration factor and are asked to determine the amount of lift produced by a small quadcopter.

To assess the effectiveness of the laboratory experiment, a student survey was designed and the experiments were observed by an education expert. The results indicate the new laboratory modules have been successful in increasing student engagement and meeting learning objectives.


Engineering laboratories; Engineering--Study and teaching

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Archived version is the final published version.

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Conference Paper