Traditional Engineering education employs Problem Based Learning, which is a style of instruction in which you, the student, attend lectures, take notes, and pass (hopefully) tests. In the Mechanical Engineering Technology Program at Missouri State University, we focus heavily on Project Based Learning, which is also known as Experiential Learning. You might think of this instructional style as “learning by doing“.
A Swedish psychologist, Dr. Jean Piaget once said that “Knowledge is a consequence of experience”. The Project Based Learning style employed by Missouri State’s Mechanical Engineering Technology Program is based on this truth. You learn much more deeply by “doing” than by “hearing about” engineering techniques. About 65% of all of the Mechanical Engineering Technology course work that you will complete at Missouri State University has a laboratory intensive or project based component.
As an engineer, you will live in a project based world. Throughout your career, you will work on a series of design-build-test-deploy projects. You will be tasked with finding solutions to big, open ended problems, and the solutions to those problems will be embodied in complex, dynamic, elegant mechanisms that you work on a team to design and build. In the design-build-test-deploy process, you will bring to bear all of the skills you have gained in your course of study in the Missouri State Mechanical Engineering Technology Program. Your professional career will benefit from the experience that you gained during your time at Missouri State.
An example might help to illustrate here. This (Spring 2019) semester, I tasked one of our senior design groups with the job of designing, building, and automating a device which would find parts on the loop conveyor in our Flexible Manufacturing System, pick them up, and place them in our numerically controlled machining center to be machined. For this task, positioning accuracy is critical, since we are holding tolerances measured in thousandths of an inch.
This group came up with TAMMi (Three Axis Manipulator for Material Handling: integrated). TAMMi is a dedicated purpose cylindrical configuration robotic manipulator. TAMMi has three joints (three degrees of freedom) and a positional accuracy of about 0.010 inch. TAMMi incorporates stepper motor drives, and is controlled using a PC based data acquisition card.
Our project team generated conceptual design alternatives, performed concept selection, and performed detailed material selection and tolerancing analyses. They then generated a detailed design, built TAMMi, and wrote custom software using the Microsoft Visual Studio programming suite to automate the robotic manipulator.
In performing this project, the team drew upon skills they had acquired in Missouri State’s Mechanical Engineering Technology courses such as Mechanical Design and Analysis, Manufacturing Processes, Systems Integration, Product Conceptualization, and Computer Integrated Manufacturing. They produced a device which constitutes an elegant mechatronics solution to a real world problem.
In this post, I’ve attempted to give you a feel for what Project Based Learning is, and why it is so valuable to you as a Mechanical Engineering Technology student. At Missouri State University, we use Project Based Learning extensively to leverage the skills our students gain in Problem Based Learning courses. Our Mechanical Engineering Technology students complete real world, hands on engineering projects with real schedules, real budgets, and real deliverables.
Please contact me at MET@MissouriState.edu if you’d like further information about the types of laboratory and project based work that you will participate in as a Mechanical Engineering Technology student at Missouri State University.
Kevin M. Hubbard, Ph.D., CMfgE
Coordinator: Mechanical Engineering Technology
Missouri State University