Document Type

Conference Proceeding


2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition

Publication Date



San Antonio, TX


This paper describes the development of two inquiry-based experiments in a mechanical engineering curriculum at a land grant research-intensive university, aimed at providing students with the opportunity to design and perform experiments. One experiment in engineering measurements (system behavior) and one experiment in fluid dynamics were developed. In each case, students working on teams were posed with a scenario and question to answer. For example, in the system dynamics experiment, students were asked to verify that a thermal system and electrical system were mechanically equivalent systems. In the fluid dynamics experiment, students were asked to investigate drag coefficients for flow over a sphere over a range of Reynolds numbers. The students were required to formulate the theoretical approach and solve based on given information and assumptions. Subsequently the students were required to plan an experiment using available equipment to obtain data to support their theoretical approach. Once the experimental plan was reviewed to avoid critical errors, students completed the experiment and compared solutions to theoretical predictions. Students write a paper on the laboratory exercise, which is graded against a defined rubric that assesses the work on various areas including theoretical approach, experimental approach, data reporting and discussion of results. The overall feedback from students (through online surveys) and lab instructors (through discussion) was generally positive. In particular students found the open-ended approach difficult and challenging compared to other prescribed laboratory exercises but more beneficial to understanding the topic of interest. Opportunities for improvement include better articulation of the laboratory objectives and discussion(of(the(philosophy(and(intent(of(the(laboratory(a( priori(in(order(to(inform(students(of(the(different(expectations(of(inquiry6based(activities.

Copyright Owner

American Society for Engineering Education




Article Location