Improving Student Learning in Mechanical Engineering Using Low Cost 3D Printed Laboratory Devices in

Ayse Tekes
Associate Professor
Kennesaw State University

Need. In many institutions, limited resources for laboratory equipment can inhibit student learning of dynamics, vibrations, and control concepts due to constraints on the use of available turnkey laboratory equipment. The laboratory components for these courses are often limited as the equipment is expensive, few in number, and bulky. Laboratories are an essential part of these curricula, as they demonstrate fundamentals of vibrations such as natural frequency, free response, and forced response of vibratory systems. Despite this need, challenges for student learning during labs arise due to budget constraints, space limitations, class size, and limited teaching resources.We aim to develop mainly 3D printed laboratory equipment (3D-PLE) that are compact, modular, small scale, and bundled with classroom activities designed using a learning sciences approach connecting several critical educational theories. Research Questions. Specifically, this project aims to address the following issues: (1) What types of compact, modular, low-cost vibratory mechanical/electromechanical systems can be designed to enhance student learning by illuminating key physical behaviors of mechanical, electrical and electromechanical systems? (2) What is the impact on student learning for groups that use these devices within the context of targeted learning activities in the classroom setting, and for the student groups designing these devices?Answering these questions will enable us to better understand the impact of our 3D-PLE learning activities on student learning of modeling single degree of freedom and multi degrees of freedom mechanical (translational/rotational), electrical, and electromechanical systems in physics, dynamics, vibrations, and introductory control theory courses as an undergraduate.Outcomes. The project in its 2nd year produced 4 cost-effective laboratory and demonstration devices for key vibrations and controls concepts. Learning activities for each device are aligned to POGIL activities. All activities contain: Why the learning activity is useful/important, Learning Objectives, Connections, Activity, Critical Thinking Questions, and Reflection.Student response to learning with these devices has been largely positive. For example, survey results for the compliant beam showed approximately 80% of students reported design features were “much help” or “very much help”, and 85% of students found the activity at least “somewhat” helpful for building problem-solving skills. Nearly 90% reported the activity helped them learn to think through a problem, and 80% reported real-world connections in the activity being “a lot” or “a great deal” of help.Broader Impacts. The outcomes of the project (CAD models, 3D printing settings, evidence-based design of learning activities) are publicly shared on GitHub to anyone, significantly expanding faculty and student exposure on a national and even international level.This project endeavors to increase academic achievement for underrepresented populations. The Design Research Group students have the strongest outcomes of all, as they bring strong experimental design skills into the workplace. Since the inception of the project, 17 students have worked on the design team, 11 of whom come from underrepresented populations (e.g., 6 female, 4 Latino, 1 African American). All are on track towards graduation or have graduated.


Tris Utschi, Kennesaw State University, Marietta, GA; Maureen Linden, Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta, GA