Schreyer grant to enhance mechanical engineering undergrad curriculum

Erin Cassidy Hendrick
October 05, 2020

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Faculty in the Penn State Department of Mechanical Engineering (ME) have received a grant from the University’s Schreyer Institute of Teaching Excellence, further advancing the department’s mission to ensure a cutting-edge and impactful undergraduate curriculum.

In the summer of 2019, a team of ME faculty, led by Siu Ling “Pansy” Leung, director of undergraduate laboratories, was charged with reimagining a required third-year lab course, ME 348, where students learn about electrical circuit analysis, instrumentation and statistics. 

“We wanted to incorporate more real-life examples into the lab, provide more hands-on activities and incorporate modern circuit simulation tools,” Leung said.

With the funds from the Teaching Transformation and Innovation grant program, the team can now introduce a solar panel cooling system within the class. This exercise allows students to study measurement techniques through sustainability related applications and apply their learning to resolve an engineering challenge — improving the solar panels' efficiency and performance. 

Other new lab activities include learning electrical circuit design through small-scale smart houses, practicing statistical analysis by studying heartbeat sensor measurements and Internet of Things (IOT) data. These activities are powered by Arduino, an open-source electronics platform that students can access remotely. 

“This change will both improve students' hands-on experience working virtually due to COVID-19 and enhance their understanding of the subject,” Leung said. 

The solar panel cooling system will be introduced in a pilot program in the spring, with full participation expected in the fall of 2021. 

This represents the department’s latest effort to innovate the undergraduate lab experience, which includes new courses and the construction of a hands-on learning and innovation hub named the ME Knowledge Lab

Additional team members on the project include assistant professors Jean-Michel Mongeau, Herschel Pangborn and Brian Foley, as well as Eric Marsh, the Glenn Professor of Engineering Education, all belonging to the ME department. 


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Last Updated October 05, 2020