Abstract

This paper discusses an undergraduate mechanical engineering (ME) curricular sequence of four required and four elective courses (4+4) in the area of modeling, simulation, and application development with the focus on the thermo-fluids topics. The purpose is early and consistent integration of knowledge and modern computational skills across curriculum. This approach facilitates a deeper understanding of complex theoretical concepts and engineering solutions by embedding modeling and simulations in required courses from the freshmen to the junior year. Professional electives provide an additional opportunity to apply the same strategy either in the concentration format or in one-off courses that individual students may decide to take.

The sequence starts with four courses that are required for all ME majors: Graphic Communication, Computer-Aided Design and Analysis, Fluid Mechanics, and Heat Transfer. Four additional courses are technical electives and a part of an undergraduate Computational Mechanical Engineering (Comp ME) concentration: Applied CFD, Multidisciplinary Modeling, Finite Element Analysis, and Convective Heat and Momentum Transfer. The first two required courses, Graphic Communication and Computer-Aided Design and Analysis, provide the foundation in model development. There can also be opportunities to embed simulations as a part select sophomore level courses, such as Thermo-dynamics. In the third year thermo-fluids sequence, as well as in the Comp ME technical electives, students gain experience creating models of new and existing systems, visualizing simulation results, going through the process of verification and validation, optimizing solutions, and building applications.

We will first present the rationale for adopting a simulation-based approach to Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) challenges. Second, we will show how this high-impact approach can be implemented without additional labor-intensive work on the part of faculty members. Finally, special attention will be devoted to the required and elective thermo-fluids courses that use COMSOL Multiphysics® as the software platform. In each course, a series of models are created and documented in technical reports. Applications are also built based on the underlying models to complete the experience. The paper provides a detailed description of the technical content in each course, learning strategies, expected outcomes, and assessment criteria. Several examples illustrating student work are presented. How and why the courses evolved and were improved over time is included. Lastly, the importance and value of this approach in view of changes coming to the ABET criteria is discussed.

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