A Topical Analysis of Mechanical Engineering Curricula

By Jarosz, Jeffrey P.; Busch-Vishniac, Ilene J. | Journal of Engineering Education, July 2006 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

A Topical Analysis of Mechanical Engineering Curricula


Jarosz, Jeffrey P., Busch-Vishniac, Ilene J., Journal of Engineering Education


ABSTRACT

This study has dissected the current curriculum in mechanical engineering into a list of required topics. The list indicates what material is currently considered to be the essential body of knowledge for graduating mechanical engineering students. It also provides a measure of the extent to which curricula differ from institution to institution. There is similarity in core material required among the institutions which we considered, but each one adds distinct requirements which give it an individual flavor or emphasis. The list reveals some of the differences among degree programs. While institutions have adjusted curricula to conform to the ABET engineering criteria, how they fulfill the "technical skill" outcomes is clearer than how they fulfill the "professional skill" outcomes. This survey shows that dissecting a degree program into required topics is useful for curriculum reform, as it provides a baseline to study the curriculum at a level more finely grained than a course.

Keywords: curriculum, mechanical, topic

I. INTRODUCTION

Estimates of unfilled jobs in the United States requiring technology skills range from 500,000 to one million [1]. In the U.S., the number of students earning engineering baccalaureates each year is roughly 73,000 [2]. Thus, unless we increase the proportion of students who choose to study engineering, we will find it impossible to meet the increasingly technical needs of business and other organizations in the public and private sectors.

Despite these workforce shortages, the engineering curricula in academic institutions have hardly changed in decades and course tides vary little from institution to institution. Engineering curricula have traditionally been structured with critical paths that tend to be quite long. For instance, one must take calculus before physics, physics before statics, statics before dynamics, etc. The net result is that the traditional engineering program requires a commitment to the field from freshman year, or an acceptance that a degree will take more than four years to earn. This discourages students with limited exposure to engineering prior to college from ever joining the technically trained workforce.

Further, the current auricular structure tends to divorce academic fundamentals from applications, which are presented only in the advanced courses during junior and senior year. Most freshmen and sophomores have not been exposed to engineering as it is practiced [3].

These factors prompt a high attrition rate from engineering, currently 38 percent of majority students and 64 percent of minority students [4, 5]. The result is a culture of exclusion, in which pride is invested in how arduous a program is, rather than a culture of inclusion that would strive to maximize the success of all students expressing an interest in engineering as a career.

In this context, our goal is to take a fresh look at the engineering course requirements with an aim of making the field more attractive without sacrificing technical rigor. We believe that this is possible through greater integration of engineering, science, and mathematics; integration of nontechnical and technical subject matter; shorter critical paths; greater focus on the impact of engineering on the human experience; and more and better team experiences [6-8].

We have chosen to focus our immediate attention on mechanical engineering. Mechanical is the largest of the engineering disciplines. It ranks first in undergraduate enrollment and first in the number of baccalaureates awarded, accounting for 19.4 percent of all engineering baccalaureates in 2004 [2]. Mechanical engineers comprise 16.3 percent of the total engineering workforce [9].

There is a team of eight academic institutions working on this project. The members are California State University at Los Angeles, Howard University, Johns Hopkins University, Michigan State University, Smith College1, Stevens Institute of Technology, Tuskegee University, and the University of Washington.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited article

A Topical Analysis of Mechanical Engineering Curricula
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?