April 23, 2012
Tulane's curriculum is unusual because the first “real-world” engineering design and analysis course is a part of the Freshman year. The introductory course, ENGP1410 Statics, has a rather dry description in the catalog about “...particles and rigid bodies. Concepts of force, moments, free body diagrams, equilibrium and friction ...” but it comes alive when Prof. Annette Oertling teaches the class every Spring semester.
This year, the 61 students from Biomedical Engineering and Engineering Physics were divided into 2-member teams. Each team was told to design and construct a tower, according to provided specifications and using allotted materials, which could support a 30 lb load and was optimized to reduce mass. The key element of the project was that materials were not issued until on-paper calculations proved that the tower could sustain the load without any buckling occurring in the compression members, i.e. “failure”. The project-based learning was incorporated into the Statics class this year to provide a hands-on design experience that simulated real-world objectives and specifications, limited resources, and timely deliverables. In the last week of the semester, the tower that met specifications and had the lowest mass was declared the winner. Two Biomedical Engineering Freshmen, Tori Orlowski (left) and Carly Noel (middle), showed their winning tower design to Prof. San Aung. Their design had a mass of only 252 g but was able to support the 30 pound load.
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