This paper presents the author’s approach to use open-ended research and design projects as supplement to traditional teaching in undergraduate thermofluid mechanical engineering courses. It is widely accepted that teaching and research in higher education, especially in engineering programs, should support and supplement each other. This is more important and challenging for undergraduate programs where traditionally more emphasis is placed on teaching. Furthermore, the knowledge student gained during the course of their education is to prepare them for solving real world problems and research can be the best tool to train them for this purpose. Based on the belief that research should heavily involve undergraduate students, the integration of research to teaching has been one of the primary objectives of the author since fall 2011 when he joined a primarily undergraduate institution until 2017. This has been very challenging due to the teaching oriented traditions of the school, the lack of graduate students to support undergraduate research, the heavy teaching loads of faculties, and the lack of the research infrastructure. To achieve this objective and overcome barriers, a new element namely the research project, was added to most thermofluid courses that the author taught. Most students have shown great interest in these research projects and typically performed very well above and beyond expectations. Between 2012 and 2017, the students have published/presented 44 refereed conference papers and 36 posters involving about 190 students as coauthors at various conferences. Also, about 110 students attended and presented papers or posters they prepared in 13 conferences in the USA and Canada. This manuscript will explain the procedures and approaches used, and some of the outcomes.
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