Applied Fluid Power is a major course in the Mechanical Engineering Technology (MET) programs. This 3-credit hour is taught in a lecture-lab style with equal time distribution. However, all lab experiments have pre-established procedures and do not invoke many aspects that are currently required by employers when recruiting fresh graduates such as critical thinking, complex problem solving, team work skills, applying knowledge in real-world settings, and problem solving in diverse settings.
This paper investigated the effectiveness of two active learning exercises added to applied fluid power class (course code removed) along with other traditional teaching exercises and compared the students’ grades to other classes that followed traditional learning environment. The two applied activities were designed to meet the course learning outcomes for fluid power class. The first activity challenged the students to build a small prototype of a hydraulic arm using syringes, polypropylene tubes, wooden sticks and other auxiliary items. The project was conducted in teams and students had one week to complete the exercise. The second activity asked the students to use a friction loss apparatus and were asked to evaluate the friction loss coefficient in multiple pipes, elbows and valves using different techniques and equations.
Students’ final designs and sample answers are presented and compared against the intended activities’ objectives. The grades obtained during the active-taught course were compared to six other grade sets where traditional lecturing was followed. The comparison showed that the average of the grades for the active-taught class was the median of the other averages. Students involved in this study experienced many outcomes in addition to gaining the knowledge such as product design and production stages, analytical reasoning, manufacturing, critical decision making and logical thinking. Students’ interest and retention were checked by comparing students grades against other courses and by surveying students’ feedback at the end of both activities introduced.
In addition to showing the effectiveness of active learning techniques in retaining students’ interests and increasing their engagement level in class, this paper provides interesting exercises for applied fluids and hydraulic classes by introducing the two activities that can help in creating a space or opportunity for engaged students to experience real world challenging problems.
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