During our last semester at Olin College, my friends Carlos Godinez, Katie Gosbee, Nathan Weil, and I created and taught a course called ENGR3399 Special Topics in Engineering: Mechanical Analysis. Our faculty advisors were Daniela Faas and Rob Martello. The teaching team was made up of senior mechanical engineering students who had a combined total of 3 project team experiences, 10 technical internships, and 3 capstone projects. We wanted to use our experiences to enhance the existing mechanical engineering curriculum and teach practical analysis methods that were not currently covered. Additionally, we introduced topics like ethics through the lens of accessibility and safety as we felt these conversations could be better integrated into the classroom. One of the primary outcomes of the class was to assist students in creating a personal reference resource for analyzing engineering problems they may encounter during their studies at Olin and in the early stages of their careers. Our goal was to encourage students to think about how they could synthesize their college studies to set themselves up for success in the future.
The main focus of the course was on transfer, meaning transferring knowledge from students to practitioners and from the classroom to the workplace. A quote that encapsulates the philosophy of the course is "Transfer is remarkably hard to achieve [in education], a particularly unsettling fact given it is also such a high-stakes issue; after all, an education that doesn’t transfer isn’t worth much" (Miller 2014).
Over the course of 27 classes, we covered a variety of topics, such as stress transformations, Mohr's circle, gear design, and beam bending. We also introduced new material, including static failure theories, FEA theory and pitfalls, fatigue analysis, and bolted joint analysis. At the end of the course, we had a class size of 8 students. However, 29 students had expressed interest in taking the course but were unable to do so for various reasons. For context, Olin's student population is around 382 students in total.
As student instructors, we also used our experience to contribute to discussions about teaching methods and curriculum in Olin's mechanical engineering program. During our final event, we shared our insights and takeaways from the course with Olin faculty members. Based on student feedback and our own motivations for the course, we made the course content publicly available for other students to benefit from.