This semester, the Mechanical Engineering Department’s class ME 1302 – Introduction to Mechanical Engineering has a new spin. An important part of the class has been to challenge the students in testing their technical knowledge, project management skills and team work in engineering projects from starting to finish. In past semesters, students had the opportunity to test their skills at building bridges from materials such as paper and pasta, and tested how much weight their structures could bear. This spring semester, Dr. Rao Govindaraju, a faculty member with the Mechanical Engineering Department, has taken over the class and introduced a new project which combines the basic fundamentals of engineering, mathematics, logic, and design in a different way.
“We wanted our students to think like engineers in this introductory class,” said Govindaraju. “We wanted a project that combined design, group work and basic engineering concepts so we decided to have the students build a Rube-Goldberg Machine.”
A Rube-Goldberg Machine is a machine that is over engineered to do a very simple process and was named after American cartoonist and inventor Rube Goldberg. (Click here to see an example of a Rube-Goldberg Machine.) Govindaraju asked his students to stretch the limits of the project and develop a machine that really showed how creative a mechanical engineer can be. In addition to designing a machine, the students had to keep to a strict schedule, take videos of their project in action, work closely with a team, and write detailed reports throughout the process.
“This class was a big bonding process,” said John Effiom, a freshman mechanical engineering student. “And it was a really good introductory course for mechanical. I think this new project of building a Rube-Goldberg Machine was a great way to introduce us to mechanical engineering. It is really nice to be able to show what our minds created at the Undergraduate Research and Creative Inquiry Showcase.”
The inaugural UTSA Undergraduate Research and Creative Inquiry Showcase, hosted by The University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA) Office of Undergraduate Research (OUR), will feature hundreds of undergraduate student research and creative endeavors from across the university. Seven teams from from Govindaraju’s ME 1302 class were chosen to present their machines at the event.
“This showcase is the first time in UTSA history that we’ve brought together all undergraduate research from all disciplines into one big event,” said Donovan Fogt, director of the UTSA Office of Undergraduate Research. “The depth and breadth of the work UTSA students are doing is really quite remarkable. In fact, it has become evident that this showcase will be a visual representation of what a top-tier university looks like.”
Govindaraju’s ME 1302’s Rube-Goldberg Machines and all the other presenters’ displays will be shown 10 a.m.-3 p.m., Thursday, April 24 in the University Center on the UTSA Main Campus.