Rethinking and Redesigning the Engineering Classroom

Published: May 01, 2020 | Author: Savannah Byers | Read Time: 3 minutes

Dr. Jacob Bishop, EngineeringSouthern Utah University is proud of its dedication to hands-on learning. That’s why it’s no surprise that Dr. Jacob Bishop, assistant professor of engineering, has made several innovative changes and contributions to the courses and labs in the Engineering Program with the purpose of including more opportunities for hands-on learning.

“When I saw 18 students standing around while one or two controlled a piece of equipment, I knew there was a problem,” said Dr. Bishop. “Most testing equipment is designed for research or industrial materials certification, not for education. We needed equipment that was built with education as the central goal. This meant lowering the cost so that we could afford to have more machines in the hands of students. It also meant making equipment that was manually controlled so students could develop a feel for what they were doing.”

Dr. Bishop budgeted, designed, and manufactured five new work stations and five universal testing machines for the course, Strength of Materials (ENGR 2140), and lab, Strength of Materials Lab (ENGR 2145). Universal testing machines are used to test the strength of materials by breaking them. Normally one of these machines costs upward of $40,000-$50,000, but Dr. Bishop managed to manufacture five for $1,000 apiece. These machines, designed for education, provide more opportunities for students to have hands-on learning experiences in their labs.

“I'm extremely happy with what the new material testing machines have done for us,” said Dr. Bishop. “The classroom is more interactive than ever, and students aren't afraid to get their hands dirty. The equipment is simple enough to use that students often use it for projects in other classes such as instrumentation or capstone design. The rocket club and concrete canoe team have both used it to test components for their projects.”

In addition to creating new lab equipment and work stations, Dr. Bishop has also redesigned the course and lab to be more writing intensive. Most students have never written an engineering report before. The goal of the course redesign is to prepare the students to write and format lab reports correctly and professionally.

The Engineering Program has worked with the SUU Writing Center to staff a writing fellow from the engineering program. The Engineering Writing Fellow is available to help engineering students specifically with their lab reports. The current Engineering Writing Fellow is Sabrina Kim, a junior in SUU’s Mechanical Engineering Program.

“While a lot of engineering courses focus on developing technical skills, Dr. Bishop's ENGR 2145 course really allows students to improve on their scientific writing skills,” said Kim. “Because of this course, I have gained a more positive relationship with writing in the sciences. Working as a Writing Fellow not only helps me to share that positive relationship with the students in the class, but also helps them to apply both the technical and writing skills to their work. To me, being able to incorporate both is extremely beneficial as an engineering student.”

Before Dr. Bishop began teaching at SUU, he published A Controlled Study of the Flipped Classroom with Numerical Methods for Engineers, which has currently received over 2,000 citations. He also created a YouTube channel in 2012 where he posts engineering videos to supplement classroom instruction. Dr. Bishop began teaching at SUU in 2018.

The Department of Engineering and Technology is made up of undergraduate academic programs in three areas: engineering, technology, and construction management. The program mission is to: foster a student-centered learning environment, nurture a student-oriented culture of curiosity, creativity, and discovery, maintain a commitment to continuous improvement, encourage community engagement, establish and maintain high-quality accredited programs, and prepare graduates to be successful in professional careers.

Tags: College of Engineering and Computational Sciences Engineering

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