Keywords: Product Realization, Undergraduate Curriculum
Date: March, 1995

submitted by

Corrado Poli, Ian Grosse, Sundar Krishnamurty, Laurence Murch, James Rinderle, George Zinsmeister
Mechanical Engineering, University of Massachusetts Amherst

Kazem Kazerounian, John Bennett, Amir Faghri, Nejat Olgac, Ranga Pitchumani
Mechanical Engineering, University of Connecticut

David Smith, James Sherwood, William Kyros
Mechanical Engineering, University of Massachusetts Lowell

William Palm, David Taggart, Richard Lessman
Mechanical Engineering, University of Rhode Island

submitted to:

Curriculum Council
Engineering Academy of Southern New England


The curriculum support needed to sustain a new integrated mechanical engineering design curriculum based on one coherent theme of product realization is described. The curriculum support requested includes production of a video documentary of the product realization process, development of a mentoring program, an electronic design library, prototyping capabilities, animation and virtual prototyping material, and a two semester product realization course with a library of video taped modules to support the course.


Product realization is the process by which products are conceived, designed, produced, marketed and eventually disposed of. It includes determining customers' needs, relating the needs to company strategies and products, developing the product's marketing concept, developing the engineering specifications, designing both the product and the process required to produce it, running the process to produce it, and distributing, selling, repairing and disposing of the product. Traditional engineering design is a critically important part of the product realization process, but it is only a part of it. And it is the only part that has been emphasized in engineering curricula. The purpose of this proposal is to request the curriculum support needed in order to sustain a new integrated mechanical engineering design curriculum based on one coherent theme, namely, that of product realization.

Current Curriculum1

Currently the ME design curriculum at the UMass Amherst campuses consists of fourthree required but independent courses -- Introduction to Mechanical Design (ME 213) which teaches the design process, Design of Mechanical Components (ME 313) which considers the functional design of mechanical elements, and Design of Mechanisms (ME 318) which presents synthesis techniques of mechanisms, and a senior design elective2 . Significant product realization topics such as design for manufacturing (DFM), design for assembly (DFA), concurrent engineering, project management, and communication are not emphasized. DFM is taught separately in a required junior level Manufacturing Processes course (ME 375), and DFA is taught in a senior elective design course titled Automatic Assembly and Design for Assembly (ME 580). All courses are taught independently of each other and there is no coherent theme throughout the courses.

While the mechanical engineering design curricula of the other EASNE schools does not match the UMass Amherst one on a courses by courses basis, the overall objectives of the design curricula are similar and the lack of a coherent theme is similar to the Amherst campus.

New Curriculum

In the new design curriculum both traditional designn concepts as well as best design practices will be taught. The new design curriculum will consist of the new EASNE sponsored freshman course (ENGIN 190), Introduction to Engineering, the sophomore Introduction to Mechanical Design (ME 213) course which will be revised to introduce the product realization process, the junior level Design of Mechanical Components (ME 313) which will be taught concurrently with the DFM course (ME 375) and a new junior/senior level course on design of assemblies. As in the old curriculum the design curriculum will culminate in a project oriented senior design elective.

ENGIN 190 is a new freshman course for all eEngineering students in which basic DFM and DFA material is introduced as a vehicle for teaching communication. Each of the ME required courses will draw on previous or concurrent courses to provide integration and continuity. A single unifying theme, product realization, will run through the entire sequence. Group projects will be required in all courses to provide experience in best practices for product realization. On the Amherst campus, to ensure that the product realization theme is carried throughout all of the courses, one principal book will be used, namely, "Engineering Design and Design for Manufacturing - A Structured Approach," by J. R. Dixon and C. Poli..

Required Curriculum Support

Because of our new expectations in student design projects, five critical needs have become apparent: (1) to provide students with a realistic understanding of the entire product realization process; (2) to insure that student design groups use best practices in project work; (3) to give students quick access to professional level design information for project work; (4) to provide prototyping capabilities for student designs; (5) to provide both students and faculty with an integrated manufacturing education and practice. To meet these needs, we propose the following corresponding activities:
  1. The production of a video documentary of the entire product realization process. It is expected that students will view portions of this video in each course to see how the course topic fits into the product realization process. We propose to do a preliminary one-year study on the production and financing of this video. This will involve identification of a company willing to allow taping of its product realization activities and resolution of production issues. UMass Amherst and Lowell will work together on this portion of the project.

  2. The development of a mentoring program for managing group projects. Our goal is to assign a capable project manager to work with each student group. To do this, on the Amherst campus we propose a new senior/graduate elective, Design Project Management, which will cover topics such as best design practices, personnel management issues, planning techniques, etc. On the Lowell campus, an alternate mentoring program will be initiated in which sophomore, junior and senior labs will be held in common sessions in order to provide a project management/peer mentoring environment. On both campuses guest lecturers from industry will present case studies. Central to the above goal, however, is the requirement that each student practices design management by actually managing a design project in one of the sophomore or junior design courses. This activity requires curriculum development, scheduling of guest lecturers, and coordination with the design courses. A pilot offering of both mentoring approaches for this course is planned for the Fall '95 semester on the Amherst and Lowell campuses.

  3. The development of an electronic design library. If students are to work productively, they need quick access to professional level design information. Our objective is to build a design infrastructure using CD-ROM technology and the Internet (Mosaic, World Wide Web) network services that will facilitate identification, acquisition, and dissemination of relevant materials such as catalogs, codes, and design guides. This activity requires the identification and acquisition of appropriate materials such as catalogs, codes, and design guides. Space to house the library must be located, and furniture and equipment acquired. Procedures must be put in place to staff, manage, and maintain the library. While this library will be made available to all EASNE campuses, UMass Amherst and Lowell will take primary responsibility for developing it.

  4. The development of prototyping capabilities. Prototyping is an essential product realization activity which has profound implications on product cost, reliability and time-to-market. It is also an activity strongly influenced by recent technological advances in stereolithography, rapid casting technologies and CNC capabilities. We feel students should be exposed to prototyping methods and should employ these methods to produce prototypes of their designs. Toward that end we will develop basic prototyping facilities on one campus for use by all campuses. In addition, a small student shop is requested for campuses, such as Amherst, where no such facility exists. We will also develop mechanisms to transmit design data electronically to facilitate remote prototyping at facilities operated by other EASNE universities and industrial partners. Technical issues, e.g. product data transfer, and operational issues, e.g. scheduling and accounting, will be addressed as we develop shared facilities. Organizational, safety, space and equipment issues will be addressed as we establish in-house student prototyping facilities. Amherst and Lowell will work together to develop these capabilities. , and therefore we will expect students to produce prototypes of their designs. We propose the creation of a student prototyping shop equipped with hand tools and small machine tools. We also propose the development of procedures for sharing specialized prototyping capabilities (e.g. metal casting, rapid prototyping, and CNC machining) between universities and industry. For the student shop, we need to locate space, purchase equipment, and develop organizational and shop procedures. To develop shared facilities we must study both technical issues (e.g. how to transmit designs electronically) and organizational issues (e.g. priorities, charges, and accounting methods).

  5. The development of animation and virtual prototyping material. URI's role in this collaborative effort will be to develop animation and other virtual prototyping materials and to demonstrate their use in a computer classroom with a network specially designed to enable students and instructors to interact electronically with everyone in the class. The widely available and inexpensive animation software to be used can be applied throughout the entire produce life cycle including, for example, brainstorming, setting design specifications, product testing via simulation, designing production machining, etc.

  6. The development of a product realization course. Primary responsibility for the development of a two semester product realization course intended for teaching students real-world engineering practice will rest with UConn. The overall objective of the new course is to provide a structured framework for an overall product realization experience, integrating the elements of conceptual design, geometric modeling, engineering analysis, prototype fabrication, production planning and management. The emphasis of the course will be on concurrent engineering including the integration of design, manufacturing, management and environmental considerations. Development of a prototype facility and a library of video taped modules to support this course is included in the budget request.

  7. The development of an integrated design and manufacturing clinic. This clinic would consist of four laboratories. An Inventive Design Laboratory which will focus on the integration of the theory and practice of design; a Rapid Response Manufacturing Laboratory which will focus on improving process design; a Manufacturing Management Laboratory which will focus on the management needs of problems brought to the clinic; Prototype Fabrication Shop to provide valuable hands-on manufacturing experience. This clinic, which will reside on the UConn campus of EASNE, will consist of teams of faculty, professional staff, and graduate students from all of the EASNE campuses, and engineers from industry, all working together on industrial projects brought to the clinic.

The objective of the clinic would be to expose students and faculty to the application of information learned/taught in more conventioanl courses; to raise the aareness of faculty to the need for change; to assist in curriculum development and enhancement; to train and/or retrain practicing engineers; to develop software training tools, short courses, etc.; and to enhance the presence of industry on campus.

If we are successful in the above activities, we believe our design curriculum will be a model for others to follow and will significantly influence mechanical engineering education in the future.

Work and Time Plan

The first year of this grant will be used to do a preliminary study on the production and financing of a video documentary of the entire product realization process. Faculty (C. Poli and W. Kyros) from UMass Amherst and Lowell will take primary responsibility for this.

During the first year a pilot section of the new mentoring course will also be offered at Amherst. This courses will be repeated during the Spring 1996 semester. By the Fall 1996 semester the courses should be fully operational and ready for export to the other EASNE campuses. The Lowell approach to mentoring will also be offered during the first year and it too should be fully operational and ready for export by the end of the funding period.

It is expected that the development of the design library and the prototyping facility will be on going processes. While most campuses have student shops, funds are requested for the establishment of a modest facility at Amherst. Faculty from three campuses will work together to develop a remote prototyping capability. David Smith (Lowell) and Sundar Krishnamurty (Amherst) will be responsible for development of the electronic library. An initial version of this library should be ready for use by Fall 1996.

During the first year, URI will develop classroom materials based on animation and other virtual prototyping software in ten existing courses from the freshman through senior year. Use of these tools throughout the product life cycle will be emphasized. All materials and files developed will be made available to all campuses. During the following year URI intends to demonstrate the application of these software tools to product realization, utilizing the Academy's physical prototyping facilities to build working mechanisms based on student designs.

A pilot section of the new two semester product realization course, centered around industrial sponsorship experience, will be offered during the first year at the UConn campus. At the end of the first year, the pilot course will provide a formal structure for the course that can be readily implemented throughout the Academy. All materials and documentation developed, including video-taped modules, will be made available to all campuses. Any prototype facility established at UConn will be made available to the entire Academy.

Retention Impact

Because the vast majority of student defections occur during the freshman year, both the new curriculum and most of the support services developed to support the new curriculum are not expected to have a significant impact on retention. It is anticipated, however, that because students have difficulty interpreting textbook illustrations and visualizing how various machines are supposed to work, that use of the animation software during the early courses, should help with both visualization and retention. In addition, it is expected that the new curriculum and the curriculum support services will have a significant impact on providing students with a more meaningful education.


The four campuses which are contributing to this proposal have well established procedures for evaluating its courses. The procedures rely on two types of measures: confidential student ratings and measures of retention. On the Amherst campus, for example, the student rating form is a nineteen item survey which was developed by a faculty-student working group and is administered by students so as to avoid the possibility of improper influence. The questionnaire has been stable for the past ten years so the College has a history for comparison purposes. Each campus also keeps statistics detailing the numbers of students who left engineering along with their stated reasons for changing majors. This data base will permit "outcome" comparisons to be made.

While the above procedure helps in evaluating each individual course and the effectiveness of the support services developed for use in these courses, they do not evaluate the effectiveness of the entire curriculum reform. Only industry will be able to tell us if our breed of mechanical engineering graduates are better prepared and better educated than earlier graduates. Industry will be the final judge and evaluator of our product.

1 The design curriculum described here is the one for the UMass Amherst campus. While the mechanical engineering design curricula of the other EASNE schools do not match those of the Amherst campus on a course by course basis, the overall objectives are essentially the same and the lack of a coherent theme is similar to that of the Amherst campus. The Amherst design curriculum is used here solely for illustrative purposes. Similar changes would occur on the other campuses which are part of this proposal.

2 The senior design elective is chosen from among Design of Mechanical Systems (ME415), Design against Failure (ME414), Thermal Environmental Engineering (ME551), and Automatic Assembly and Design for Assembly (ME580)


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