Rainy Day - Global J of Engng Educ Vol.8 No.2 Published in...

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189 © 2004 UICEE Global J. of Engng. Educ., Vol.8, No.2 Published in Australia INTRODUCTION Engineers by definition are problem solvers. Whether they are involved in analytical, experimental, compu- tational or design work, engineers solve problems. In- deed, ABET EC 2000 recently placed new emphasis on these skills in engineering education with outcome 3e, which affirms that engineering graduates must have an ability to identify, formulate and solve engineering problems [1] . Yet real world problems tend to be quite different from most exercises found in engineering texts. While these exercises make an important first step in help- ing students bridge the gap between theory and appli- cation, they do not provide the complexity and depth necessary to master problem-solving skills. Many stud- ies have found that engineering graduates, even though they solve more than 2,500 exercises in their under- Open-Ended Problem-Solving Skills in Thermal Fluids Engineering * Nikos J. Mourtos Nicole DeJong Okamoto Jinny Rhee Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, San José State University San José, CA 95192-0087, United States of America Problem-solving skills have always been important in many professions. However, ABET EC 2000 recently placed a new focus on these skills in engineering education with outcome 3e, which states that engineering graduates must have an ability to identify, formulate and solve engineering problems. Problem-solving is defined as a process used to obtain a best answer to an unknown or a decision that is subject to some constraints. Problem-solving is not the same as textbook exercise solving, which is very common in engineering curricula. In the article, the authors first define engineering problem-solving and, in particular, what it means to identify and formulate a problem. This definition will set the stage for identifying the skills that students need to acquire and the attributes they must possess in order to be classified as competent problem solvers. Next, the authors introduce sample problems that help students to master these skills. Finally, the data gathered regarding student performance in these types of problems is presented and analysed. graduate work, lack the essential problem-solving skills needed to tackle real world problems [2]. In this article, the authors differentiate between problem-solving and exercise solving, the latter being very common in engineering curricula. Table 1 shows the main differences between the two. Items 2 and 7 suggest that in real world prob- lems engineers must first define the problem itself. They must decide what exactly they need to calculate to answer the question. This may involve translating a need expressed in layman’s jargon into engineering terms. Moreover, items 1 and 4 suggest that, in real world problems, engineers have to formulate the prob- lem. They must decide what is the appropriate theory applicable to a given situation and what approach they will follow to calculate the unknown quantities. This
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This note was uploaded on 09/08/2010 for the course ME 111 at San Jose State.

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Rainy Day - Global J of Engng Educ Vol.8 No.2 Published in...

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