Mechanics, Inc. – Dr. Dan Ludwigsen’s Keen Award

Your Motion, Force, Energy, and Momentum Lab

Mechanics, Inc. is a new vision of a physics laboratory curriculum that is experienced by 400 students per year at Kettering University, where 67% of the student body majors in an engineering discipline. Funding for this project will come from a KEEN Topical Grant from the Kern Family Foundation. KEEN Topical Grants are designed to build a shared collection of entrepreneurially minded engineering education resources.

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Three years ago, the introductory physics laboratory was redesigned to incorporate topics in crash safety. The collaborative effort by Daniel Ludwigsen of the Physics Department and Janet Fornari in Mechanical Engineering was funded by an NSF CCLI grant. Nationwide, lab instruction has evolved from intricate and demanding, yet “cookie-cutter” expository labs, through discovery or inquiry based curriculum enabled by the real-time data collection and analysis of the last decade, and this CCLI grant made it possible to bring that to Kettering.

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The next step in the evolution of the Newtonian Mechanics lab blends elements of Modeling Instruction—a team-based approach emphasizing critical and creative thinking via social learning—with elements of the apprenticeship process. The aim is to supply students explicitly with the lab skills and physics knowledge often picked up as an apprentice researcher, and to flex critical thinking skills as teams apply models from the classroom to real world problems.

Mechanics, Inc. will touch each of the five elements of the entrepreneurial mindset, early in an engineer’s education. In particular, elements of the “Enterprising Attitude” that will be part of the new course include the ability to persist through and learn from failure, to demonstrate resourcefulness, and to anticipate future technical, societal, and economic change. Because this course is required of nearly every engineering undergraduate in the nation, Ludwigsen and Fornari anticipate that results of this work could be widely shared.