Authentic engineering assignments for an undergraduate vibration laboratory class

Document Type

Conference Proceeding

Publication Date



Department of Mechanical Engineering-Engineering Mechanics; Centers and Institutes


Authentic problem-solving experiences were used for a three-lab sequence on vibrations, offered as part of a required course for all mechanical engineering students at Michigan Tech, in order to guide undergraduates in building problem solving abilities. The sequence covers free-vibration, forced vibrations and tuned absorbers. In previous delivery of this course, a generic single degree of freedom test structure with no physical connection to a real-world application was used for all three activities. These initial lab activities guided the students through a process of gathering and interpreting measurements with little application of these engineering skills for solving realistic engineering problems. The authors added context to assignments by simulating an engineering problem to be solved and requiring that the students frame their report as a recommendation to an engineering decision-maker (i.e. Chief Engineer). Students are held accountable for making specific recommendations and supporting their recommendations with simulation and test results. Most students claim that they enjoy this experience more than traditional lab activities and that the use of context motivates them to understand the material.

Publication Title

Conference Proceedings of the Society for Experimental Mechanics Series