Real-World Projects Reinforce Fundamentals in the Classroom

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Journal of Hydraulic Engineering





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In academia, achieving a balance between teaching fundamental principles and the application of those principles continues to be a challenge. One of the purposes of education is to teach fundamental principles and the thought process. Graduating engineers, however, also need experience and competence in real-world engineering problems. All engineering courses should be based on fundamental principles, but some courses should also demonstrate how to apply engineering concepts to practical engineering problems. This paper is directed primarily at courses that are more applied in nature. One of the factors complicating the implementation of applied courses is the lack of practical engineering by some faculty. If the faculty member goes from graduate student to assistant professor without experience in the profession, it may be difficult for the faculty member to generate meaningful classroom examples. Quality, real-world design problems can often be gleaned from research projects, consulting projects, or supplied by engineering firms. Another challenge is finding appropriate textbooks that address practical problems encountered in real-world engineering. Engineering students should be exposed to projects that require a meaningful analysis, allowing the students to exhibit creativity in their design and analysis without getting bogged down with too many details. The problems should be closely coordinated with the course material so the student has the proper background information. This paper discusses one such project used by the authors in teaching hydraulic design at a senior/graduate student level and some general suggestions for developing design projects.

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