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Research and Design Day Celebrates Hands-On Learning Philosophy

A hallmark of Ohio State’s Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering’s (MAE) undergraduate program is its multi-faceted capstone design projects, prime examples of experiential or applied learning in the classroom.

Last year, MAE launched Design Day, an opportunity for students and faculty to see design examples across the curriculum.  Dozens of student design teams lined the halls of MAE’s Scott Lab, eager to share examples of their work ranging from Arduino-controlled air motors to spring-loaded basketball-shooting cannons to receptacles for feminine care products.

As sophomores, students gain understanding of the major interest areas and typical problems encountered in the mechanical engineering discipline through a combination of classroom and hands-on laboratory experiences centered on the manufacturing and control of a compressed air motor, as well as an open-ended mechatronic design project.  Juniors learn the fundamental principles of selected machine elements such as linkages, fasteners, springs and gears in the classroom and culminate the two semester series with a paper-based design project, which last year involved designing educational exhibits for Columbus’ Center of Science and Industry (COSI).

Students showcase their design projects at last year's inaugural Design Day.“Students work really hard on their projects,” said Rob Siston, associate professor, who originally came up with the idea.  “It’s a chance for them to show what they can do.”  Students appreciated Design Day as well. “It was a great opportunity for us to showcase our machine elements projects and preview what we will experience in capstone,” said Mitch Eichler, a senior in mechanical engineering.

This year’s event is scheduled on Friday, April 22 from 1-4 pm in Scott Lab with expanded activities to recognize student achievement, including undergraduate research activities.  In addition to the undergraduate student teams from last year who will present in 2016, combined teams of both undergraduate and graduate students will present design projects from two popular classes taken by seniors as technical electives or by master’s students; user-centered product design engineering and computer-aided design and manufacturing.

 “Design Day is a celebration of our students’ innovation that exemplifies the philosophy of hands-on learning,” Siston said.  “We are passionate about inspiring our students to make an impact.”

This year, MAE is engaging outside audiences, including alumni, college freshman who may be undecided about engineering, Metro High School students who have an interest in engineering and companies who may be looking for summer interns or potential employees, or who may have interest in sponsoring a capstone design project.

“MAE’s undergraduate research program is the largest within Ohio State’s College of Engineering with a proud history in design,” Siston commented.  “Research and Design Day is an opportunity to publicly recognize student accomplishments in both areas.” Community partners include COSI, Compost Columbus, Land Grant Brewing Company, Mid-Ohio Foodbank, Ohio State University Dining Services and Ohio State Energy Services & Sustainability.  For more information contact Annie Abell at