Work in Progress: Incorporating Microprocessors across the Mechanical Engineering Curriculum

Document Type

Conference Proceeding

Publication Date



Engineering has been and continues to be a highly cross-disciplinary field. The growth of mechatronics and robotics has served to increase the demand for students with skillsets from multiple traditional fields (joining electrical, computer, and mechanical engineering and computer science). While some schools are adding programs in mechatronics and robotics, this is not always feasible. An alternative is to increase exposure to programming and electrical content in traditionally mechanical engineering courses, such as through the incorporation of microprocessors across the curriculum. This work investigates the incorporation of microprocessors (specifically Arduinos) into the Mechanical Engineering curriculum. The goals of this effort are to increase students’ familiarity level with microprocessor capabilities, to increase exposure to mechatronic systems, to allow for higher fidelity prototypes in class projects, and to provide an accessible and inexpensive way for students to explore applications of what they learn in class. This work reviews efforts to systematically introduce microprocessors into the curriculum, lays the framework for assessment of these intended benefits, and presents initial findings in the form of professor observations, student feedback, and baseline survey data. Microprocessor content was added to the first three years of the Mechanical Engineering curriculum. It is first introduced to all engineering majors through the two-semester first-year engineering course sequence. Mechanical engineers then use microprocessors again during their fourth semester in a computer applications class and in their fifth semester during an experimental methods class. All of these classes are required. Preliminary results indicate that the students enjoy the content because of its hands-on nature and the connection of what is learned in the class to real-world applications. Future work, not addressed in this work-in-progress, will further evaluate the effects of including microprocessors in these classes by examining student survey data as cohorts move through the newly implemented curriculum. Evaluating the use of relevant systems in senior capstone projects both before and after implementation will provide particularly meaningful assessment.