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WEC Unit: Mechanical Engineering

Mechanical Engineering, enrolling roughly 500 undergraduates in its major and offering courses taught by roughly 43 faculty members, is among the largest of the twelve departments belonging to the College of Science and Engineering. The department enrolled in the WEC program in 2006, during the program's pilot phase. In discussing results from their faculty, student, and affiliate WEC surveys, ME faculty members realized that the most ubiquitous form of writing assigned in the undergraduate curriculum may be the problem set, and that successful problem sets, like successful writing in the field, are characterized by transparent communication of sequential logic. As an ME Teaching Assistant noted, “This will surprise most students. They think that the emphasis is on the solution, not how they found the solution.”

Activity Highlights

In implementing its first and second-edition Writing Plans, Mechanical Engineering focused on ensuring that explicit and relevant writing instruction was integrating into its mid-level courses so that as they matriculated into their final year, students were better able to deliver the kinds of design reports and technical communication expected of them in capstone-level projects. As a resource to all ME courses, graduate student Ben Adams collaborated with faculty members to develop, publish, and pilot three discipline-specific writing style guides: problem sets, lab reports, and design reports.

In its third-edition Writing Plan, Mechanical Engineering faculty describe reviewing and rewriting assessment rubrics for lab reports, executive summaries, and presentations. These new rubrics both simplify the process of consistent assessment and reinforce the values articulated in the faculty’s earlier edition and subsequent writing plans. Mech E. is also engaged in newly developed TA training and workshops to help teaching assistants provide meaningful and relevant feedback to student writing in multi-section courses.

Additional activities include the publication of Will Durfee, Pamela Flash, Ben Adams, and Audrey Applesies' "A Writing Program for Mechanical Engineering" in Conference Proceedings, 118th ASEE Annual Conference and Exposition, 2011.

Writing Plan

Center for Writing  10 Nicholson Hall&nb=sp;   216 Pillsbury Dr. SE    Minneapolis, MN 55455    Phone: 612-625-0791   Fax: 612-626-7580