Engaging prospective students with mechanical engineering

Scott Wordley, Jiachun Huang, Ashlee Pearson

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference PaperOther


With more Australian engineering degrees adopting a common first year model, there is significant opportunity for specialisations to promote themselves to students in order to increase their enrolments. Against a backdrop of increased competition to attract students and adverse media attention on mechanical engineering with the collapse of the automotive manufacturing sector in Australia, the Mechanical and Aerospace Department from a Melbourne based university considered it imperative that a more concerted effort be made to promote mechanical engineering in the extra-curricular space. While the pedagogy of engagement within the context of the classroom is widely documented, few works focus on how these techniques translate to engaging students beyond their normal studies. Thus, recommendations from the literature on learning and engagement can be made to inform a generic activity design. However, the adaptation of these for enhancing student
understanding of a specialisation of engineering in an engagement purpose is relatively uncharted territory.
This research describes the design of a modular and multifaceted engagement activity, informed by literature on engagement pedagogy. Furthermore, the research details how this was applied to change preconceived notions of what mechanical engineering is, for a cohort of first year students prior to their engineering branch selection.
Recommendations from the literature on learning and engagement were researched and collated to form a generic set of engagement activity design requirements. These were used to develop a mechanical engineering engagement activity (MEEA). The activity task, inspired by Theo Jansen’s walking machine “The Strandbeest”, was designed to highlight various aspects of mechanical engineering, and draw links to existing unit learning outcomes in the
degree. The MEEA was subsequently implemented and a mixed method approach to surveying participants was utilized.
An increase in the self-reported understanding and appreciation of the scope of the mechanical engineering discipline was seen for students who participated in the MEEA. Results indicate that there was an increased female interest and representation in the MEEA.
The implementation of the MEEA resulted in a greater understanding of the breadth and variety of careers available to mechanical engineering graduates. It can be suggested from this that scholarship of learning and teaching can be successfully applied in the engagement space.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publication28th Annual Conference of the Australasian Association for Engineering Education (AAEE 2017)
PublisherAustralasian Association for Engineering Education (AAEE)
Number of pages7
Publication statusPublished - 2017
EventAAEE - Annual Conference of Australasian Association for Engineering Education 2017 - Manly Novotel, Sydney, Australia
Duration: 10 Dec 201713 Dec 2017
Conference number: 28th


ConferenceAAEE - Annual Conference of Australasian Association for Engineering Education 2017
Abbreviated titleAAEE 2017
Internet address

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