Creating Low Cost Miniature Industrial Equipment and Accompanying Assessments for Innovative Instruction

Project No.
PI Name
Bernard Van Wie
Washington State University

Abstract 1

Creating Low Cost Miniature Industrial Equipment and Accompanying Assessments for Innovative Instruction

Presentation Type
Bernard J. Van Wie, Robert F. Richards, David B. Thiessen, Olusola O Adesope, Fanhe Shamus Meng, Negar Beheshtipour, Jacqueline K. Burgher, Paul B. Golter, Nathaniel Hunsu, Prashanta Dutta, Amber D. Graviet, Arshan Nazempour, Serah Njau


Our long-term goal is to transform the STEM learning environment making it more effective, exciting and experiential by using hands-on team interactive pedagogy. The challenge is to provide real experiences in an affordable fashion by making low-cost miniature industrial equipment that is affordable so every student can purchase a set or at least so professors can provide a number of sets for their students. Such systems must be amenable to rapid prototyping and easy for the students to use. To date such equipment does not exist in any abundance for transport courses in chemical, mechanical, civil and bioengineering, nor do we have effective assessment instruments.


The objectives of this particular application are to: (1) assemble a large number of light-weight, portable, fluid mechanics and heat transfer hands-on learning modules with a per-unit cost similar to ultra-low-cost electrical engineering circuit board learning modules; (2) broadly disseminate these low-cost miniature industrial equipment (LC-MIE); and (3) assess their longitudinal impact on educational effectiveness, recruitment from high schools and community colleges, and retention in chemical, mechanical and civil engineering programs.


We are currently reformatting a higher cost modular desktop system produced by our commercial partner. To do this we are using design for manufacture strategies, i.e. 3-D printing of molds for vacuum forming of simple fluid flow measurement and hydraulics cartridges, and miniature, yet realistic heat exchangers. Systems are see-through and fluids flow by hydraulic head while pressure measurements are made with molded-in manometer tubes and temperatures by hand held IR probes. Local, regional and national implementations will be assessed and evaluated using standard instruments. We are developing concept question banks for assessment along with motivation surveys.


To date seven different LC-MIE units have been designed, four of which have been used extensively in mechanical and chemical engineering courses. Assessment instruments are showing initially that learning is at least as good with the LC-MIE approach compared to lecture, but that the students are more motivated with the approach. We are also focusing on concepts that we believe can best be learned in a hands-on visual format and believe new assessments will show conceptual gains over lecture. We have begun plans for dissemination at other institutions and high schools.

Broader Impacts

In the first year dissemination took place through chemical and mechanical engineering programs at the Washington State University main campus in Pullman, and regionally in WSU satellite distance education programs at community colleges. In the second year we are adding three regional universities, Eastern Washington University, the University of Idaho, and Gonzaga University. In Year 3 we will include Texas A&M, ranking 3rd in the US in number of engineering undergraduates with plans to expand to 25,000 engineering students by 2025 three locations in other EPSCoR states, the University of Kentucky-Lexington and Paducah, and at Pullman and Gonzaga Preparatory High Schools. Assessments on the varied populations, either with women and underrepresented persons at schools with larger populations of such students, place bound or distance education students, and at private, public and EPSCoR locations will allow differential comparisons of the educational impacts of th eLC-MIE and associated pedagogies.

Unexpected Challenges

miniaturized industrial equipment made vacuforming over 3D printed molds, may not function as predicted by conventional mathematical models and modifications may be needed. There are fabrication issues in terms of time efficiency and making sure the systems do not leak.


1. Abdul, B, Thiessen, DB, Olusola O. Adesope, OO, Bernard J. Van Wie, BJ, Comparing the Effects of Two Active Learning Approaches in an Engineering Education Classroom, International Journal of engineering Education, Accepted, 2015

2. Burgher, J. K., *Finkel, D., Adesope, S., Van Wie, B. J., モImplementation of a modular hands-on learning pedagogy: Student attitudes in a fluid mechanics and heat transfer courseヤ, J STEM Ed, In Press.

3. Hunsu, N, Abdul, B, Van Wie, BJ, Adesope, O, and Brown, GR, モExploring Studentsメ Perceptions of an Innovative Active Learning Paradigm in a Fluid Mechanics and Heat Transfer Courseヤ, International Journal of Engineering Education, In Press.

4. Brown S, Easley AP-W, Montfort DB, Adam JC, Van Wie BJ, Olusola A, Adam, Poor, C, *Tobin, C, and *Flatt, A, モEffectiveness of an interactive learning environment utilizing a physical modelヤ. J. of Prof. Is. in Engr. Ed. & Pract., 140(3), 04014001-1-10,
doi: 10.1061/(ASCE)EI.1943-5541.0000197.