Students of engineering can significantly improve their comprehension of the theoretical and mathematical topics of design education if they are coupled with hands-on design and build projects. In this paper, several projects are discussed that are used to promote experiential learning in the Design of Mechanical Systems course. Projects implemented include natural frequency analysis of a cantilever beam and a buckling analysis. Each of the projects utilize a paradigm in which computational methods are used to reinforce analytical findings presented in class, followed by a design challenge for which students are required to design, build and then experimentally validate the performance of the design. The design challenge is structured such that analytical results give insight as to what features of the design could be changed to get the intended result, but, require the use of computational tools like ANSYS to obtain solutions due to the complex geometries involved. Once the design is complete, students fabricate it in the machine shop and then experimentally measure how closely the performance of their design came to the intended goals of the design challenge. Preliminary results indicate that students prefer these types of lab projects and that the retention of concepts covered with experiential project based labs is actually better than the retention of concepts observed in conventional labs.

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