Introductory graduate level courses and upper division technical electives often present a student with his or her first research project. Time limitations of a course require a balance between open ended discovery, development of specialized technical knowledge, and teaching the mechanics of research methodology. The case study presented in this paper is an outline of two different strategies to introduce research to undergraduate students within the framework of a rotor dynamics laboratory. The laboratory had historically been designed to demonstrate machinery malfunctions in a series of short exercises. The laboratory was changed to have several introductory labs designed to prepare students for an extended self-directed research project that included literature searches, paper reviews, design of experiments, and presentation of research findings to the class. In one strategy the students were expected to practice discovery primarily through experimentation with specific, restricted goals. In the other strategy the students were given more flexibility defining the research question and in establishing priorities. Both projects had students design an experiment whose results were compared to mathematical simulations and each led to research that was presented at a conference. Although both were considered successful in terms of student learning and research outcomes, a balance biased toward experimentation and restricted student options for discovery actually led to broader research findings and more in-depth student research but with less student appreciation for and practice with the necessary preliminary stages of conducting research. The student learning experiences and methodologies for each scenario are presented and compared in this paper.

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