Given the prevailing trend of ever decreasing number of required credits, this course solves one of the thorny issues which engineering departments encounter while developing curricula: to teach or not to teach ‘tools’. Those ‘tools of the trade’ include some truly ‘enabling technologies’ comprised of such ‘soft tools’ as CAD/CAM, MATLAB, project planning, controls and of ‘hard tools’ such as reverse engineering, assembly, machine shop fabrication processes, and printed circuit board technology. This course, ME Tools, was introduced in order to offer a viable platform which helps introduce the freshman mechanical engineering student to some of these ‘tools’ in a problem-based context. This goal is met via course organization and prevailing practices conducive to ‘active learning’ via activities and structure typically associated with collaborative and cooperative learning methods. ME Tools climaxes in a 5-event contest during which custom electric microcars are put to action in what is known around the American University of Beirut (AUB) campus as the ‘Gee Whiz contest’. Furthermore, and since the course activities revolve around one central theme, designing and racing an electric microcar, the true integral nature of this course is authenticated and revealed via this problem-based learning approach. This is accomplished as a team effort where teamwork experience and communication skills are highly stressed and practiced. The teams are organized so that the student team members are assigned to one of four functions: manager, systems engineer, analyst, and detail designer. The manner by which the students are assigned to one of these functions is done based on the students’ responses to a short (20 questions) questionnaire designed for this purpose. Assessment wise, grading of certain course grade components is mapped to the specific learning outcomes based on the cooperative, collaborative, and problem-based learning methods.

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