Students in the mechanical engineering curriculum are rarely given opportunities for direct experience in the topics in many areas. This is especially true for the education component of the manufacturing and design curriculums. Some reading and stylized laboratory and group projects often substitute for real experience. In this paper an innovative experiential learning curriculum called Virtual Learning Factory (V-Learn-Fact) is described for teaching manufacturing and design courses. In the V-Learn-Fact curriculum, the entire class takes part in a single large project, which covers product realization from concept to final production stage. V-Learn-Fact was implemented in MAE464/564 – Manufacturing Automation course (senior elective and graduate level course) between 2006–2012. A student survey was carried out to gauge effectiveness of this curriculum. 89% of the students fully or partially agreed that the V-Learn-Fact helped them learn topics in manufacturing automation better than traditional mechanical engineering courses. Written comments also provided interesting insights.

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