Teaching Engineering Fundamentals Using Fundamental Dimensions: An Innovative Approach

  • Saeed Moaveni
Keywords: fundamental concepts, freshman engineering, engineering design variables


In this paper, we will focus on an innovative way to teach some of the engineering fundamentals at the freshman level in an introductory engineering class. Unfortunately, today many students graduate without a good grasp of these fundamental concepts--cencepts that every engineer, regardless of his or her area of specialization, should know. In this paper, we discuss how to introduce students right away to some of the fundamentals that they will see over and over in some form or other during their college years. We emphasize that from our observation of our surroundings, we have elarned that we need only a few physical quantities (fundamental dimensions) to describe events and our surroundings. With the help of these fundamental dimensions we can define or derive other necessary physical quantities. In this paper, we explain that there are many engineering design variables that are related to these fundamental dimensions (quantities). We also emphasize that we need not only physical dimensions to describe our surroundings, but also some way to scale or divide these physical dimensions. For example, time is considered a physical dimension, but it can be divided into both small and large protions, such as seconds, minutes, hours, and so on. To become a successful engineer, a student must first fully understand these fundamentals. Then it is important for the student to know how these variables are measured, approximated, calculated, or used in engineering design and practice.