Impact of 3D-printed laboratory equipment in vibrations and controls courses on student engineering identity, motivation, and mindset


Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning

Additional Department

Mechanical Engineering

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This paper describes the implementation of innovative 3D-printed laboratory equipment linked to inquiry-based learning activities designed to improve learning, increase engineering identity and motivation, and foster a growth mindset in students taking undergraduate level mechanical vibrations courses, control theory courses, and associated laboratories. These innovative designs create new opportunities for hands-on learning, are low-cost, portable, and can be adapted for use in multiple science and engineering disciplines. The learning activities are based on the POGIL model, which has been used across a variety of disciplines including engineering. We describe the features of three separate devices (spring-connected sliding carts, compliant parallel arms with fixed-free ends and a slider mass, and a pendulum with variable tip load) implemented using a quasi-experimental approach with 510 duplicated students across three semesters during the COVID-19 pandemic in multiple lecture courses and laboratory sections. We also present an assessment of impact based on descriptive statistical analyses of survey data for student-reported learning gains and pre-post paired comparison tests on validated instruments measuring perceptions of engineering identity, engineering motivation, and growth mindset. Further, we conducted a student focus group and include salient instructor observations. Results show most students participating in the learning activities using these devices report that it supported their learning “a lot” or “a great deal.” In addition, on six of seven surveyed learning outcomes, most students reported feeling confident enough to complete them on their own or even teach them to someone else. Our data did not show a measurable impact on engineering identity, engineering motivation, or growth mindset, though it does suggest further investigation is merited.

Journal Title

International Journal of Mechanical Engineering Education

Journal ISSN


Digital Object Identifier (DOI)