E. Scott Huff
Portland Community College
Portland Community College's two-year Civil and Mechanical Engineering Technology programs accept academically disadvantaged students -- at high school algebra levels and with no science background. Math and science are integrated with technical courses.
Non-calculus aspects of statics are taught in the first quarter concurrently with an applied algebra, geometry, and trigonometry course and CAD. Non-calculus strength of materials topics are covered in the second quarter along with a thermo-dynamics related physics course, chemistry, and analytic geometry. Calculus-oriented statics and strength of materials topics are covered in an applied differential and integral calculus course, along with surveying and materials technology, in the third quarter.
The first year is an engineering technology Boot Camp in which students are in class about 35 hours per week. This Boot Camp prepares students for a rigorous second year in which students learn thermodynamics, environmental chemistry, and fluid mechanics while designing environmental protection facilities, HVAC systems, structures, roads, and machinery.
The faculty of PCC's CET and MET programs have long believed that hard work overcomes academic deficiencies. Rather than demand that students be ready for college trigonometry and have high school science courses, our programs accept students with little math or science preparation.
Students must have completed just one course in high school algebra, and no physics or chemistry background is necessary. They begin their technical studies immediately. Rather than wade through math and sciences courses without having the reward of studying engineering technology -- the reason they came to college in the first place -- they start statics on their very first day.
By the end of the first year, they have mastered statics, strength of materials, and math through integral calculus. They have studied physics, chemistry, CAD, surveying, and materials technology. Dedication and hard work in PCC's engineering technology Boot Camp prepare them for a slightly more conventional, but equally difficult, second year slate of courses.
The students' first quarter is a busy one. They are immersed in courses designed to accelerate technical learning in a team environment. Instruction includes many hours "at the board" solving statics and math problems in small groups while the instructor roams the room providing guidance. This quarter includes:
Topic Hr/Wk Credits Statics 18 8 Algebra/Trigonometry 9 4 Graphics/CAD 8 3 TOTAL 35 15
Since students do not have calculus skills, certain statics topics are delayed until later in the program. Centroids and moments of inertia, for example, are delayed until the third quarter applied calculus course. Coverage does include the remainder of a regular statics course using vector analysis. "Engineering Mechanics -- Statics" by Hibbler is used.
Statics instruction occurs while students are learning algebra and graphics. They learn about geometry, trigonometry, factoring, simultaneous equations, the quadratic formula and graphing of polynomials as they investigate the equilibrium of trusses, frames, and machines. Their graphics instruction, which includes both manual and CAD, builds their spatial geometry and 3D visualization skills so important in understanding mechanics problems. All three courses are taught by engineering technology faculty.
The philosophy of immersing students in engineering science courses while improving math and science skills continues with more mechanics, math, and science in the second quarter. It includes:
Topic Hr/Wk Credits Strength of Materials 12 4 Physics 6 4 Alg/Trig/Analytic Geom 9 4 Chemistry 6 4 General Education 3 3
TOTAL 36 19
As in the first quarter, calculus topics in strength of materials are delayed until the third quarter calculus course. The rest of a normal strength of materials course is covered, though, including shear and moment diagrams and an introduction to design of beams and columns. "Applied Strength of Materials" by Mott is used.
All this is done while their math instruction continues with trig identities, complex numbers, matrices, and exponential functions. A general chemistry course and a thermodynamics-oriented physics course are included. Except for Chemistry and General Education, the courses are again taught be CET/MET instructors.
It is the third quarter which brings the students' education in math and science to the point conventionally considered necessary for starting mechanics courses. In this quarter, students learn to differentiate and integrate and in doing so cover mechanics topics previously skipped, e.g., centroids and moments of inertia along with areas and volumes by integration and revolution.
Topic Hr/Wk Credits Calculus 18 8 Plane Surveying 6 3 Materials Technology 3 1 Computer Applications 6 4 General Education 3 3 36 19
In this quarter, students take their first applications oriented courses -- plane surveying and materials technology. Both require much data collection, include error analyses, and require team projects which include oral and written reports. Again, except for Computer Applications and General Education, each course is instructed by a CET/MET faculty member.
Having completed the first year of boot camp, students are prepared for a rigorous second year. Along the lines of the "integrated technologies" concept, CET and MET students take many common courses including two to three quarter sequences in environmental and energy issues -- the main focus of the programs -- as shown below.
Topic Hr/Wk Credits 4th Water Quality 6 3 Qtr Thermodynamics 7 4 Fluid Mechanics 6 3 Route Surveying (C) or Manufact'g/Robotics (M) 6 3 CAD 4 2 General Education 3 3 TOTAL 32 18 5th Hydrology/Haz Mat'ls 6 3 Qtr Heat Engines 6 3 Project Management 3 3 Soil Mechanics (C) or Dynamics (M) 6 3 CAD 4 3 General Education 3 3 TOTAL 28 18 6th Reinforced Concrete 6 3 Qtr HVAC 6 3 Environmental Design (C) or Machine Design (M) 6 3 Coop Education (opt'l) 8 2 General Education 6 6 TOTAL 32 17
While the mix and contact hours of each course in the second year are slightly more conventional, the Boot Camp concept has not faded. Total hours may drop a bit, but taking more courses requires as much energy as does the first year. As can be seen from the (C) and (M) notation above, just three courses differentiate the two degrees. Since tuition for three courses is a small price to pay for an extra degree, some students earn both and compete for jobs in both fields. It is not uncommon for a CET graduate to find a mechanical job and vice versa.
For over 25 years PCC's CET/MET students have proved that long classroom and study hours do make up for shortcomings in academic backgrounds. Hard work and dedication in Boot Camp prepare them for the rigors of the second year. Students who excel in the first year are also ready for PCC's two-year Pre-Engineering program. Many students use the CET/MET first year as a stepping stone to an Engineering degree. Teaching math and science concurrently with mechanics gives students an appreciation for the former. In one year, students move from basic algebra through integral calculus. With its low entry threshold and high exit standards, PCC's CET and MET programs have brought into the engineering field many people who would normally have been excluded from the business by high entry standards.