TNCC Professor Develops Interactive Online Program in Mechanical Engineering Technology with Nearly $3,000 VCCS Grant

Published: February 2, 2009

Michael Uenking, Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering Technology at Thomas Nelson Community College (TNCC), may have the antidote for students bored with traditional lectures. With a $2,925 Professional Development Grant from the Virginia Community College System (VCCS), Uenking is developing the Statics, Strength of Materials, and Dynamics Online Tutorial (STAMINA), an interactive online program for students in three TNCC Mechanical Engineering Technology classes: Statics, Strength of Materials, and Dynamics.

The online supplement is inundated with course content, video, audio, animation and more, and will feature components of Adobe Captivate 3, Flash and other programs.

Uenking will test the program this spring with 10 students enrolled in Mechanics I – Statics for Engineering Technology.  He will use a pretest and posttest coupled with a student survey to measure the effectiveness of the program. “All three courses are not necessarily easy courses. They are the heart and meat of the mechanical engineering technology program, so it’s really essential that they grasp the material,” Uenking said.

Uenking aims to achieve a 60 percent learning gain among the students, with a significant number of students finishing the course with a final grade of 78 percent or better.

Urging from a VCCS grant representative at the New Teacher Academy last fall got Uenking motivated about creating the program. “The generations that are coming out are gamers,” Uenking said. “Their learning styles have changed.”

That means instructors may have to compliment traditional lectures with technology and interactive lessons. “We really need to grab their interest and keep their interest by exploiting or taking advantage of some of their innate skills.”

Online education is the way of the future, he added.

Uenking worked for NASA for 17 years as a Human Factors Researcher in the Aviation Safety Program and taught Advanced Placement Physics at Bayside High School in Virginia Beach for three years before joining the Thomas Nelson faculty in 2008. He holds an Associate Degree in Engineering from Tidewater Community College, a Bachelor’s Degree in Mechanical Engineering and a Master’s Degree in Engineering Mechanics, both from Old Dominion University, an MBA in Technology Management from the University of Phoenix and a Master’s in Secondary Education from Grand Canyon University.

He is currently working on a Doctoral Degree in General Psychology with an emphasis in Educational Psychology through an online program with Capella University.

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