Engineering professors to discuss use of 3D-printed devices in teaching

KENNESAW, Ga. | Sep 2, 2020

Kennesaw State University’s Office of Research is hosting a one-hour web show every other Friday at 4 p.m. to showcase the varied research being conducted by KSU faculty members. “Research with Relevance” spotlights Kennesaw State researchers in a live interview followed by an interactive question-and-answer session with the virtual audience.

Research with Relevance

In this week’s episode, Ayse Tekes, assistant professor of mechanical engineering in the Southern Polytechnic College of Engineering and Engineering Technology, will be joined by Tris Utschig, associate professor of nuclear engineering and director for scholarly teaching in KSU’s Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning. Tekes and Utschig will discuss how they are working together to improve student learning in mechanical engineering by using low-cost, 3D-printed laboratory devices in active learning experiences. Before the presentation, Tekes and Utschig answered a few questions about their interest in research and the ways in which they involve students.

How did you first get involved in this field of research? / When did you decide to become a researcher?

Tekes: I went to one of the best universities in Turkey, Istanbul Technical University, but unfortunately didn’t get involved in research as an undergraduate. After graduating, I worked at a helicopter research company while studying for my master’s degree in mechanical engineering. The company was collaborating with ITU and the Georgia Institute of Technology, and I had the opportunity to work with amazing professors from both institutions. This would become my first research experience, and I loved the hands-on approach to challenging theoretical concepts in the area of modeling, design and control of nonlinear systems. At the same time, I was working with my master’s supervisor, who later offered me a research assistant position to focus my Ph.D. on the design, development and control of compliant mechanisms. I have since become an active researcher and love what I do.

Utschig: My research career in engineering education is rooted in my service in the Peace Corps in Ghana. As a nuclear engineer, I thought I might turn my engineering expertise into support activities for infrastructure projects, but the recruiter assigned me a teaching role – a total surprise to me. Teaching math and science in the Peace Corps helped me discover my love for teaching, which fueled the beginnings of my research.

In what ways has KSU supported your research?

Tekes: I started as a full-time professor at KSU in 2016 with no initial startup funding, and I didn’t have the necessary equipment to conduct my research. However, that did not stop me from establishing my research team of students the Dynamics and Control Research Group. I received several internal research grants from the Office of Research and cannot appreciate enough the support I received from my department and college. 

Utschig: One of the reasons I came to KSU was the fact the university supports the scholarship of teaching and learning as a valued part of our research portfolio, even for fields like science and engineering. I have found many faculty members who are interested in educational research here, and by my ability to support them, they in turn support me. I would also say feedback from KSU’s Office of Research on proposals has been really first rate.

How are you involving students in your research? / How have you seen students benefit from being involved in your research efforts?

Tekes: I have been working with outstanding undergraduates since the day I started at KSU. I have seen the potential in my students and gave them opportunities in which they can work as a team to design and test their mechanisms. My team collaborated with other amazing faculty in my college, and we started presenting at highly prestigious conferences. My research deeply integrates the members of the Dynamics and Control Research Group, especially those from underrepresented groups. Successful implementation of this type of mentored undergraduate research experience improves students’ academic achievement and maximizes their options upon graduation.  

What do you hope students learn from you in the classroom?

Tekes: I am hoping that students in my classes will be able to bridge the gap between the theory and real-world application by using the student-designed 3D-printed lab equipment.

Utschig: My real goals are to help students become better learners and more capable professionals by developing their learning skills, their collaborative skills from working in teams and their ability to connect what they are learning to real things happening out in the world of engineering. Ultimately, I want them to learn that there are no limits to what they can do as a learner.

How much has your field changed in the time you’ve studied it?

Tekes: According to research literature, the portable laboratory equipment is available mostly for electrical engineering and control labs. However, there is still a demand for mechanical engineering laboratories. As the technology advances and brings us the opportunity to build systems using new materials and new devices, such as additive manufacturing, researchers all around the world are starting to build devices by 3D printing more complex designs.

Utschig: The field of educational research has moved well beyond studying the impact of how well students learn the material as measured on a test given one teaching practice versus another. We are now beginning to look at how the learning process itself can be used to enhance learning capacity or capability. This involves a combination of factors such as growth mindset, reflective practice, goal-setting, assessment feedback and more.

Tune in on Friday, September 4 at 4 p.m. to hear Tekes and Utschig talk about their research and answer your questions. Click here for more information.

Related Stories

A leader in innovative teaching and learning, Kennesaw State University offers undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degrees to its more than 45,000 students. Kennesaw State is a member of the University System of Georgia with 11 academic colleges. The university’s vibrant campus culture, diverse population, strong global ties and entrepreneurial spirit draw students from throughout the country and the world. Kennesaw State is a Carnegie-designated doctoral research institution (R2), placing it among an elite group of only 7 percent of U.S. colleges and universities with an R1 or R2 status. For more information, visit