Breaking Away from the Traditional Lab Report: A Technical Email as a Writing Assignment in an Engineering Laboratory Course

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Matthew Rhudy


Engineering laboratory courses often contain laboratory reports as writing assignments to be used as an assessment and grading tool for the course. While laboratory report writing is a useful skill, this article discusses an assignment which was used as an alternative to a traditional laboratory report within a dynamic systems laboratory course. This writing assignment is framed within the context of a hypothetical scenario involving a supervisor requesting a laboratory experiment to compare the effectiveness of two different designs for controlling the speed of a gearbox unit. Performance goals are specified by the ``customer'' so that students have a reference with which to frame their responses. Despite the shortened length of the writing assignment, students are forced to apply critical thinking and use evidence from their experiments to answer the posed question with a clear conclusion.

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