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Dr. Ted Hubbard of the Department of Mechanical Engineering has been awarded the Wighton Fellowship, one of the most prestigious awards recognising engineering education in Canada. This is only the second time in the Fellowship’s 31-year history that a Wighton Fellow has been named in one of the Atlantic provinces.
The Department of Mechanical Engineering promotes a hands-on, design-focused approach to education, with practical projects that teach students how to get from an idea to a design to a finished product. Dr. Hubbard has been instrumental in the development and refinement of this curriculum for the past 20 years, using everything from KitchenAid® mixers to LEGO™ sets to illustrate theoretical concepts and practical design techniques.
One of Dr. Hubbard’s machine design courses combines a familiar pedagogical technique—machine dissection—with an atypical object of study—the KitchenAid® mixer—to form a holistic approach to teaching students about the functions of gears. Using a model selected specifically because it contains every gear type covered in the course, Dr. Hubbard has students gradually disassemble the mixer’s drive train. Along the way, they not only touch and feel all of the various types of gear they have been learning about theoretically, but also see how they function in a real-world context.
In a recently introduced upper-year course, Dr. Hubbard has employed two-axis computer numerical control (CNC) router machines (X-Carves) to teach prototyping and design concepts. In contrast to 3D printers, the X-Carves are imperfect: they consistently produce particular inaccuracies for a given set of “perfect” Computer Assisted Drawing (CAD) inputs. Dr. Hubbard exploits these inaccuracies to introduce students to the fundamentals of prototyping and engineering manufacturing details. Since its introduction, this course has quickly become the most in-demand senior-year technical elective offered to Mechanical students in the past two decades.
Dr. Hubbard’s impact on the Mechanical Engineering curriculum at Dalhousie extends well-beyond the courses he teaches, as he has been instrumental in promoting the design-focused approach to education that has become the Department’s trademark. Dr. Darrel Doman, director of the Mechanical Department and the man who nominated Dr. Hubbard for the fellowship, credits his influence with his colleagues for the Department’s 20% increase in hands-on lab work over the past five years.
“It’s not just that Ted’s the best at this style of education,” says Dr. Doman, “it’s that he makes the rest of us better.”
Nor have Dr. Hubbard’s efforts on behalf of engineering education gone unnoticed by students: his nomination was supported by a petition signed by over 200 current and graduating mechanical engineering students. Many current and former students also submitted letters of support for his nomination, including a Rhode’s Scholar and a start-up CEO who credits Dr. Hubbard with helping him turn his entrepreneurial ideas into reality.
“I’m proud of this concerted effort the graduating class made on behalf of Ted’s nomination,” says Dr. Doman, “it’s a heart-warming demonstration of the impact he has on our students.”
Dr. Hubbard’s impact on such a broad cross-section of engineers, whether students or teachers, is a testament to his dedication to his students, his passion for his profession, and his role as a leader in the advancement of engineering education.