The best way to keep students engaged and motivated is to provide hands-on experience and involve them in the learning process.

Durul Ulutan

"It's hard to imagine a manufacturing field that doesn't have a need for the field I work in," says Professor Durul Ulutan, mechanical engineering, who specializes in the precision machining of metals. Ulutan, who holds a doctorate in industrial and systems engineering, has contributed to projects in the automotive, energy, aerospace and biomedical industries.

Students in Ulutan's labs learn to create the optimal surface finish for any given assignment. It is exacting work. "When you're manufacturing parts for industry, you have to be precise within very small tolerance levels," he explains. "In extreme cases, that tolerance might be a thousandth of an inch. If you're off by any more than that, the whole project can fail."

The labs are equipped for grinding, polishing, lapping, abrasive blasting, turning and milling. "The facilities here are top-notch," says Ulutan, whose research interests include manufacturing processes, controls, optimization, computer-aided design, mechatronics and robotics. "Everything's right there for them. The students just need to figure out how to tackle the problem. I am here to teach them how to do that more easily."

In Ulutan's view, students don't need to hear a lecture on what they can read in a textbook. "The best way to keep students engaged and motivated is to provide hands-on experience and involve them in the learning process," he says. "I like to entertain them — to me, it's a more up-to-date approach to teaching. It's fun for everyone, and it connects the material to real-life experience so that students can have something to remember the content by."

Ulutan's undergraduate background in mechanical engineering influences how he teaches his Manufacturing Processes class. "The course allows me to bring my past experience and education together and get my students excited about everything from nano-level technology to creating multi-ton turbines," he says. "Either way, it's about working efficiently — and with the right materials."

For Ulutan, one of the most exciting things about teaching at Bucknell is the opportunity to collaborate between departments and even access equipment from other labs. "There's a lot of excitement right now over 3D printing," he explains. "When you work with metals, the cost of the necessary equipment is exorbitant. Luckily, my research benefits from starting with more basic materials such as plastics, which allows me to work with people from other backgrounds — and I strongly encourage my students to do so as well."

Posted Oct. 7, 2015

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