Rick Neptune

Rick Neptune

Department of Mechanical Engineering
Teaching Fellow

The goal of Dr. Neptune's project, "Integrating Computational Techniques in the Engineering Curriculum," is to introduce scientific computing and programming throughout the undergraduate mechanical engineering curriculum, to better prepare students for advanced study and work in industry.

How is your initiative going?

Our initiative is going well. We are in the second year of the project and won’t begin to see the fruits of our labor until the students are juniors and seniors. Our true assessment will likely occur when our students are competing for positions in industry and find themselves equipped with the necessary computational tools and experience that will allow them to solve more complex, real-world problems and set them apart from their competitors.

What has differed from your initial expectations? 

Maybe not so surprising, the hardest part about our initiative has been convincing the older faculty to buy in to the benefits of using advanced computational tools in their courses. Change can be difficult, and it requires time and effort from the faculty to also learn how to use these tools and determine the best way to integrate them into their teaching. For some, it’s like switching from your old tried and true simple calculator to a new more complex scientific calculator with advanced tools and functions. If the old works just fine, why change it? 

What response have you received? 

Our initiative has been very well received by the students. We have modified our curriculum and combined two classes together, which better equips them for using the computational tools. The students are beginning to see the value of these changes as they are undoubtedly becoming more competent engineers. 

Where do you see this headed?

We plan to continue the integration of the computational tools into additional courses to provide spiral learning opportunities for the students. We hope the initiative will infuse the ME curriculum as we continue our efforts to develop and improve the computational resources available for both students and faculty. Our long-term goal is that these resources will be utilized by other departments within the Cockrell School of Engineering.

What are some of your other interests? 

The goal of my research lab is to improve the rehabilitation outcomes for those with movement disabilities including lower-limb amputees, stroke patients and individuals who use manual wheelchairs. Thus, I’m always looking for opportunities to integrate my research interests with student projects that provide engineering solutions to help people. Helping students find solutions to challenging engineering problems are truly some of my most rewarding projects. If I can inspire my students to use their gifts and abilities to help others, I feel I have succeeded.

For more on Dr. Neptune's work, please visit his homepage or email him at rneptune@mail.utexas.edu.

Dr. Neptune is part of the Provost Teaching Fellows program. Find out more about this Faculty Initiative here.