The University of Texas at Dallas

Erik Jonsson School of Engineering and Computer Science

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Mechanical Engineering Prof Recognized for Teaching

Mechanical Engineering Prof Recognized for Teaching

Dr. Robert Hart, clinical associate professor of mechanical engineering, has garnered a 2017 Regents' Outstanding Teaching Award (ROTA) for delivering the highest quality instruction.

After a career as a practicing engineer, Hart earned his PhD from The University of Texas at Austin and refocused his work on academics and teaching. He coordinates and teaches the mechanical engineering senior capstone design course in the Erik Jonsson School of Engineering and Computer Science, and has an active interest in engineering education.

In the mechanical engineering capstone course, students work in teams on realistic, open-ended engineering design projects that are typically provided by an industry client. These projects require students to design and build a hardware prototype that solves their sponsor’s problem. The capstone course is a key component of an engineering student's education as it provides them with a hands-on learning experience in which they apply what they have learned previously along with new skills taught in the course to manage a realistic engineering project from start to finish.

"I value my time in industry because that experience allows me to bring a unique perspective to the classroom,” Hart said. “In teaching, I make frequent use of real-world examples drawn from both my experience and recent events to illustrate concepts."

Hart’s students agreed that professional experience has provided valuable insight.

"The capstone program teaches you how to approach and solve problems with an engineering mindset," said Joseph Florer, who graduated from the Jonsson School in 2015 with a degree in mechanical engineering. "Dr. Hart teaches you how to actually apply your skills in industry. He takes great care helping his students learn how to create and define project scopes, negotiate and obtain approvals from management within real companies, and present information in a professional manner."

Aside from practical know-how, Hart said students are also seeking teachers who are passionate about what they do and what they teach.

"If the professor doesn’t care, why should the students? An infectious enthusiasm goes a long way to motivate students to learn," Hart said. "Students really appreciate a teacher that cares about them and their success."

Established in 2008 to recognize exceptionally dedicated faculty, the honor includes a $25,000 cash award for each recipient. Winners were recently recognized at a ceremony in Austin, where the UT System Board of Regents awarded a total of $1.4 million to this year’s honorees. Over the last nine years, regents have granted nearly $18 million to more than 700 UT System faculty members through the program.

"The Regents’ Outstanding Teaching Awards is one of the nation’s largest awards programs to honor exceptional instruction in the university classroom," Regents Chairman Paul Foster said. "It is a reflection of the value The University of Texas System and the Board of Regents place on extraordinary teaching and student success, and it serves as a symbol of our sincere appreciation to these wonderful educators and the life-changing impact they have on students at UT institutions."

Dr.Robert Hart

“Robert (Hart) is highly deserving of this recognition. He designed and implemented a two-semester senior design sequence that is academically rigorous and industrially relevant, and he developed a framework for senior design that truly prepares students to enter the workforce.”

– Dr. Mario A. Rotea, Erik Jonsson Chair in Engineering and Computer Science and head of the Mechanical Engineering Department


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