June 18, 2006
June 18, 2006
June 21, 2006
Division Experimentation & Lab-Oriented Studies
11.113.1 - 11.113.12
A Review of the Current Status and Challenges of Virtual Experimentation
Abstract Virtual experimentation generates reactions of great enthusiasm and trepidation among engineering educators. Many educators see wide ranging applications of these techniques with advantages in terms of learning pedagogies, equipment costs, and online education. However, there are several well-founded concerns such as the realism of the data and the impact on student outcomes. This paper will review the history and several current examples of virtual experimentation, including the author’s own experience developing a virtual refrigeration experiment. Learning objectives for laboratory courses defined by the ABET/Sloan colloquy will be used to evaluate the potential impact of converting several existing physical experiments to a virtual or online format. Several conclusions and questions which must be considered when considering virtual experimentation will then be summarized.
Traditionally engineering laboratory instruction has carried three component goals; instruction on the use of physical equipment and apparatus, use of various statistical and analytical methods to interpret data, and demonstration of fundamental engineering principles. Along with these goals, and their various sub-goals, there are the objectives of improving technical communication and teamwork. In recent years computer based data acquisition and simulation software has added both flexibility and capability to the engineering experimentation curriculum in achieving these goals. The coupling of numerical simulation and experimentation for demonstration and comparison purposes is widely used. New technologies also allow experiments to be controlled over the Internet in a remote or distance education format. However, the most recent laboratory incarnation, virtual experimentation, is the use of numerical techniques to simulate the entire experimentation process (equipment and data).
Virtual experimentation generates reactions of great enthusiasm and trepidation among engineering educators. Many educators see wide ranging applications of these techniques with advantages in terms of learning pedagogies, equipment costs, and online education. However, there are several well-founded concerns such as the realism of the data and the impact on student outcomes. This paper will review the history and several current examples of virtual experimentation, including the author’s own experience. Use of new laboratory objectives will be explored to evaluate possible replacement of experiments with virtual versions. Finally, several challenges to the greater adoption of virtual experimentation will be summarized.
II. A History of Virtual Experimentation
The use of experimental procedures and the role of laboratory courses in the engineering curriculum have a long, yet somewhat controversial, history. From the founding of the first engineering school at West Point in 1802 up to World War II engineering instruction included a healthy amount of laboratory or fieldwork to balance theory. Students were taught not only how to design a product but how to build it from scratch. The publication of the Grinter Report1 in
Tebbe, P. (2006, June), A Review Of The Current Status And Challenges Of Virtual Experimentation Paper presented at 2006 Annual Conference & Exposition, Chicago, Illinois. https://peer.asee.org/352
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