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An Integrated Laboratory Vs. A Traditional Laboratory, Is There A Difference?

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2004 Annual Conference


Salt Lake City, Utah

Publication Date

June 20, 2004

Start Date

June 20, 2004

End Date

June 23, 2004



Conference Session

Creative Ways to Present Basic Materials

Page Count


Page Numbers

9.187.1 - 9.187.11



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Paper Authors

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David Niebuhr

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Heather Smith

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Session # 3664

An Integrated Laboratory Vs. A Traditional Laboratory, Is there a difference?

David Niebuhr, Heather Smith

California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, CA 93407


Do integrated, graphics-rich laboratories foster enhanced learning when compared to traditional laboratory experiments? More and more, higher education emphasizes the need to utilize integrated approaches to learning. We performed a comparative study involving over 500 engineering students. Using corrosion of metals as our subject we performed two sets of experiments. In the control lab, students answered questions and performed traditional, structured experiments. Our modified lab integrated science, engineering, and math and utilized multi media and colorful graphics. More importantly though, it required the students to problem solve and work through a real engineering challenge. The results are discussed and include a statistical analysis of the data. The implications of the results will shape the direction in which the lab evolves and will shape future experiments in the department’s curriculum.

1. Introduction

Engineering education is in the midst of a renaissance as the new millennium has arrived. More and more universities are recognizing that the traditional approach of teaching basic courses (math, physics, chemistry) as separate, isolated disciplines is affecting the numbers of students who remain in engineering majors and graduate as engineers. For example, calculus is a freshman course, yet the application of calculus principles may not come until late sophomore or junior year. This leaves the student to feel that calculus is unimportant and strictly a “weeder” class due to the high failure rate. At the Colorado school of Mines, the integration of courses is taken one step further where integrated laboratories replace traditional laboratories in electrical circuits, fluid mechanics, and stress analysis.1 The laboratory experiments are designed to combine math and physics and require students to build and analyze small, laboratory scale systems. Creating integrated labs have been the premise of many other studies in both engineering and multidisciplinary education.2,3,4

The need to integrate and foster innovative teaching ideas was recognized by the National Science Foundation (NSF) in the early 90’s. In 1993 the NSF sponsored a seven school education coalition.5 The focus of this coalition was to develop curricular change that integrated the traditional fundamentals in mathematics and science plus emphasized problem solving and

Proceedings of the 2004 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright ©2004, American Society for Engineering Education

Niebuhr, D., & Smith, H. (2004, June), An Integrated Laboratory Vs. A Traditional Laboratory, Is There A Difference? Paper presented at 2004 Annual Conference, Salt Lake City, Utah. 10.18260/1-2--12727

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