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An Intuitive Approach to Teaching Concepts in Engineering to a General Audience

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2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Indianapolis, Indiana

Publication Date

June 15, 2014

Start Date

June 15, 2014

End Date

June 18, 2014



Conference Session

Promoting Technological Literacy

Tagged Division

Technological and Engineering Literacy/Philosophy of Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

24.172.1 - 24.172.25



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Paper Authors

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Daniel Raviv Florida Atlantic University

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George Roskovich Florida Atlantic University

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An intuitive approach to teaching concepts in Engineering to a General Audience This paper focuses on a visual and intuitive method of explaining basic concepts inengineering and technology. The main goal is to increase the general public’s understanding ofSTEM fields. It is also aimed at aiding existing students in developing an intuition to coincidewith mathematical concepts taught in the classroom. In addition, it may improve retention ratesby giving pre-major students a better idea of the essence of a STEM major. It is part of a largerprogram at ____ that targets multiple topics in engineering, computer science, physics and math. This approach is of great relevance as today’s learners have been exposed to informationrepresented in a very visual and intuitive way. They have grown up with interactive media suchas Google, YouTube and Facebook. As they expect instant justification for why a subject isimportant and for explanation for immediate potential use, efforts must be made to include morerelevance in visual, intuitive ways in order to adapt to students’ changing learning styles. For example, the concept of system stability is taught by prompting the class to buildpaper airplanes. They are instructed to place a paperclip at the front base of the plane, launchingtheir planes to the front of the room. In most cases, the planes will fly forward signifying a stablesystem. They are then instructed to retrieve their planes, placing the paper clip at the back baseof the plane. This time they have an opportunity to fly their planes at the instructor. Since thecenter of gravity is move behind the center of pressure, the planes all tumble and hit the floor,signifying an unstable system. This activity is followed by a class discussion. As this approachkeeps participants engaged, it also provides them with a lesson they are not likely to forget. Additional methods include demonstrations to the audience, presentations of short videos,experiments, as well as questions, riddles, and brain teasers. To instill positive reinforcement,participants are required to create their own visual and intuitive examples of key concepts usinganalogies. At present we have applied a small scale assessment by interacting with students toreceive their feedback. An anonymous pole was created to gauge whether participants were morereceptive to the methods described in this abstract vs. traditional methods that aim to createintuition by starting with mathematical procedure. The success has also been gauged byexamples provided by students. When prompted to develop examples on their own, they havedemonstrated clear understanding of difficult concepts. As visualization is the goal, the resultshave been promising. Participants not only have anonymously praised the method, they havedemonstrated its effectiveness.

Raviv, D., & Roskovich, G. (2014, June), An Intuitive Approach to Teaching Concepts in Engineering to a General Audience Paper presented at 2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Indianapolis, Indiana. 10.18260/1-2--20063

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