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Applications Of Real Time Sensors In The Freshman Engineering Classroom

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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

Instrumentation in the Classroom

Page Count


Page Numbers

9.213.1 - 9.213.9



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Paper Authors

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William J., Jr. Park

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Elizabeth A. Stephan

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Benjamin L. Sill

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

Session 1359

Applications of Real-Time Sensors in the Freshman Engineering Classroom

Matthew W. Ohland, Elizabeth A. Stephan, Benjamin L. Sill, and William J. Park General Engineering, Clemson University, Clemson, SC 29634


Clemson’s NSF-sponsored EXPerimental Engineering in Real-Time (EXPERT) project is designed to assess the efficacy of using real-time sensors in freshman engineering classes. We wish to determine if use of these devices enhances student understanding of both physical concepts and graphical representations of those phenomena.

Where parallel activities can be designed (one set with and one set without real-time sensors), the relative performance of students conducting sensor-based laboratories will help isolate the pedagogical benefit of using the sensors. It is also clear that the sensors are particularly useful in cases where no parallel educational design can be devised—situations in which it is either not possible to collect enough data quickly without sensors or in which dynamic measurement can be used to provide additional information regarding even an apparently static problem. The use of sensors to measure rapidly changing quantities is well known, and marked the widespread introduction of computer-based instrumentation into the curriculum decades ago. The measurement of quantities that are difficult to measure without sensors is also well documented.

This work focuses on documenting a number of creative ways in which sensors have been used to illustrate concepts to students. There is particular emphasis on ways that the sensors elucidate concepts that defy other types of teaching aids such as models and computer simulations.

Pedagogical approaches used in these curriculum materials

Too often students are given too much direction in the learning process. For best results, students must be coached, but not “directed” to the solution.1 Discovery learning is shown to have clear benefits in regard to deeper understanding and long-term retention,2 but has never gained widespread use because many fear the potential time-inefficiency of discovery learning approaches.3 Our proposed format, however, incorporates structured reflection to achieve some of discovery learning’s benefits without making a major commitment of time. The introduction of discovery methods shifts some control over the learning process to the learner. This approach agrees with Goforth4 who, in a meta-analysis of the effectiveness of learner control in tutorial computer assisted instruction, found that "it is important that the learner have some control rather than none.” If we wish our students to learn and to be creative, they must be given that opportunity—at least some assignments must be open-ended. Students must learn to think about the problem, to ask questions, and to design an experiment to test their hypothesis. This also directly addresses a number of ABET EC 2000 Criterion 3 Outcomes, with special emphasis on outcome (b), an ability to design and conduct experiments and analyze and interpret data, and outcome (i), a recognition of the need for, and an ability to engage in life-long learning.5 Proceedings of the 2004 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright © 2004, American Society for Engineering Education

Park, W. J. J., & Stephan, E. A., & Sill, B. L., & Ohland, M. (2004, June), Applications Of Real Time Sensors In The Freshman Engineering Classroom Paper presented at 2004 Annual Conference, Salt Lake City, Utah. 10.18260/1-2--13095

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