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Elements Of An Activity Based Statistics Course For Engineers

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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

Innovative IE Curricula and Courses

Page Count


Page Numbers

9.520.1 - 9.520.9



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Paper Authors

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Bob White

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Tycho Fredericks

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Steven Butt

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

Session 2457

Elements of an Activity-Based Statistics Course for Engineers

Steven E Butt, Tycho K. Fredericks, and Bob E. White

Department of Industrial & Manufacturing Engineering College of Engineering & Applied Sciences Western Michigan University Kalamazoo, MI 49008-5336 USA


Common criticisms of undergraduate engineering statistics courses are that they are too academic in focus, excessively theoretical, and divorced from real problems that appear in industry. This paper describes our effort to make statistics “come alive” through an activity- based engineering statistics course at Western Michigan University. This three-semester hour course is structured to include laboratory sessions, workshop sessions, and problem-based lecture sessions. The laboratory activities are intended to provide the student with an opportunity to become proficient in designing basic experiments, collecting data, and analyzing problems using PC-based statistical software. The workshop sessions involve short lecture segments mixed with team-based problem-solving activities and software tutorials. With the exception of lecture periods, course sessions do not take place in a classroom, but rather are held in a computer- teaching laboratory or in one of the laboratories managed by the Industrial & Manufacturing Engineering Department.

In this paper we discuss our experiences following two offerings of this course to students in industrial, chemical, construction, civil, manufacturing, and paper engineering programs. In particular, we focus on the laboratory and workshop activities. In developing this new course structure two challenging objectives were set: (i) to provide undergraduate students with a positive introduction to engineering statistics; and (ii) to give students hands-on experience with experimental design, data collection and analysis through laboratories and workshops. A comparison is made to our former traditional lecture course.


There have been numerous discussions in the statistics community on how statistics should be taught to engineering undergraduate students and to undergraduate students in general. Drastic reform of introductory statistics courses has been advocated due to observations that "students frequently view statistics as the worst course taken in college"1. It seems reasonable that to acquire a conceptual understanding of basic statistical concepts, the orientation of an undergraduate statistics course must change from a traditional lecture format to one that engages

White, B., & Fredericks, T., & Butt, S. (2004, June), Elements Of An Activity Based Statistics Course For Engineers Paper presented at 2004 Annual Conference, Salt Lake City, Utah. 10.18260/1-2--13463

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