San Antonio, Texas
June 10, 2012
June 10, 2012
June 13, 2012
25.576.1 - 25.576.17
Enhancing the Experience in a First-Year Engineering Course Through theIncorporation of Graphical Programming and Data Acquisition TechnologyMany first-year engineering curricula either include a course on computing or integratecomputing within one of the introductory courses. There is significant evidence thatstudents in these introductory programming courses have difficulty both learning andapplying the concepts traditionally covered. One reason for this discrepancy between thelearning outcomes desired by instructors and student performance is that the instructionalmethods used, and the very nature of the material, does not match well with the learningstyles of most engineering students.Many different models have been developed to understand the learning styles of students.One of the most commonly used within engineering education is the Felder-Silvermanlearning styles model, implemented in the Index of Learning Styles (ILS) tool. Using thisassessment, studies have found that engineering students tend toward visual and sensingstyles of learning. However, since most programming languages taught in introductorycourses are text based the students’ preferred learning styles often do not match with theteaching methods and material presented as interpretation of the written word, whilepresented in a visual manner, is processed in the same manner as spoken words.Along these same lines, engineers tend to prefer more active styles of learning. In mostcourses on computing, activities traditionally focus on the generation of code to solve aspecific problem. While these activities may be active, the hands-on element still liesentirely within the computer and may still be difficult to grasp for those students whoprefer more concrete examples. By making full use of the computer as a tool that caninteract with real world phenomena through the use of data acquisition and controlhardware, more active and hands-on computing activities can be created to engagestudents traditionally put off by the abstract activities traditional to computing classes.One promising avenue to explore in an attempt to address these issues is the use ofgraphical programming environments. Graphical programming environments allow theuser to create programs by connecting together graphical icons representing differentfunctions. Newly developed hardware allows students to take very small data acquisitionsystems home and do experiments. A hypothesis is that using environments such as thesecould help students who tend to learn better from visual presentations, because thegraphical nature of the program will help to make the structures easier to comprehend.Results from prior studies as well as the perceived continued potential to enhance first-year student learning motivated this use of the new hardware systems and graphicalprogramming as well as the study of its impact at a large university’s introductoryengineering class. The traditional class was modified to use graphical programming asthe dominant computer tool along with the integration of data acquisition and controlhardware. This paper will discuss the curricular structure, the implementation of thegraphical programming language and hardware component, examples from the class, andinitial assessments from the experience in the form of interviews, focus groups, and classsurveys.
Bucks, G. W., & Oakes, W. C. (2012, June), Enhancing the Experience in a First-year Engineering Course Through the Incorporation of Graphical Programming and Data Acquisition Technology Paper presented at 2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, San Antonio, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--21333
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