June 24, 2007
June 24, 2007
June 27, 2007
12.727.1 - 12.727.14
Facilitating Engineering Mathematics Education by Multidisciplinary Projects
Engineering students generally do not perceive mathematics in the same way as professional mathematicians usually do. They need to have it explained to them why knowledge of mathematics is essential for their studies and their future profession. Project based learning turned out to be a particularly suitable method to demonstrate the need of mathematical methods, since there seems to be no better way of acquiring comprehension than if it arises from personal experience. The students are confronted early on in their courses with challenging problems arising in industry. These problems are usually of a multidisciplinary nature and have in common that the mathematical competencies needed for their solution are slightly beyond the students’ skills. Having realized the gap in their knowledge of mathematical methods, students are eager to bridge it, thus drawing their attention towards their mathematics education. It is important to design the lectures in such a way that the students’ demands are satisfied. Then their attentiveness increases immensely and often leads to interaction and feedback during formal lectures. Sometimes students even ask for additional lectures, which may become necessary to satisfy the needs of some project tasks.
The students are offered a variety of project proposals at the beginning of the semester. They can choose their project work according to their interests. Usually a team of three works on a project, for more comprehensive tasks a team of four students is approved. In this way generic skills required by industry are also developed. Generally, two or three groups are assigned the same task. This introduces a competitive aspect, which in turn increases the students’ motivation. The outcome of some of these undergraduate projects has found application in industry or has been published in professional journals.
In this paper the idea of project based learning in engineering mathematics is exemplified on the basis of students’ projects carried out in the third semester of their degree program.
It seems that the critical issue in teaching mathematics to engineering students is to find the right balance between practical applications of mathematical methods and in-depth understanding 1. Project based learning has proved to be a particularly suitable method to demonstrate the need of mathematics in professional engineering. Students are confronted, complementary to their regular courses, with problems that are of a multidisciplinary nature and demand a certain degree of mathematical proficiency. A particularly suitable way of doing so turned out to be the establishment of interdisciplinary project work in the early stages of the degree program.
The courses Information Systems and Programming in the second and third semester of degree program Automotive Engineering at the Joanneum University of Applied Sciences form the basis for project (and problem) based learning. In the second semester the programming language Visual Basic (VB) is introduced. It enables the students to develop graphical user interfaces (GUIs) with comparatively little effort. In the third semester ANSI C, a machine-oriented programming language that enables both the programming of microcontrollers and the implementation of fast algorithms, is taught. Additionally, the
Bischof, G., & Bratschitsch, E., & Casey, A., & Rubesa, D. (2007, June), Facilitating Engineering Mathematics Education By Multidisciplinary Projects Paper presented at 2007 Annual Conference & Exposition, Honolulu, Hawaii. 10.18260/1-2--2027
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