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Inductive Learning Tool Improves Instrumentation Course

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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

Instrumentation Division Technical Session 1

Tagged Division


Page Count


Page Numbers

24.739.1 - 24.739.13



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Paper Authors


James Andrew Smith P.Eng. Ryerson University

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Dr. Smith specializes in Biomedical Engineering at Ryerson University in Toronto, Canada. He was Biomedical Engineering Program Director in 2010/11 and is currently Biomedical Engineering Stream Coordinator. His research combines aspects of biomechanics and robotics, with active research projects in legged systems, obstetrics and surgical systems. In addition to teaching awards received at the University of Alberta and Ryerson University, he is a recipient or co-recipient of four IEEE Real World Engineering Projects awards between 2007 and 2010. He was co-recipient of second place in the 2012 Healthcare Innovation Conference's design competition in Houston Texas.

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Inductive Learning Tool Improves Instrumentation CourseEngineering instructors are typically restricted to a narrow range of simplifiedmodels that apply to both white-board lectures and hands-on labs. This is as truein a mechanical vibrations course as it is in an electrical circuits or biomedicalinstrumentation courses. More complex systems, which are more representativeof reality, require more time or more advanced tools for derivation orunderstanding than is often available in an undergraduate curriculum.Furthermore most subject-specific simulation products do not provide a methodfor linking the GUI-based model’s dynamics with the fundamental equations usedto model the simpler examples in class.In 2011 we addressed this disconnect by introducing our students to Maplesoft’sMapleSim multi-domain simulation software in an instrumentation course. Likeits competitors, MapleSim permits students to schematically represent electricaland mechanical systems and simulates their changes over time. It can alsoproduce the analytical equations which underlie the model in a form that is similarto what is shown to the students in class or in their textbooks. Students canexamine these equations to derive further insight into the dynamics of theirsystems. This process can be self-directed and can occur even if students don’thave advanced skills in the mathematics required to derive the equations by hand.This tool, used in conjunction with traditional hands-on electronics lab activitiespermits the students to explore the behaviour of the systems of interest in aninductive learning manner more representative of natural everyday learning.End-of-semester student evaluations have shown a quantifiable improvement inthe course since the introduction of the inductive approach. As MapleSim hasbecome more integrated into the course question categories such as “The way thiscourse is taught helps me to learn” and “Concepts are clearly explained withappropriate use of examples” have seen quantifiable improvements over the pastthree years. The positive response of students to the use of MapleSim hasencouraged us to use it as the core of a new distance education course inembedded systems architecture.

Smith, J. A. (2014, June), Inductive Learning Tool Improves Instrumentation Course Paper presented at 2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Indianapolis, Indiana. 10.18260/1-2--20631

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