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Integrating Real World Engineering Examples and Mathematical Calculations Into Computer Simulations to Improve Students’ Understanding of Concept Pairs

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2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


San Antonio, Texas

Publication Date

June 10, 2012

Start Date

June 10, 2012

End Date

June 13, 2012



Conference Session

Computer Science-related Programs

Tagged Division

K-12 & Pre-College Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

25.805.1 - 25.805.11

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Paper Authors


Ning Fang Utah State University

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Ning Fang is an Associate Professor in the College of Engineering at Utah State University, USA. He has taught a variety of engineering courses such as engineering dynamics, metal machining, and design for manufacturing. His areas of interest include computer-assisted instructional technology, curricular reform in engineering education, the modeling and optimization of manufacturing processes, and lean product design. He earned his Ph.D., M.S., and B.S. degrees in mechanical engineering and is the author of more than 60 technical papers published in refereed international journals and conference proceedings. He is a Senior Member of the Society for Manufacturing Engineering and a member of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers. He is also a member of the American Society for Engineering Education and a member of the American Educational Research Association.

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Karen Nielson Utah State University

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Karen Nielson is a junior studying mechanical engineering at Utah State University, emphasizing in aerospace engineering. She will go on to graduate school after graduating with her bachelor's of science in May 2013. Nielson plans on earning her Ph.D. and then pursuing a career as a professor. It is her dream to research thermodynamics and to teach the next generation of engineers.

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Stephanie M. Kawamura InTech Collegiate High School

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Stephanie Kawamura has taught high school math and science for more than 10 years and has spent three years as a Guidance Counselor. She has received numerous teaching awards, including that 2010 American Chemical Society Salt Lake Section High School Chemistry Teacher of the Year and the 2009-2010 Air Force Association Local Teacher of the Year. Kawamura has coached individual and groups of students to accomplish outstanding work in a variety of science competitions, including NSTA/Toshiba ExploraVision, the Team American Rocketry Challenge (TARC), and the DuPont Challenge Science Essay Competition.

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Integrating Real-World Engineering Examples into Computer Simulationsto Improve Students’ Understanding of Concept Pairs in High School PhysicsAbstractThis paper is submitted for the “works in progress” track of K-12/Precollege Division papers.High school physics covers numerous fundamental concepts that students must understand andmaster for subsequent advanced studies in an undergraduate science or engineering curriculum.For example, Newtonian mechanics (a branch of physics) involves foundational concepts such asdisplacement, velocity, acceleration, force, torque or moment, work, energy, impulse,momentum, and vibrations, as well as foundational laws and principles such as Newton’s laws,the Principle of Work and Energy, and the Principle of Linear Impulse and Momentum. Lackinga solid understanding of these foundational concepts, laws, and principles is among the majorreasons that many students perform poorly in high school physics.A variety of instructional strategies, for example, in-class demonstration, multimedia, andcomputer simulations, has been adopted in many high schools to improve students’understanding of physics concepts. Educational research has shown the effectiveness of theseinstructional strategies in improving student learning. However, nearly all exiting researchefforts focus on improving students’ understanding of individual concepts, but not concept pairs.A concept pair is a pair of physics concepts that are fundamentally different but closely related.For example, linear acceleration and angular acceleration is a concept pair. Linear acceleration,in the unit of m/s2, is used to quantify the change of linear velocity (m/s) with time. Angularacceleration, in the unit of rad/s2, is used to quantify the change of angular velocity (rad/s) withtime. There exists a quantitative mathematical relationship between linear (tangential)acceleration and angular acceleration. If students do not understand the fundamental differenceand relationship between two concepts included in a concept pair, students will not be able selectthe correct concept required to accurately interpret a particular physics phenomenon or to solve aparticular physics problem. In other words, students will not know when and why to applywhich concepts and associated equations to solve physics problems.This works-in-progress study is a collaborative effort between a university engineering educator(and his student researcher) and a high school physics teacher. The goal of the study is todevelop computer simulation modules to improve students’ understanding of concept pairs inhigh school physics, particularly in Newtonian mechanics. The computer simulation moduleshave two features. First, real-world engineering examples are integrated into computersimulations to make student learning relevant and meaningful. Second, mathematicalcalculations are integrated into computer simulations, so students can connect physics withmathematics and therefore understand each concept pair deeper. This paper provides arepresentative example of computer simulation modules, which includes three concept pairs:linear displacement and angular displacement, linear velocity and angular velocity, and linearacceleration and angular acceleration. Pre-post tests and student surveys are being administratedin a high school physics course to assess student learning outcomes. The results of assessmentswill be available when submitting a full paper for review.

Fang, N., & Nielson, K., & Kawamura, S. M. (2012, June), Integrating Real World Engineering Examples and Mathematical Calculations Into Computer Simulations to Improve Students’ Understanding of Concept Pairs Paper presented at 2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, San Antonio, Texas.

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2012 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015