June 22, 2008
June 22, 2008
June 25, 2008
Computers in Education
13.772.1 - 13.772.17
Integration of Computer-Based Problem Solving into Engineering Curricula
The primary objectives of this engineering project are (1) to examine how to develop students’ problem solving and computational skills early in their program of study and (2) to further enhance these skills by building upon critical computing concepts semester after semester. The project is a component of NC State University’s quality enhancement plan, which focuses on the use of technology in enhancing student learning. The project stems from new introductory computer-based modeling courses that were created in two engineering departments, and has expanded to include other departments. We give an overview of the project, provide an example of how a problem is modeled and broken apart, present some assessment results, and discuss the emerging lessons being learned.
Many engineering curricula around the country are re-evaluating their introductory computer programming requirement. At our university, several departments have changed from the traditional Java or C++ course to something more applicable to their discipline. Realizing that the standard introductory programming course no longer appropriately complements the education of systems engineers, three departments (Textile Engineering (TE), Industrial and Systems Engineering (ISE), and Chemical and Bimolecular Engineering (CBE)) looked at similar approaches to developing or revising existing courses to help students with algorithmic thinking and problem solving using computing.
These courses aim to educate students to model problems relevant to their specific engineering discipline, solve these problems using modeling tools (including a range of software platforms, such as Excel with VBA), and then to analyze the solutions through decision support (i.e., to become “power users” not programmers).
Other departments in the College of Engineering have expressed interest in reviewing their introductory computer programming course requirement and implementing a course similar to those already developed in TE, ISE and CBE. This is the ‘scale-out’ portion of our project, as we seek to expand the work and develop similar introductory courses in other engineering disciplines. The second part of the project is the ‘scale-up’ portion, which entails linking computational processes and skills across courses in the curriculum, that is, developing a computational thread at successive levels in program curricula. We acknowledge that not every course lends itself to the use of computational tools, but there are courses at successive curriculum levels where it is appropriate and beneficial to student learning for computational tools to be utilized and problem solving skills to be reinforced. Figure 1 schematically represents these two parts of our project, the ‘scale out’ and ‘scale up’ components.
Raubenheimer, D., & Brent, R., & Joines, J., & Craig, A. (2008, June), Integration Of Computer Based Problem Solving Into Engineering Curricula Paper presented at 2008 Annual Conference & Exposition, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. 10.18260/1-2--3652
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