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Lasting Laboratory Lessons

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2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


New Orleans, Louisiana

Publication Date

June 26, 2016

Start Date

June 26, 2016

End Date

June 29, 2016





Conference Session

Engineering Physics Technical Session 2

Tagged Division

Engineering Physics & Physics

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Paper Authors


Ian Frommer US Coast Guard Academy

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Dr. Ian Frommer is an associate professor of mathematics at the US Coast Guard Academy in New London, CT. He earned his Ph.D. in applied mathematics from the University of Maryland and his A.B. degree in astronomy and physics from Harvard College. At the Coast Guard Academy he teaches a wide range of courses in mathematics and operations research, and is an active advisor in the senior capstone course. His research interests include the application of mathematics and operations research to sustainability and music.

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Paul Benjamin Crilly U.S. Coast Guard Academy

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Paul Crilly is an Professor of Electrical Engineering at the United States Coast Guard Academy. He is also an adjunct math instructor at the University of Connecticut. He received his Ph.D. from New Mexico State University, his M. S. and B.S. degrees at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, all in Electrical Engineering. He was previously an Associate Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the University of Tennessee and was a Development Engineer at the Hewlett Packard Company. His areas of interest include laboratory development, antennas, wireless communications, signal processing, and instrumentation.

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Abstract - As stated by Alexander Pope, “A little learning is a dangerous thing.” Scientists and engineers will readily attest, a superficial knowledge of the theory can make us think we have more expertise than we really do, and thus at best will make us to look foolish and at worse cause tragic consequences. This paper describes the experience of a student who is able to perform well in courses in the physical sciences and engineering as indicated by grades, but who completes this education with only a shallow understanding of the subject. For the student, there remain gaps between theory and practice, and numerous assumptions necessary for a deep understanding are missing. We offer a solution to this problem in the form of a new approach to lab courses that emphasizes relevancy to the student and student participation in devising the lab. We maintain that labs designed with these two elements in mind, along with a set of guiding principles we discuss, increase the likelihood of deep and lasting learning in the student. We close with a proposal to implement labs of this nature not only in engineering and physical science courses, but in certain mathematics courses as well, with the intention of deepening student learning and retention of mathematical concepts.

Frommer, I., & Crilly, P. B. (2016, June), Lasting Laboratory Lessons Paper presented at 2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, New Orleans, Louisiana. 10.18260/p.25516

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