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Promoting And Assessing An Intuitive Understanding In A Junior Level Modeling Course

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2005 Annual Conference


Portland, Oregon

Publication Date

June 12, 2005

Start Date

June 12, 2005

End Date

June 15, 2005



Conference Session

Computed Simulation and Animation

Page Count


Page Numbers

10.1037.1 - 10.1037.11



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Paper Authors

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Sarangi Parikh

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Joel Esposito

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Robert DeMoyer

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Svetlana Avramov-Zamurovic

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Joel M. Esposito, Svetlana Avramov-Zamurovic, Robert DeMoyer and Sarangi Parikh United States Naval Academy Weapons & Systems Engineering Department, Mail Stop 14A, 105 Maryland Ave., Annapolis, MD 21402-5034 E-mail: esposito, avramov, demoyer,


Many faculty have observed that even the best engineering students have difficulty taking a complicated real-life device and developing a tractable mathematical model of its operation for the purposes of simulation or control design. We feel that the major obstacles to this desired outcome stem from three deficiencies. 1. Difficulty in using appropriate simplifying assumptions to render a tractable mathematical model of a complex device. 2. A lack of experience in designing experiments to measure physical parameters of a device and a lack of intuitive understanding of the appropriate ranges of these parameters. 3. Failure to use electronic resources such as databases and internet to discover how more complicated devices, not discussed in lecture, operate. In fact these issues are explicitly addressed in ABET’s Criteria for Accrediting Engineering Programs.

While traditional textbook and exam problems do a fine job conveying the procedural and mathematical concepts of modeling physical systems, it is much more difficult to give students an understanding of the artful aspects of the modeling process outlined above. In this paper we describe a series of laboratory and homework exercises designed to help students hone these skills, discuss how to assess their performance on the exercises and share the results of student opinion surveys.

1 Introduction In the Systems Engineering Department at the United States Naval Academy all students are required to take a junior level course on mathematical modeling. During their senior year all students in the department form teams of two or three to design and build a device. Many of these projects contain some type of basic automatic control system. Most projects are inspired by students’ upper level electives. Ideally students would develop a detailed mathematical model of their system and use this model for simulation, performance prediction and control system design. Since it is a device of their choosing, it is unlikely that they have had prior classroom exposure to all the device’s components.

Despite the fact that students have learned to model basic systems and develop transfer functions and state space models in their Junior year, it is rare that a group applies these principles to their senior

“Proceedings of the 2004 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright © 2004, American Society for Engineering Education”

Parikh, S., & Esposito, J., & DeMoyer, R., & Avramov-Zamurovic, S. (2005, June), Promoting And Assessing An Intuitive Understanding In A Junior Level Modeling Course Paper presented at 2005 Annual Conference, Portland, Oregon. 10.18260/1-2--14877

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