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Reasonable or Ridiculous? Engineering Intuition in Simulations

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2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


New Orleans, Louisiana

Publication Date

June 26, 2016

Start Date

June 26, 2016

End Date

August 28, 2016





Conference Session

Modeling and Simulation

Tagged Division

Computers in Education

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Paper Authors


Elif Miskioglu Bucknell University

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Elif Miskioglu is currently a Visiting Assistant Professor of Chemical Engineering at Bucknell University. She graduated from Ohio State University in 2015 with a PhD in Chemical Engineering, and is interested in student learning in engineering.

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Kaela M Martin Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, Prescott

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Kaela Martin is an Assistant Professor of Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, Prescott Campus. She graduated from Purdue University in 2015 with a PhD in Aeronautical and Astronautical Engineering and is interested in increasing classroom engagement and student learning.

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It is not sufficient for engineers to be proficient in complex calculations or the simulation software that may perform these calculations, but essential to also be able to evaluate whether a result is “reasonable or ridiculous.” Teaching this type of “engineering intuition” is not always as straightforward as teaching technical material. For example, oftentimes students complete computer simulations without questioning if the assumptions or results are practical. Do certain types of learners question the simulations more often? Does internship experience lend itself to a better “engineering intuition” in the classroom? To answer these questions, learning styles, which describe how individuals gather and process information, and internship experience were analyzed against answers to open-ended questions at the end of simulation-based problems designed to push students to evaluate the practicality of their results. The learning style model used was the Felder-Silverman model of four learning style dimensions, with two preferences per dimension, (active/reflective, sensing/intuitive, visual/verbal, sequential/global) that categorize individuals based on how they best process, perceive, receive, and understand information. It is important to emphasize that learning styles are preferences, not absolutes, and the Felder-Silverman model takes this into consideration by categorizing individuals as “balanced,” “moderate,” or “strong” with respect to a preference (within a dimension). Previous work in learning styles and simulations by Montgomery (1995) suggested that simulations and other multimedia tools can be used to engage students from a greater variety of learning styles (as compared to traditional classroom methods), however, whether some students may be more “simulation dependent” (less likely to question simulation results) is unclear.

Data on student responses to simulations (ability to identify and justify whether a simulated case is practical) is being collected at multiple points during the semester. As the complexity of problems being solved increases throughout the term, there is a greater likelihood of observing differences among students in ability to assess the practicality of a situation and identifying commonalities among successful or unsuccessful students.

The study consists of one section of an undergraduate course in chemical engineering at a small East Coast university and two sections of an undergraduate course in aerospace engineering at a small Southwestern university taught by two different instructors during Fall 2015 (data collection underway, complete results will be available by full submission dates). The study will also be conducted in spring 2016 with one section at each university with results available by June 2016.

These results will inform future avenues of study, and eventually, after a multiple semesters of evaluation are complete, we will propose a new course model that helps students question their results and gives a better understanding of how to teach “engineering intuition” to students.

Miskioglu, E., & Martin, K. M. (2016, June), Reasonable or Ridiculous? Engineering Intuition in Simulations Paper presented at 2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, New Orleans, Louisiana. 10.18260/p.26044

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