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Scaffold Approach to Teaching Experimentation

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2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Columbus, Ohio

Publication Date

June 24, 2017

Start Date

June 24, 2017

End Date

June 28, 2017

Conference Session

Teams, Teaching, Leadership, and Technical Communications in Mechanical Engineering

Tagged Division

Mechanical Engineering

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Paper Authors


Megan Reissman University of Dayton

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Dr. Reissman studied mechanical engineering at Cornell University (BS) and Northwestern University (PhD). She currently teaches engineering design, analysis, and experimentation courses in the mechanical engineering department of University of Dayton. She specializes in biomechanics and robotic systems.

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Timothy Reissman University of Dayton

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Dr. Timothy Reissman is an Assistant Professor within the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at the University of Dayton. He teaches primarily courses related to experimentation, mechatronics, and dynamic systems and controls.

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In the real world, engineers are often faced with the task of designing and performing experiments to evaluate performance of products, systems, or processes. Realizing the importance of knowing how to construct and analyze meaningful experiments, many mechanical engineering curriculums have incorporated a required undergraduate course dedicated to teaching “engineering experimentation”. The course we have devised to meet this need has the following learning objectives: (1) given an experimental setup, know how to select an appropriate sensor based on characteristics and error, (2) given measurement results, be able to interpret measurements taken and experimental results with regard to sources of uncertainty, (3) given a general product, system, or process, be able to formulate a testable hypothesis, and (4) know how to utilize statistical experimental design to rigorously test a hypothesis. Each of these learning objectives build upon one another, so a scaffold approach is implemented to guide student learning. Students begin with learning the fundamentals of measurement, such as force, strain, motion, pressure, and temperature. They learn not only the theory but also construct experiments to test each sensor type. Students then report on metrics such as accuracy, dispersion, linearity, et cetera by means of short communications, 2-page written lab reports. These reports serve as summative assessments for the course and provide feedback to the students for improvements within all aspects of experimentation: methods, analytics, reporting results, and interpretation. Within this work we present the progression of the students’ learning using this scaffold approach through the evaluation of the summative assessments. We also present the results of a questionnaire which gauged students' perception about the scaffold method and their perceived learning. To briefly summarize those results, a statistically significant (p=0.011) longitudinal increase in student laboratory reports from 86% to 93% was observed during the course of the semester, as well as favorable biases by the students in the scaffold method and perceived learning over their other mechanical engineering courses. Therefore, this approach appears to have many positive outcomes with regards to improving student learning.

Reissman, M., & Reissman, T. (2017, June), Scaffold Approach to Teaching Experimentation Paper presented at 2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Columbus, Ohio. 10.18260/1-2--28811

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