Asee peer logo

Teaching Courses On Probability And Statistics For Engineers: Classical Topics In The Modern Technological Era

Download Paper |

Conference

2009 Annual Conference & Exposition

Location

Austin, Texas

Publication Date

June 14, 2009

Start Date

June 14, 2009

End Date

June 17, 2009

ISSN

2153-5965

Conference Session

Starting the Last Day with New Ideas

Tagged Division

Industrial Engineering

Page Count

8

Page Numbers

14.1130.1 - 14.1130.8

DOI

10.18260/1-2--4578

Permanent URL

https://peer.asee.org/4578

Download Count

69

Request a correction

Paper Authors

biography

Natarajan Gautam Texas A&M University

visit author page

Dr. Gautam is an Associate Professor in the Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering at Texas A&M University since Fall 2005. Prior to that he was on the faculty at the Department of Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering at Penn State University for eight years. He teaches courses in applied probability and stochastic processes. Dr. Gautam has taught eight different courses in each of the universities he has worked in and has won several teaching awards. His research is in design, control and performance evaluation of stochastic systems with emphasis on computer-communication networks and transportation. Dr. Gautam is a member of ASEE, INFORMS and IIE.

visit author page

Download Paper |

Abstract
NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Teaching Courses on Probability and Statistics for Engineers: Classical Topics in the Modern Technological Era

Abstract

Most Industrial Engineering departments offer courses on applied probability and/or statistics to engineering students. These courses often tend to be perceived as dry and far removed from engineering. This poses a significant challenge for instructors, especially junior faculty members that have been assigned to teach such courses. Not only do they have to spend significant amount of time away from research to make interesting classroom material, but they also have to teach material that is not even remotely close to what they do for research. To make matters worse, since the High School curriculum in the United States does not mandate a basic foundation in probability and statistics, most students are extremely unprepared and hence the instructors have to start at a phenomenally fundamental level.

The objective of this paper is to describe some strategies to overcome the concerns mentioned above and effectively educate engineering students on topics in applied probability and statistics. The first aspect is to teach a predominantly chalk-and-talk type of class by carefully using technology in strategic places and avoiding technology in certain other places. We quantitatively evaluate the effectiveness of our strategies and provide insights. Next, a good portion of this paper is devoted to one specific use of technology which is in laboratory-like exercises. These exercises were developed to teach more difficult concepts such as Central Limit Theorem and show how it applies to project evaluation and review technique (PERT). As a result, not only did the student understanding of complex material improve, but also the material was covered in a much shorter time. Finally the paper concludes with a qualitative discussion of issues where it is unclear whether technology boosts or hinders understanding of concepts in applied probability and statistics.

Introduction

Courses on applied probability and statistics are usually part of almost all Industrial Engineering undergraduate curricula. A large subset of these courses is usually offered by Industrial/Systems Engineering departments itself and the rest are perhaps offered by statistics departments. In fact many Industrial/Systems Engineering departments even offer service courses on these topics to other engineering students as well. Typically these courses involve basic probability, elementary statistics, quality control and sometimes even stochastic models for operations research. Based on the author’s dozen years of teaching such courses as well as reputed colleagues that have taught such courses for over 25 years in Research-I universities, the remaining observations in this section of the paper are made. These courses, especially the probability parts, often tend to be perceived (by students especially) as dry and far removed from engineering because the material is rather abstract and the only skill needed to be successful is a strong foundation in mathematics.

However, the lack of motivation is not the only issue. The students typically do not have the right background either to get a full appreciation of the materials taught in these courses. This is

Gautam, N. (2009, June), Teaching Courses On Probability And Statistics For Engineers: Classical Topics In The Modern Technological Era Paper presented at 2009 Annual Conference & Exposition, Austin, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--4578

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2009 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015