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The Challenges Of An Integrated Laboratory Course Sequence

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2001 Annual Conference


Albuquerque, New Mexico

Publication Date

June 24, 2001

Start Date

June 24, 2001

End Date

June 27, 2001



Page Count


Page Numbers

6.984.1 - 6.984.8



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Paper Authors

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Patrick Tebbe

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Bijan Sepahpour

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

Session: 1566

The Challenges of an Integrated Laboratory Course Sequence

Patrick A. Tebbe and Bijan Sepahpour The College of New Jersey

INTRODUCTION The engineering program at The College of New Jersey (TCNJ) offers undergraduate degrees in engineering science with specialties in one of the areas of Mechanical, Electrical, or Computer Engineering and Engineering Management. The main goal of the department is to well prepare the graduates for entry-level positions in industry and/or to continue graduate studies. The mission statement of the department reflects on all necessary ingredients for achieving this goal. One of the eight cylinders of the engine required for supplying the means to arrive at the department’s main goal is: “develop the student’s ability to design and conduct experiments, analyze and interpret data, and communicate the results effectively.” In 1998, the faculty in the mechanical specialty of the program decided to separate the laboratory components of the specialty courses from the lecture content. Prior to this most experiments were conducted as part of normal lecture courses. There were several contributing factors to the making of this decision. The final objective is to improve on and better execute the laboratory component of the program. Among the considered factors, the injection of elements to enhance “the ability to design experiments” was both most appealing and challenging. This would seem “structurally” more probable to create and execute in a stand-alone course(s) rather than an added factor in a mixed lecture-lab course. Increased chances of obtaining both more advanced hardware and software through institutional and outside national resources seemed to serve as another incentive. Last, but certainly not the least was the influence of ABET Criteria 2000. Higher visibility and better means of demonstrating “where the beef is” for satisfying the experimentation requirements of the criteria seemed more probable in the separated mode. The authors/coordinators of the four newly born “1-credit” laboratory courses, will discuss the logistical problems they have faced in this process. They will also share “the first order” solutions they have generated to address most (but not all) of these difficulties.

THE COURSE SEQUENCE Traditionally, laboratories are employed in such a manner that the students conduct the corresponding experiments of certain theories one or two semesters after they have had exposure to them. In this way, experiments related to several subjects may be “packaged” in a single laboratory course. The major advantages in this approach are presumably the elimination of many synchronizing activities required in a mixed lecture-lab course and greater development of measurement theory. However, the main disadvantage is the loss of “the two-way street” through which theory and experimentation simultaneously enrich understanding by supporting each other. Recognizing this dilemma, we have tried to bring the best of the two worlds together and minimize the loss in the previous model.

Proceedings of the 2001 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright © 2001, American Society for Engineering Education

Tebbe, P., & Sepahpour, B. (2001, June), The Challenges Of An Integrated Laboratory Course Sequence Paper presented at 2001 Annual Conference, Albuquerque, New Mexico. 10.18260/1-2--8991

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