June 18, 2006
June 18, 2006
June 21, 2006
Division Experimentation & Lab-Oriented Studies
11.1328.1 - 11.1328.10
The role of numerical simulation in laboratory uncertainty assessment at the introductory engineering physics level
The teaching of laboratory uncertainty assessment via numerical simulation is used to supplement the pedagogy of discovery based learning at the introductory engineering level. The typical laboratory uncertainty assessment methods such as comparing the result to a directly measured quantity and assessing error bars on graph were extended to include the use of numerical simulation in more complex situations. In this paper, laboratory exercises in force- distance relationship, equipotential lines, RLC circuit with hysteresis loss, radiation, optics and null measurement were presented. Null measurement where the system approach to null is non- linear (the measured quantity is affected by the off-null condition) was also presented. The laboratory setups were analyzed using numerical stimulation in analogy to real situations where there are no closed form mathematical expressions. The effects on the numerical simulation given a range of input parameter changes were used to assess the laboratory exercise uncertainties. Besides the applicability to realistic situations in a workplace, the numerical simulation also has an advantage of setting the student’s attitude to understand the difficulties of the associated inverse problems, which usually are the problems that demand attention in a workplace. The disadvantage of the time-consuming repetitious computational tasks in the numerical simulation could be offset with well-designed computer techniques, using spreadsheets or introductory Visual Basic. The pedagogy of discovery base learning with this numerical simulation feature was shown to have a positive effect through the students' questions as well as grade improvement.
One of the most important functions of an introductory engineering physics course is to provide a solid foundation for advancement into higher level courses in the various engineering disciplines. In fact, an engineering physics program, together with courses, could be viewed as a universal donor 1. Fundamental concepts are usually covered in introductory engineering physics course. However, it was reported in a recent 2005 case study that some 10 to 15% of senior engineering students still have confusion about the difference of energy and temperature 2. The finding is consistent with an earlier 2000 report that some students identify movement of electricity and energy transfer as material flows, completely missing the concepts of random diffusion and collision3. The concept of randomness is usually first taught as an uncertainty assessment in a laboratory setting. The typical laboratory uncertainty assessment methods such as comparing the result to a directly measured quantity (using a formula to express the deviation as percent difference) and assessing error bars on graph are usually taught in the first semester. Some aspects of uncertainty or error come from randomness. Randomness is more than a formula. Thus, sometimes a formula is not sufficient. We have extended these typical assessment methods to include the use of numerical simulation in more complex situations.
In this paper, laboratory exercises in force-distance relationship, equipotential lines, hystersis loss, radiation, optics and null measurement are presented. Null measurement where the system approach to null is non-linear (the measured quantity is affected by the off-null condition) is also
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