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Using Student-faculty Collaborative Lectures to Teach High-level Hydrodynamics Concepts

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2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access


Virtual On line

Publication Date

June 22, 2020

Start Date

June 22, 2020

End Date

June 26, 2021

Conference Session

Ocean and Marine Engineering Division: Best Paper Technical Session

Tagged Division

Ocean and Marine

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Paper Authors


Laura K. Alford University of Michigan

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Laura K. Alford is a Lecturer and Research Investigator at the University of Michigan. She researches ways to use data-informed analysis of students' performance and perceptions of classroom environment to support DEI-based curricula improvements.

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James A. Coller University of Michigan Orcid 16x16

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James Coller is an engineering PhD Candidate at the University of Michigan focusing on the development of a novel multi-layer network approach to understanding design complexity in unmanned maritime vehicles. James also completed his BSE and MSE in Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering in 2017 and 2018 respectively and a MS in Robotics in 2019 at Michigan. He spent three years during his undergraduate education as an Instructional Assistant for a first year design-build-test-communicate engineering course. His research interests include autonomous robotics for both land and marine environments, ship design for the U.S. Navy, and improving equity and inclusion in engineering learning environments.

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Robin Fowler University of Michigan

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Robin Fowler is a Lecturer in the Program in Technical Communication and an Assistant Research Scientist in Engineering Education. She loves serving as a "coach" to engineering students as they engage in communicating their ideas to a range of stakeholders. She studies teamwork and team-based pedagogy, with a focus on inter-team communication and equity. She is one of the Faculty Innovators behind Tandem, a Center of Academic Innovation tool for supporting students working in teams.

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Introduction to engineering courses are increasingly team-based and project-based, with student teams designing and building real-world things. A popular project for intro courses are remotely operated vehicles (ROVs). Our intro to engineering class at a large midwestern research university uses ROVs because they are fundamentally interdisciplinary: a successful design includes elements of mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, computer science, naval architecture, marine engineering, and others. However, over the years we have observed that students continued to struggle with an early understanding of the forces and moments that impact how ROVs move through the water -- in other words, hydrodynamics. This lack of hydrodynamic understanding led them to design vehicles that were frustrating to drive because they were not hydrodynamically stable.

Our objective was to give students a high level understanding of basic hydrodynamics concepts (drag, stability, free body diagrams) such that their initial design choices are better informed. However, hydrodynamics is a complex and nuanced field of study, and teaching even high-level hydrodynamics concepts is challenging at best. A traditional lecture format teaching a formal introduction to hydrodynamics is not an option because our students do not yet have the background math and science knowledge necessary to understand the equations used in such an introduction. Using pure observation to convey high level concepts through experiential learning is ideal, and we do this in our lab sections, but students need to have some conceptual preparation before they do their lab-based learning. We were moving to an active learning format in which students work in their teams the majority of the class meeting time, and we decided to take advantage of the small groups to create interactive lectures on hydrodynamics to prepare students for their labs on hydrodynamics.

The interactive lectures on hydrodynamics start with a scaffolded google slides presentation. Students make a copy of the presentation and share it with their teammates. The presentation uses pictures and diagrams to create a type of experiential learning in lieu of something like a recirculating water channel. The instructor presents the slides, but there are many “incomplete” sections. Each incomplete section is a time for the student teams to discuss a picture, a concept, or a linked video demonstration; come to a consensus on their interpretations of the concepts; or complete a quick example of each concept. A key component of the interactive lecture is that no “solution” slides are provided. The teams must work through the calculations or reflections to gain a complete set of slides. This forces all students to engage in the lecture. Answers are shared out in the larger group and the instructor guides the discussion of the answers so as to ensure a common understanding of the concepts.

Our initial assessment shows a marked improvement in student understanding of the relevant hydrodynamics concepts necessary to designing an underwater vehicle. Students are able to converse more knowledgeably on hydrodynamics, and the ROV designs are more thoughtful and reasoned with respect to hydrodynamics. We believe that this approach of interactive lectures with small groups will be beneficial to others needing to teach high level concepts to students who do not yet have the background knowledge required for a formal teaching.

Alford, L. K., & Coller, J. A., & Fowler, R. (2020, June), Using Student-faculty Collaborative Lectures to Teach High-level Hydrodynamics Concepts Paper presented at 2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual On line . 10.18260/1-2--35473

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