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Virtual Labs In The Engineering Curriculum

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2004 Annual Conference


Salt Lake City, Utah

Publication Date

June 20, 2004

Start Date

June 20, 2004

End Date

June 23, 2004



Conference Session

Virtual Instrumentation

Page Count


Page Numbers

9.1403.1 - 9.1403.12



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Paper Authors

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David McStravick

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Marcia O'Malley

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

Session # 3559

Virtual Labs in the Engineering Curriculum

D. M. McStravick and M. K. O’Malley

Both of Rice University

Abstract Computer simulations have been developed for use as student exercises to illustrate concepts required for various engineering courses. These simulations or Virtual Labs are highly graphical and interactive to help undergraduate students understand basic concepts by graphically solving problems and by visualization of real-time parametric changes. These Virtual Labs (or VL’s) can be used productively in conjunction with existing laboratory experiments as pre-lab exercises, but the more important benefit is realized in cases of concepts that have no experimental support and in courses that traditionally do not have an associated laboratory course. These VL’s are generated in the software package LabVIEW, which offers graphical interfaces for the student and can be formatted as standalone files, which the students can download and access at their convenience, without the need for LabVIEW software. Currently five VL’s have been generated and several have been evaluated by students in appropriate classes.

Introduction Computer-based virtual instrument software is used extensively in upper-level mechanical engineering labs at Rice University. The students interface with the experiment through virtual instruments on a computer screen. LabVIEW software running on the computer performs data acquisition, data storage, graphic presentation, and in some cases controls system parameters1. Additionally, analysis virtual instruments were developed using LabVIEW software to facilitate data analysis in certain experiments that required extensive data reduction for the desired final results2. In certain experiments, the students had difficulty in understanding the experimental results and virtual labs were developed to be used as pre-labs for greater understanding in the actual experiment. These virtual labs showed promise in helping student understanding of the actual labs and so a proposal was initiated to develop multiple virtual labs that would enhance student learning not only in the lab setting, but also, in non lab environments: as homework/class assignments in lecture courses as well. This proposal was accepted and the development of these virtual labs is being conducted under a grant from Rice University’s Brown School of Engineering Teaching Grants Program.

Need - Visual Learners The value of demonstration and laboratory experience has long been recognized in education. The engineering curriculum relies heavily on laboratory programs to provide the student with a real life experience to augment lectures. These classes provide a necessary “hands on” experience

Proceedings of the 2004 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright © 2004, American Society for Engineering Education

McStravick, D., & O'Malley, M. (2004, June), Virtual Labs In The Engineering Curriculum Paper presented at 2004 Annual Conference, Salt Lake City, Utah. 10.18260/1-2--12908

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