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Work in Progress: Leveraging Inquiry-based Simulated Laboratory Exercises in a Virtual Classroom Environment

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2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access


Virtual Conference

Publication Date

July 26, 2021

Start Date

July 26, 2021

End Date

July 19, 2022

Conference Session

Virtual Laboratories: Experimentation and Laboratory-oriented Studies

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Experimentation and Laboratory-Oriented Studies

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Paper Authors


Parisa Shokouhi Pennsylvania State University

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Dr. Shokouhi is an Associate Professor of Engineering Science and Mechanics.

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Sarah E. Zappe Pennsylvania State University

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Dr. Sarah Zappe is Research Professor and Director of Assessment and Instructional Support in the Leonhard Center for the Enhancement of Engineering Education at Penn State. She holds a doctoral degree in educational psychology emphasizing applied measurement and testing. In her position, Sarah is responsible for developing instructional support programs for faculty, providing evaluation support for educational proposals and projects, and working with faculty to publish educational research. Her research interests primarily involve creativity, innovation, and entrepreneurship education.

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“Nondestructive Evaluation of Flaws” is a senior-level technical elective cross-listed by two departments, which draws in students from diverse engineering and scientific disciplines such as Engineering Science and Mechanics, Materials Science, Industrial, Biomedical and Mechanical Engineering. This course is a survey of nondestructive evaluation (NDE) techniques used in various industries for process control, flaw diagnosis and failure prognosis. Specifically, the course provides the theoretical foundation, operating principles and applications of seven common NDE methods: liquid penetrant testing (PT), magnetic particle inspection (MT), Eddy current (ET), active thermography (TT), radiography (RT) and ultrasonic testing (UT) and Acoustic Emission (AE). Teaching an all-around course in NDE to a diverse student body poses particular challenges. Each test method relies on distinct physical principles ranging from capillary action to wave physics, which are essential to the understanding of the test operation, data interpretation and potential applications. That would require students to master each test’s physics in a short period of time before moving on to the next test. Moreover, the class is highly heterogenous; the students have different background and preparations. Students with less prior knowledge have difficulty grasping the physics within the short timeframe each method is discussed. In order to enhance student learning especially in understanding the physical principles behind various NDE techniques and connect those principles to each technique’s operation, for three course modules (ET, RT and UT) passive lectures are replaced or supplemented by virtual laboratory exercises. The virtual laboratories are designed using a professional numerical modeling software (CIVA). The software provides realistic visuals to create an interactive virtual testing environment, where the students can simulate and analyze different test scenarios. Each module (ET, RT or UT) includes two in-class group activities. The first involves simulating the sensor response for different relevant test parameters such as size, frequency and power. In the second exercise, the student groups are asked to first predict the outcome of a specific testing scenario i.e., sensor response in the presence of a particular flaw. Then, they use the software to create a test specimen, assign relevant material properties, design the sensor, place a flaw of desired dimensions and study the effect of flaw on the sensor response interactively (for example by moving the sensor toward the flaw and away from it). Finally, the students will be asked to reflect on their study results in light of their initial predictions. The classroom is partially flipped and virtual laboratory exercises are used in lieu of a subset of lectures. In order to assess the impact of the virtual laboratory modules, a pre-survey was conducted and a post-survey is planned for administration later in the Fall 2020 semester. The pre-survey evaluated student’s interest in NDT and their familiarity with different methods. The post-survey will evaluate the knowledge of the students on ET, RT and UT and compare the results with the previous offering of the class, where no virtual laboratory was implemented. In addition, students will be asked to provide their overall satisfaction with modules that include virtual laboratory activities compared to those without. Finally, they will be asked to evaluate their interest in NDT and its relevance to their future career. The feedback will be used to improve the instructional material and exercises for future offerings of this class. This method will be further developed over the next few offerings of the class.

Shokouhi, P., & Zappe, S. E. (2021, July), Work in Progress: Leveraging Inquiry-based Simulated Laboratory Exercises in a Virtual Classroom Environment Paper presented at 2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual Conference.

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