skip to main content


Title: Work-in-Progress: Computer Simulations to Deliver Inquiry-Based Laboratory Activities in Mechanics
Our previous work demonstrated that the use of inquiry-based laboratory activities (IBLAs) have helped students develop better understanding of core concepts in mechanics. IBLAs are constructed around brief hands-on-experiments designed so that students can confront common misconceptions. In a predict-observe-explain sequence, these activities prompt students to make sense of a phenomenon as they work collaboratively through a guided worksheet. However, these physical experiments present logistical challenges for many instructors, such as those who teach large classes or those confined to remote instruction due to the COVID 19 pandemic. In this work-in-progress paper, we describe the development of computer simulations for a set of IBLAs in mechanics. These web-based virtual IBLAs contain simulations built with an open-source JavaScript physics engine that has been customized to achieve the accuracy needed. They afford the same pedagogical structure but allow students to observe the salient phenomena on a computer screen, reducing the constraints and limitations for an instructor to deliver them. Students can rapidly adjust input parameters, render the physics engine in slow-motion speeds, and graph real-time parameters from the simulation. Free access to the IBLAs, including simulations, handouts and instructions is available to instructors through the Concept Warehouse. In this we report how we rendered a set of proven IBLAs, including the Spool IBLA, Rolling Cylinders IBLA and Pendulum IBLA into a virtual laboratory environment. We describe student responses to different renderings including video only, simulation only, and combined video and simulation.  more » « less
Award ID(s):
2135190
NSF-PAR ID:
10283839
Author(s) / Creator(s):
; ; ;
Date Published:
Journal Name:
ASEE annual conference exposition
ISSN:
2153-5965
Format(s):
Medium: X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
More Like this
  1. 1. Description of the objectives and motivation for the contribution to ECE education The demand for wireless data transmission capacity is increasing rapidly and this growth is expected to continue due to ongoing prevalence of cellular phones and new and emerging bandwidth-intensive applications that encompass high-definition video, unmanned aerial systems (UAS), intelligent transportation systems (ITS) including autonomous vehicles, and others. Meanwhile, vital military and public safety applications also depend on access to the radio frequency spectrum. To meet these demands, the US federal government is beginning to move from the proven but inefficient model of exclusive frequency assignments to a more-efficient, shared-spectrum approach in some bands of the radio frequency spectrum. A STEM workforce that understands the radio frequency spectrum and applications that use the spectrum is needed to further increase spectrum efficiency and cost-effectiveness of wireless systems over the next several decades to meet anticipated and unanticipated increases in wireless data capacity. 2. Relevant background including literature search examples if appropriate CISCO Systems’ annual survey indicates continued strong growth in demand for wireless data capacity. Meanwhile, undergraduate electrical and computer engineering courses in communication systems, electromagnetics, and networks tend to emphasize mathematical and theoretical fundamentals and higher-layer protocols, with less focus on fundamental concepts that are more specific to radio frequency wireless systems, including the physical and media access control layers of wireless communication systems and networks. An efficient way is needed to introduce basic RF system and spectrum concepts to undergraduate engineering students in courses such as those mentioned above who are unable to, or had not planned to take a full course in radio frequency / microwave engineering or wireless systems and networks. We have developed a series of interactive online modules that introduce concepts fundamental to wireless communications, the radio frequency spectrum, and spectrum sharing, and seek to present these concepts in context. The modules include interactive, JavaScript-based simulation exercises intended to reinforce the concepts that are presented in the modules through narrated slide presentations, text, and external links. Additional modules in development will introduce advanced undergraduate and graduate students and STEM professionals to configuration and programming of adaptive frequency-agile radios and spectrum management systems that can operate efficiently in congested radio frequency environments. Simulation exercises developed for the advanced modules allow both manual and automatic control of simulated radio links in timed, game-like simulations, and some exercises will enable students to select from among multiple pre-coded controller strategies and optionally edit the code before running the timed simulation. Additionally, we have developed infrastructure for running remote laboratory experiments that can also be embedded within the online modules, including a web-based user interface, an experiment management framework, and software defined radio (SDR) application software that runs in a wireless testbed initially developed for research. Although these experiments rely on limited hardware resources and introduce additional logistical considerations, they provide additional realism that may further challenge and motivate students. 3. Description of any assessment methods used to evaluate the effectiveness of the contribution, Each set of modules is preceded and followed by a survey. Each individual module is preceded by a quiz and followed by another quiz, with pre- and post-quiz questions drawn from the same pool. The pre-surveys allow students to opt in or out of having their survey and quiz results used anonymously in research. 4. Statement of results. The initial modules have been and are being used by three groups of students: (1) students in an undergraduate Introduction to Communication Systems course; (2) an interdisciplinary group of engineering students, including computer science students, who are participating in related undergraduate research project; and (3) students in a graduate-level communications course that includes both electrical and computer engineers. Analysis of results from the first group of students showed statistically significant increases from pre-quiz to post-quiz for each of four modules on fundamental wireless communication concepts. Results for the other students have not yet been analyzed, but also appear to show substantial pre-quiz to post-quiz increases in mean scores. 
    more » « less
  2. null (Ed.)
    Engineering instructors often use physical manipulatives such as foam beams, rolling cylinders, and large representations of axis systems to demonstrate mechanics concepts and help students visualize systems. Additional benefits are possible when manipulatives are in the hands of individual students or small teams of students who can explore concepts at their own pace and focus on their specific points of confusion. Online learning modalities require new strategies to promote spatial visualization and kinesthetic learning. Potential solutions include creating videos of the activities, using CAD models to demonstrate the principles, programming computer simulations, and providing hands-on manipulatives to students for at-home use. This Work-in-Progress paper discusses our experiences with this last strategy in statics courses two western community colleges and a western four-year university where we supplied students with their own hands-on kits. We have previously reported on the successful implementation of a hands-on statics kit consisting of 3D printed components and standard hardware. The kit was originally designed for use by teams of students during class to engage with topics such as vectors, moments, and rigid body equilibrium. With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and shift to online instruction, the first author developed a scaled down version of the kit for at-home use by individual students and modified the associated activity worksheets accordingly. For the community college courses, local students picked up their models at the campus bookstore. We also shipped some of the kits to students who were unable to come to campus, including some in other countries. Due to problems with printing and availability of materials, only 18 kits were available for the class of 34 students at the university implementation. Due to this circumstance, students were placed in teams and asked to work together virtually, one student showing the kit to the other student as they worked through the worksheet prompts. One community college instructor took this approach as well for a limited number of international students who did not receive their kits in a timely manner due to shipping problems. Two instructors assigned the hands-on kits as asynchronous learning activities in their respective online courses, with limited guidance on their use. The third used the kits primarily in synchronous online class meetings. We found that students’ reaction to the models varied by pilot site and presume that implementation differences contributed to this variation. In all cases, student feedback was less positive than it has been for face-to-face courses that used the models from which the take home kit was adapted. Our main conclusion is that implementation matters. Doing hands-on learning in an online course requires some fundamental rethinking about how the learning is structured and scaffolded. 
    more » « less
  3. Gonzalez, D. (Ed.)

    Today’s research on human-robot teaming requires the ability to test artificial intelligence (AI) algorithms for perception and decision-making in complex real-world environments. Field experiments, also referred to as experiments “in the wild,” do not provide the level of detailed ground truth necessary for thorough performance comparisons and validation. Experiments on pre-recorded real-world data sets are also significantly limited in their usefulness because they do not allow researchers to test the effectiveness of active robot perception and control or decision strategies in the loop. Additionally, research on large human-robot teams requires tests and experiments that are too costly even for the industry and may result in considerable time losses when experiments go awry. The novel Real-Time Human Autonomous Systems Collaborations (RealTHASC) facility at Cornell University interfaces real and virtual robots and humans with photorealistic simulated environments by implementing new concepts for the seamless integration of wearable sensors, motion capture, physics-based simulations, robot hardware and virtual reality (VR). The result is an extended reality (XR) testbed by which real robots and humans in the laboratory are able to experience virtual worlds, inclusive of virtual agents, through real-time visual feedback and interaction. VR body tracking by DeepMotion is employed in conjunction with the OptiTrack motion capture system to transfer every human subject and robot in the real physical laboratory space into a synthetic virtual environment, thereby constructing corresponding human/robot avatars that not only mimic the behaviors of the real agents but also experience the virtual world through virtual sensors and transmit the sensor data back to the real human/robot agent, all in real time. New cross-domain synthetic environments are created in RealTHASC using Unreal Engine™, bridging the simulation-to-reality gap and allowing for the inclusion of underwater/ground/aerial autonomous vehicles, each equipped with a multi-modal sensor suite. The experimental capabilities offered by RealTHASC are demonstrated through three case studies showcasing mixed real/virtual human/robot interactions in diverse domains, leveraging and complementing the benefits of experimentation in simulation and in the real world.

     
    more » « less
  4. Frank, B. W. ; Jones, D. L. ; and Ryan, Q. X. (Ed.)
    In this paper, we analyze video recordings of students working on tutorials in Zoom breakout rooms in an upper-division quantum mechanics course. We investigate group behaviors in this virtual environment, including the effects of instructor presence. To this end, we modify the Color Frames coding scheme introduced by Scherr to suit the virtual nature of the interactions. By broadening the frames and allowing for multiple overlapping frames, we are able to describe some group behaviors not otherwise captured. For example, in some instances, students take on an authoritative role in the group, and in other instances, groups engage in overtly casual behavior while nonetheless having on-topic discussions. We observe significant variation in how much time each group spends in each frame, but find that all groups spend some time in all frames. Instructors can be present without dominating or eliminating discussion between students, and their presence need not significantly impact the time students spent in an "informal/friendly'' frame. However, instructor presence significantly reduces time spent working individually. Our findings will support additional research into the dynamics of student discussions during tutorials and aid ongoing development of online tutorials that can, e.g., be assigned for use outside of class. 
    more » « less
  5. Following the outbreak of COVID-19, conducting lab classes emerged as a major challenge. Just switching to remote only mode with virtual experiments and simulations was very limiting for both the instructors and the students. At an historically black university, an approach that integrated the hands-on experiments enriched by simulation resources with virtual follow up was adopted. The key advantages of this approach were access to equipment, flexibility on when and how experiments are conducted, and the curiosity driven engagement fostered. Though this approach lacks the in-person one-on-one engagement and use of specialized equipment in the lab, it established a different and, in some aspect, deeper student engagement. Development of troubleshooting skills and the confidence in setting experiments are a few key observations. In this study, we present a comparison of the efficacy of such remote integrated modes of conducting Physics experiments with in-person in laboratory teaching of undergraduate students, who are enrolled in the Introduction to Physics Experiment course participated at Morgan State University. We conclude that these two approaches are complementary to one another. 
    more » « less