The effectiveness of computer-based simulations for numerical methods in engineering

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Problem-solving and critical thinking are critical skills that engineers need to develop to be competitive and meet the requirements of the future job market. The use of Active Learning (AL) strategies allows instructors to develop these skills in the students while completing the academic program contents. The purpose of this study is to design and implement AL self-regulated activities developed in Virtual Learning environments and supported by computer simulations for the instruction of numerical methods. Through the use of a real-life engineering problem, in this case, the analysis of a vehicle suspension system, the simulation-based activity provided an environment for the students to analyze the effect of the parameters of numerical methods used to solve a set of Ordinary Differential Equations (ODE). Students compared the solution obtained with numerical methods of different order and different levels of accuracy, both qualitatively and quantitatively. A control group and an experimental group were used to compare and assess the impact of the proposed learning strategy on the instruction of numerical methods. Students who participated in these activities showed a more profound comprehension and obtained higher grades. Through the use of technological tools for guided activities, students acquired and practiced varied technical concepts, compared different solutions, and analyzed how numerical methods could be used to solve complex engineering problems. In addition, the students showed improved engagement, satisfaction, and knowledge retention. Although the main objective of the proposed activity is for the students to acquire a particular competency (i.e., solution of ODE), the development of these kinds of activities (i.e., based on a technological platform) provides the additional advantage of training the students in a technical environment. This depends on the selection of the technological platform where the activity is designed; in this case, Matlab/Simulink, a software widely used in both industrial and academic settings, introduced the students to a real-world technological tool.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)833-846
Number of pages14
JournalInternational Journal on Interactive Design and Manufacturing
Volume14
Issue number3
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sep 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Modelling and Simulation
  • Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering

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