1. Jason Morphew
  2. Assistant Professor
  3. Infusing Design in a Physics course for Engineers
  4. Purdue University
  1. Carina Rebello
  2. Professor
  3. Infusing Design in a Physics course for Engineers
  4. Purdue University
  1. Sanjay Rebello
  2. Professor
  3. Infusing Design in a Physics course for Engineers
  4. Purdue University
Public Discussion

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  • Icon for: Jason Morphew

    Jason Morphew

    Lead Presenter
    Assistant Professor
    May 9, 2022 | 09:09 p.m.

    Hello. I am Jason Morphew, an assistant professor in the School of Engineering Education at Purdue University. I am excited to be presenting a project with my collaborators Sanjay Rebello and Carina Rebello in the department of Physics and Astronomy at Purdue. This innovative project is aimed at increasing problem-solving skills, transfer, and metacognition in introductory physics labs for engineering and physics majors. We have reimagined the labs to integrate scientific inquiry with engineering design and computational thinking and programming. Preliminary findings indicate that students are finding opportunities for transfer knowledge and skills between their physics, engineering, and computer science courses. In addition, students appreciate the grounding of the labs within a larger design context as they are able to see how the physics concepts are applied in authentic problems. We look forward to hearing your feedback on the design of the labs, hearing more ways to measure learning, transfer and metacognition, and listening to your ideas for expanding the use of integrated STEM within introductory courses. We are particularly interested in connecting with others who are reconceptualizing introductory laboratories and working with integrated STEM contexts. 

  • Icon for: patrick honner

    patrick honner

    Facilitator
    Teacher
    May 10, 2022 | 05:08 p.m.

    This reminds me a lot of the work groups like COMAP and SIAM are doing to make real mathematical modeling a focus of mathematics instruction. I'm curious about these two 5-week long projects that are at the heart of the project: Would you mind giving a little detail about what those look like?

    And it sounds like the focus of your work is on students who have already self-selected as future engineers. Are there any thoughts about expanding the program so that all students get this kind of experience in STEM?

  • Icon for: Jason Morphew

    Jason Morphew

    Lead Presenter
    Assistant Professor
    May 10, 2022 | 07:57 p.m.

    Thanks for your comments Patrick.

    The first 5-week design project is to design an autonomous vehicle that would operate in a warehouse to drive a given route. The vehicle must obey speed limits and acceleration limits in various parts of the warehouse. This project is matched with the traditional kinematics labs, and students program the vehicles path in vPython. 

    The second 5-week project is to design a machine or process that can launch food packages to the island habitat of the Congolese River Gorilla. The constraints are that the gorillas can not be exposed to human contact, drones are not allowed as they may disturb the wildlife, and the solution must be carbon neutral. This project is paired with traditional energy and momentum labs.

    This project is aimed at first-year engineering students since we are interested in transfer between engineering and physics in addition to problem-solving and metacognition. However, we are interested in exploring expanding this program to other courses (pre-med, elementary education majors, etc.), contexts (2-year and 4-year colleges and K-12), and content areas. We would love to be in contact with anyone who is interested in implementing these integrated STEM labs in their classrooms.

     
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    patrick honner
  • Icon for: Alexander Rudolph

    Alexander Rudolph

    Facilitator
    Professor
    May 11, 2022 | 02:07 p.m.

    As a physics professor, I really appreciate your approach to using introductory physics labs to engage future engineering majors in connecting the basic physics concepts to design engineering projects. We also struggle to design labs that truly teach students to engage with the science of measurement, and making the lab more relevant to their future major clearly helps with that. I appreciate that you presented some of the evaluation results showing that the labs seem to be working as intended. Have you considered tracking the grades in future engineering students who both did and did not participate in your project to look for more concrete impact. Documenting such an impact would give you a very strong case to get further funding to make your approach standard at Purdue and could be used by other physics faculty to make similar changes in their own curriculum. Overall, great project!

     
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    patrick honner
  • Icon for: Jason Morphew

    Jason Morphew

    Lead Presenter
    Assistant Professor
    May 11, 2022 | 10:16 p.m.

    Thank you for the kind words Alexander. We have been interested in starting by looking at the impact on student perception, in identifying and documenting transfer, and in identifying the scaffolding and teaching assistant training needed to support an integrated curriculum. We have been collecting conceptual inventory data to look more specifically at student learning from the physics perspective, and looking at measuring engineering design skills from the engineering perspective. Unfortunately we were not able to implement a control curriculum, but will use previous semesters as a pseudo control condition to examine differences. 

  • Icon for: Rebecca Vieyra

    Rebecca Vieyra

    Facilitator
    Associate Director of Global Initiatives
    May 12, 2022 | 01:20 a.m.

    Thanks for this video! I think it's a really effective example of integration, where there are benefits for both disciplines (engineering and physics). 

    I'm curious to know about the design process. I am aware that getting experts / faculty to develop and then teach these kinds of integrated activities can be a challenge (not for lack of will, but because disciplines often embody different priorities, values, and sometimes even semantics). What was this experience like for the faculty involved in this project? Do you have any advice for other universities interested in starting an initiative like this?

  • Icon for: Jason Morphew

    Jason Morphew

    Lead Presenter
    Assistant Professor
    May 12, 2022 | 10:20 a.m.

    Thank you for your comments, Rebecca.

    We agree about the shared benefits both physics and engineering. One of our goals when designing the curriculum is to find ways to integrate the curriculum by modifying existing curricular materials. By approaching the change as an alignment, rather than a complete redesign we hope to increase buy-in by faculty. We also want to ensure that curricular decisions are made with physics instruction as the primary concern, then shape the curriculum to enhance the integration.

    In our context, the faculty responsible for the lab curriculum are my co-presenters, which made getting buy-in easier. I do think that an interdisciplinary team is needed for the development of the integrated activities. In our case, I was able to suggest modifications to the existing lab structure to enhance the design aspects, while my co-presenters were able to focus on identifying the ways to make connections between the theoretical physics concepts and the physical application. 

    In our context, graduate student TAs were responsible for the implementation in the lab sections. This is where we found the need for additional scaffolding. Most of the TAs had little or no experience with engineering design, so it was important to help them learn the differences between design and scientific inquiry which can be subtle. We have also found that there are some epistemological hurdles that arise for both TAs and students. The first may be obvious in hindsight, but the few (5-10%) of the students in the physics labs who were not engineering majors objected to the term engineering in connection to design. We have removed the word engineering from the student materials to ensure that the curriculum is more inclusive. The second hurdle, is that engineering majors and TAs sometimes only view the traditional aspects of the lab as "real physics". In this view, physics is only data collection and calculation-based problem-solving, and does not include computational modeling or application. We are currently working on ways to address this issue and would welcome any thoughts about this issue.

    I think that other universities who are interested in an integrated science initiative should think about starting small. Perhaps beginning with one semester long project. We have also found that it is important from a curriculum design perspective to have very concrete goals for desired learning outcomes. This helps to focus the curricular development and allows for better assessments.

     

  • Icon for: Rebecca Vieyra

    Rebecca Vieyra

    Facilitator
    Associate Director of Global Initiatives
    May 12, 2022 | 12:51 p.m.

    Thanks! I also really appreciate the attention to the learning assistants...that can make all the difference, for sure!

  • Small default profile

    Jose Mestre

    Higher Ed Faculty
    May 12, 2022 | 11:41 a.m.

    As a STEM researcher who has studied transfer of learning for many years, I know how difficult it is to design curricular interventions to facilitate students' trasfer of knowledge across courses and contexts. The approach demonstrated here has some promising features. First it mimics workplace demands where STEM workers have to work in groups/teams and bring to bear multiple knowledge and perpsectives to solve innovative problems. Second it is being implemented in an open-ended, design context that does not "hold students' hands" throughout the activities. And third, it is an extended approach throughout a semester, leaving time for students to think about the process and assimilate the approach (I suspect they are not that good at it during the first few labs but that their performance grows rapidly near the end of the semester).

  • Icon for: Jason Morphew

    Jason Morphew

    Lead Presenter
    Assistant Professor
    May 12, 2022 | 04:03 p.m.

    I appreciate your comments, Jose. We have not looked at the data longitudinally, only cross-sectionally at this point. I think that you are probably correct about the non-linear development of their skills.

    Another interesting feature that we have not explored with our data, is that there is a difference between the students in the Fall and Spring semesters. In the Fall, the students are enrolled in the first introduction to engineering course which does not introduce design until half-way through the semester. For these students, they actually get introduced to design first in the physics course. In the Spring, all the engineering students have completed a design project in the introduction to engineering course they took in the Fall. There are likely some very interesting differences between these two cohorts of students.

  • Small default profile

    Jose Mestre

    Higher Ed Faculty
    May 12, 2022 | 11:41 a.m.

    As a STEM researcher who has studied transfer of learning for many years, I know how difficult it is to design curricular interventions to facilitate students' trasfer of knowledge across courses and contexts. The approach demonstrated here has some promising features. First it mimics workplace demands where STEM workers have to work in groups/teams and bring to bear multiple knowledge and perpsectives to solve innovative problems. Second it is being implemented in an open-ended, design context that does not "hold students' hands" throughout the activities. And third, it is an extended approach throughout a semester, leaving time for students to think about the process and assimilate the approach (I suspect they are not that good at it during the first few labs but that their performance grows rapidly near the end of the semester).

  • Icon for: Rebecca Vieyra

    Rebecca Vieyra

    Facilitator
    Associate Director of Global Initiatives
    May 15, 2022 | 08:15 a.m.

    As a final note, I want to share that it might be fruitful to get in touch with Genaro Zavala, who is doing some similar work (integrating physics, engineering, and CS through co-taught courses) at the Tecnológico de Monterrey. I just spent the past two weeks with him at a conference in France, and I think there might be great opportunities for you to exchange your successes and struggles! https://research.tec.mx/vivo-tec/display/PID_77...

  • Icon for: Jason Morphew

    Jason Morphew

    Lead Presenter
    Assistant Professor
    May 15, 2022 | 05:20 p.m.

    Thank you for the contact Rebecca. I will send Genaro an email.

  • May 15, 2022 | 10:14 p.m.

    Hi Jason!

    This sounds exciting and I'm glad you're tackling this important problem (which reminds me of the inert knowledge problem, identified by Whitehead, 1929). I was struck near the end of your video when you said that you explicitly asked students to make connections. Can you let me know how you devised these questions? Did all questions prompt students to make the connections you were hoping they would make?

    Thanks!

  • Icon for: Jason Morphew

    Jason Morphew

    Lead Presenter
    Assistant Professor
    May 16, 2022 | 09:41 a.m.

    Thanks Michelle. I will look up Whitehead's work as it sounds useful for us to be aware of. Our integrated design projects covered 5 weeks of the course. The transfer stimulating questions differed based on the lab, however they tended to ask students to consider an aspect of the project that differed from the majority of the lab context for that week. 

    The first and last labs of the 5-weeks were primarily focused on the design of a solution to the challenge (autonomous vehicle, method for delivering food to island gorillas, mars lander, etc). These lab days were focused on design, with a small scientific inquiry activity. At the end of the first lab in the sequence, we ask the students to brainstorm the physics principles they think they will need to use in the design. In the last lab in the sequence, we ask the students to include a description of the physics principles in their design.

    The other 3-weeks were primarily focused on scientific inquiry (i.e., the traditional physics lab experience) and computational modeling (programming a simulation). At the end of these labs, we asked students in teams to discuss in their teams two questions. 1) What aspects of the design relate to the inquiry/programming portion of the lab, and 2) How does the results of today's lab impact your design (i.e., are changes needed, new ideas found, etc.). We had the teams audio record their discussions rather than having them write a summary on paper to try and capture (and stimulate) a rich discussion rather than a conceptual shallow list.

    At this point, we have looked at the audio (and had in person observations) for a set of teams (case studies) to see if the deep transfer we were hoping for was evident, and to identify the portions of the lab where the transfer occurred. We found that it was these questions that explicitly ask students to connect the different parts of the lab, where transfer occurred. We also found a pattern of surface level connections at the beginning of the project to deeper connections in the final lab. We have a paper coming out soon with the results of the case studies. 

    Kaufman-Ortiz, K., Morphew, J. W., Rebello, N. S., & Rebello, C. M. (in press). Integrating engineering design in physics: Case study of the impact of design problems on transfer.

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