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A computer assisted engineering laboratory programme: a pilot scheme in fluid mechanics

Laws, EM 1998, A computer assisted engineering laboratory programme: a pilot scheme in fluid mechanics , Project Report, University of Salford. (Unpublished)

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Abstract

The project was concerned with the development of a set of computer based presentations giving the bakground, relevant theory and operating instructions for laboratory exercises in Fluid Mechanics in the School of Aeronautical and Mechanical Engineering, (now Aeronautical, Civil and Mechanical Engineering). A number of presentations were generated, (with embedded sound), each tailored to a particular experiment undertaken by level 0, 1 and 2 students in Fluid Mechanics. The intention was to enable students to be able to work at their own pace and to maximise their use of laboratory time. Using the materials prepared each group of students was able to start at the same time rather then in the conventional laboratory session where some groups have to wait until the lecturer can explain to them what to do. In the initial pilot the package used for the presentation material was ASTOUND 5. Though the pilot was broadly successful a number of problems were encountered which restricted the usefulness of the materials. In particular difficulty with achieving good sound quality was experienced and also difficulties with ensuring that the equations involved in the theory were compatible with the presentation text were found. Also after much work had been completed in ASTOUND a run-time error which occasionally caused presentations to halt and the package to lock-up was experienced. The cause of this error was never fully discovered. In the pilot material provision was made to enable students to loop backwards and forwards, using button bars within the presentations so that they could re-play particularly complex slides if they wished. Experience showed that students found this facility confusing and in subsequent developments this feature was removed. For the current academic year the material has been converted into Powerpoint and the button bar feature has been removed so that the presentations run straight through. It is however possible for students to halt the presentations at any stage whilst they clarify any points of uncertainty and then re-start when they are ready. The acquisition of Sound Forge has enabled the sound quality to be improved and the acquisition of Mathtype (the full equation editor) has enabled the difficulty encountered with the equations to be resolved easily. Conclusions Whilst preparation of the material has been time consuming and a steep IT learning curve was necessary the end results are considered to be of significant benefit to students studying Fluid Mechanics. Students do appreciate that they have the opportunity to replay the presentations and some return in their own time to do so. Students who for legitimate reasons miss a laboratory session have the opportunity to recover this easily. A greater degree of ‘quality control’ can be exercised since each student experiences the same introduction. Future Developments Whilst sound quality has been improved the embedded sound files are large so that an entire presentation may take up some 40MB of disk space which sometimes be a problem. Newer versions of Powerpoint (Powerpoint 2001) will play .MP3 files which typically take up only about 10% of the size of the corresponding .WAV file. A move to Powerpoint 2001 will be considered when appropriate. If the recording of sound and conversion to .MP3 format proves successful it would enable full lectures to be presented and recorded in the same way.

Item Type: Monograph (Project Report)
Themes: Subjects / Themes > Q Science > QA Mathematics > QA075 Electronic computers. Computer science
Subjects / Themes > L Education > LB Theory and practice of education > LB2300 Higher Education
Subjects / Themes > T Technology > TA Engineering (General). Civil engineering (General)
Built and Human Environment
Subjects outside of the University Themes
Schools: Colleges and Schools > College of Science & Technology
Colleges and Schools > College of Science & Technology
Colleges and Schools > College of Science & Technology > School of Computing, Science and Engineering
Publisher: University of Salford
Funders: Teaching and Learning Quality Improvement Scheme
Depositing User: Institutional Repository
Date Deposited: 17 Jun 2009 12:24
Last Modified: 20 Aug 2013 16:58
URI: http://usir.salford.ac.uk/id/eprint/2099

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