The Future of Education

Edition 13

Accepted Abstracts

Living with the Lab: Application-focused Education for Engineering and the Physical Sciences

David Hall, Louisiana Tech University College of Engineering and Science Mechanical Engineering Program (United States)


Living with the Lab is an educational approach that boosts experiential learning through student ownership of inexpensive laboratory equipment. First-year engineering students at Louisiana Tech University purchase a robotics kit along with a collection of tools, software and supplies to provide a platform for laboratory and design projects. Student ownership of laboratory equipment expands the scope and complexity of projects that can be undertaken with large groups and provides a mechanism for building the knowledge, skills and spirit that lead to innovation.

Our first-year experience includes three courses taught in a year-long sequence. These courses are taken by all engineering majors, involving over 600 students and 12 faculty members each year. The courses include fundamentals (circuits, linear regression, conservation of energy, material balance, statics, engineering economics), a heavy project focus, technical enabling skills (software, measurement and control, prototyping), non-technical enabling skills (communication, teamwork, creative design strategies), and broadening activities (professional society meetings, global issues, service). The first-year experience culminates in the open-ended design of a smart product conceived and prototyped by student teams and presented to panels of judges at the Design Expo.

The availability and ease of use of student-owned learning platforms provides important alternatives to virtual learning approaches. Students enjoy leaning by doing. This paper describes how our student-owned approach has produced a large and sustainable boost in hands-on learning with minimal increases in faculty workload. Our pedagogy, learning objectives, projects, and course materials will be presented along with our experiences in implementing kit-based approaches for high school level physical science courses. 

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