Software Simulations for Problem-Based Aeronautical Engineering Education 975637
Problem-based learning is gaining popularity as a means of teaching students how to be independent learners and problem-solvers. These abilities make engineering graduates better prepared to become productive engineers. Many engineering curricula lack the flexibility to add sufficient coursework devoted to problem-based learning. A computer software package is described which provides a means of adding problem-based learning experiences to introductory aeronautical engineering courses without adversely impacting course content or student workload. The software provides students with a series of virtual laboratory experiments which cover nearly every important topic in a typical introductory aeronautical engineering course. Each virtual experiment challenges the student to apply aeronautical engineering theory to predict the outcome of the experiment. “Hot buttons” in the virtual lab provide links to an online textbook with full electronic search capabilities, so that the student can learn all necessary background and theory independently. Results of using this software in three semesters of an introductory aeronautics course at the United States Air Force Academy are described. In general, students who completed assigned virtual labs before class were found to be bettered prepared for classroom instruction. Assessment of long-term affects of these experiences on students' abilities as independent learners and problem solvers are ongoing.