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The Computer Modelling module delivered to the third year Level 8 Mechanical Engineering students in the Technological University Dublin is marked completely by continual assessment. It was developed using a problem based approach in that the theory of Computer Modelling methods is first explained but is then illustrated by demonstrating its application to the solution of real life problems. It is delivered in a traditional manner for the first six weeks in that the underlying principles and techniques of the finite difference method are covered in lectures and practical assignments are completed in the weekly computer laboratory classes. A problem based approach is adopted for the remaining six weeks of the semester. The students form their own groups of three and choose a unique project from a list supplied to them. The primary aim is to get the students to use numerical modelling to solve practical Engineering problems drawn from many different areas such as thermal processing in the food industry, heat transfer in engines, fluid modelling using ANSYS CFX and vibration analysis of structures and machines using Matlab.
The students are assigned a supervisor who meets them for at least 30 minutes each week to advise them and to monitor their progress. Each individual student is held to account for their contribution to the project effort. At the end of the semester, each group must create an A1 poster on their particular topic. They are given a standard template to follow and are advised on the structure including Literature Review, Methodologies, Results and Conclusions. The students are assessed on a ten minute presentation of their project to the module lecturers and their peers.
A shorter open session is also held in which the students must present their posters to other staff members and students and a prize is awarded to the best poster.
A survey was carried out on a group of 12 students who completed the module in 2013.It includes fourteen questions under the headings: Group Dynamics, Project Management, Poster Presentation and Personal View of the Project. In addition, a focus group with a small number of students who had completed the module in 2012 was conducted independently by the second author. The response of the survey was mainly positive with some negative comments. The comments of the focus were broadly in line with the more positive comments from the survey. The responses from the survey and focus groups are reported and discussed in the paper. The overall conclusion is that in general, the module is perceived to be enjoyable and challenging to complete and it equips the students with useful skills going forward.
Keane, G., Bowe, B. (2014), 'Assessing The Effectiveness of a Problem-Based Computer Modelling Module from the Student's Perspective' 8th International Technology, Education and Development Conference (INTED 2014), Valencia