Online Simulations for the Demonstrations of Proper Experimental Design and Data Analysis

Wednesday, November 10, 2010: 4:09 PM
254 A Room (Salt Palace Convention Center)
Anthony Butterfield, Chemical Engineering, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, UT

Undergraduate instruction in experimental design and data analysis is often left to elective courses or is given as a fraction of lab courses. Furthermore, some engineering students find concepts of statistics difficult to grasp when these concepts are divorced from hands-on experiments. However, real world experiments can be time consuming and costly, and with such limitations a thorough demonstration of statistical concepts in a classroom setting is problematic.

To address these issues and promote efficient and statistically sound experimental design throughout our department, a system of online experiment simulations and associated demonstrations in experimental design and data analysis has been developed. This online curriculum was constructed using a combination of Javascript and php coding languages and may be accessible by students in every course throughout the department. Graphical interfaces, and visual displays of data and statistical plots are emphasized in order to help student develop greater insight into and comfort with the topic. Simulations of experiments are geared towards the experience of a Chemical Engineer, in order to address student's concern that their training in statistics felt as though it had little bearing on real world problems. Topics covered include basic statistics, errors in physical measurements, probability distributions, hypothesis testing, error propagation, and factorial experimental design.

These web tools allow students to develop an insight and intuition into statistically sound methods and results, and at minimal investment of student's time and department resources. Students using these online tools report significantly more satisfaction with their training, and confidence in their abilities to properly apply statistics to chemical engineering problems.

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See more of this Session: Effective Use of Simulation and Numerical Methods in Various Courses
See more of this Group/Topical: Education