(370c) Comparison of Web-Based and Lecture-Based Training Approaches to Educate High-School Students with Simulink Modeling Skills  

Huang, Z., Villanova University
Chen, K., Friends Select School
Geng, J., The Shipley School
Ling, S., Friends Select School
Wang, N., Friends Select School
Guo, M., Friends Select School
The math performance of US high-school students was ranked 38th out of out of 71 countries in the most Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) in 2015 [1]. In addition, a report from President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology shows that US would have one million deficits in technical workers in STEM fields if the STEM education is not improved in the next decade [2]. Therefore, it is urgent for US educators to create new approaches to attract more high-school students in the STEM fields, especially in math, which deals with challenging equation and symbolic operations. One way to address this issue is providing interesting modeling projects along with a powerful software that students can reply on for math operation. We did an “experiment” in Summer 2014 by introducing MATLAB Simulink to a local high-school junior student and providing him a project in which he developed Simulink Model for a microbial fuel cell (MFC). That project was quite successful, as the student presented his work in ASEE 2015 Mid-Atlantic Spring Conference [3]. The success of that project is based upon the following two factors: 1) MATLAB Simulink provides friendly user-interface so that students can build ordinary differential equation (ODE) models in Simulink like playing Lego; 2) the microbial fuel cell project deals with converting organic compounds in waste water to bioenergy.

On the basis of the feedback from the student, we further extended our previous projects to web-based training modules to attract and train more high-school students. The web-based training idea comes from another ASEE project of ours in which we prepared biology review and virtual experiment/training videos to enhance learning in biochemical engineering courses [4]. In the web-based training modules, two videos were developed to educate students step by step on how to build two ODE models, one for water tank and the other for the continuous flow stirred-tank reactor (CSTR) [5], in MATLAB Simulink. A video was developed to introduce students the background information and application examples of MFC. Students then constructed the ODE model of a microbial fuel cell, which consists of four differential equations, 9 constrained equations and 25 parameters. The instructor offered Skype meetings to help students in their projects. The developed training modules were also delivered to another group of students using the traditional lecture-based teaching approaches. Anonymous surveys were given to both web-based and lecture-based groups of students. Survey results showed that the web-based approach was effective in educating high-school students with Simulink modeling skills. On the other hand, the lecture-based group of students had slightly better performance than the web-based group.


[1] webpage: http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2017/02/15/u-s-students-internationally-math-science/

[2] President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology, Engage to excel: producing one million additional college graduates with degrees in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (Executive Office of the President of the United States, 2012).

[3] C. Ekaputra, Z. Huang. “Educating High School Students in Process Simulation and Control with a Simulink-Based Controller Design for Microbial Fuel Cells. ASEE Mid-Atlantic Spring 2015, Villanova, PA, 2015.

[4] J.J. Elmer, N.K. Comolli, W.J. Kelly, Z. Huang. “Preparation of Biology Review and Virtual Experiment/Training Videos to Enhance Learning in Biochemical Engineering Courses,” 2015 ASEE Annual Conference and Exposition, Seattle, Washington, June 2015.

[5] Dale E. Seborg, Thomas F. Edgar, Duncan A. Mellichamp, Francis J. Doyle, III. Process Dynamics and Control, Third Edition, Wiley, 2010.