The 10 inaugural fellows have embarked on a six-week virtual lab development program this summer. Weekly workshops focus on evidence-based practices and activities to design, develop and implement virtual labs content.
Each fellow has received $10,000 in discretionary funding. College experts are teaching the workshops, supported by specialists from Purdue’s Envision Center, which will produce the virtual labs, and Center for Instructional Excellence (CIE). The new virtual labs, each of which will complement or replace one or two weeks of lab activities in a course, are expected to be deployed by the 2022-2023 academic year.
“We are excited about the continued growth and adoption of virtual labs within the Purdue Engineering curriculum,” said Michael D. Sangid, Elmer F. Bruhn Associate Professor of Aeronautics and Astronautics, Professor of Materials Engineering, and Dean’s Fellow for Virtual Labs. “The faculty are exploring endless possibilities for the delivery of educational material through virtual labs, which provide opportunities to transcend the constraints of physical labs.” Sangid initiated and is leading the virtual lab summer development program.
Sangid added: “Purdue already is at the cutting edge of virtual labs. We created the Faculty Fellows program to help us attain our vision of becoming the international leader in virtual labs for education, and are the first university to widely adopt and deploy virtual labs across its entire engineering curriculum.”
“Improvements and standardization of web-deployed 3D content and related production tools over the last decade have allowed the Envision Center to take educational and research content into much broader and accessible platforms,” said George Takahashi, lead visualization scientist at the Envision Center, who is leading development and production aspects of virtual labs. “These experiential learning platforms supplement or even enhance traditional labs through advanced visualization, computation, and intuitive interaction. Making this content available online enables students to learn at their own pace while alleviating logistical constraints with physical spaces and equipment.”
“Engaging with virtual labs allows students to develop skills, including procedural and visualization skills, critical thinking, and metacognition, at scale without restrictions on time, space and materials,” said Erica Lott, senior instructional developer for the CIE, who is leading educational aspects. “Faculty can use virtual labs in and outside of the classroom to convey tangible and abstract concepts, identify and address alternate conceptions, and work on discipline-specific skill development in order to provide students the opportunity to develop a deeper understanding of the content and its application.”
Summer 2021 Virtual Labs Faculty Fellows and Their Virtual Lab Plans
Associate Professor, Agricultural and Biological Engineering
Course: ME 531/ABE 591: Characterization of Particles, Powders and Compacts
The objective of the virtual lab is to use a Malvern Mastersizer 3000 particle size analyzer to measure the particle size and size distribution of sand particles. Students will be trained in equipment module selection, selection of appropriate measurement settings, sample preparation, and data download.
Senior Research Scientist/Continuing Lecturer, Mechanical Engineering
Course: ME 365: System, Measurement, and Control I
The virtual lab will provide a pre-lab exercise in using and properly connecting standard laboratory equipment, such as oscilloscopes and function generators. In addition, students will practice proper soldering, and apply their learnings by assembling optical encoders.
Professor, Biomedical Engineering and Biological Sciences
Course: BIOL 230: Biology of the Living Cell (serves Engineers)
Students will construct a synaptic connection between two neurons and perform experiments to manipulate and test synapse characteristics, simulating experiments that typically rely on expensive and technically challenging equipment. Detailed records of student actions will enable personalized assessments of strengths and weaknesses in a student’s mental model of the synapse.
Assistant Professor, Nuclear Engineering
Course: NUCL 305: Nuclear Engineering Undergraduate Lab II (Radiation Detection Lab)
In this virtual lab, students will detect and measure fast and thermal neutrons emitted from various radioactive sources. They will learn to set up and operate equipment commonly used to detect neutrons; measure and plot the count rate versus voltage curves for different neutron detectors; determine the optimal operating voltage from the curve plateau, and identify and observe differences in neutron spectra.
Professor, Civil Engineering and Environmental and Ecological Engineering
Course: CE/EEE 350: Introduction to Environmental and Ecological Engineering
The virtual lab for this course will synthesize large environmental datasets, GIS tools, and computation and animation, enabling students to visualize differences in ground-level air quality resulting from engineering controls. Students will gain a greater understanding of the basic steady-state Gaussian plume equation, and how to integrate their calculations into broader considerations of protecting human health and the environment.
Professor, Electrical and Computer Engineering
Course: ECE 604: Electromagnetic Field Theory
The virtual lab will demonstrate how different materials respond to electric fields and currents in different device geometries, showing the evolution from the simple dielectric polarization that can partially suppress the external field to weak screening in intrinsic semiconductors, to strong screening in heavily doped conducting materials, to the nearly “ideal conductor” regime of high-quality metals at low frequencies. Students will explore the electric field and potential energy landscape in a broad range of practically relevant systems.
Professor, Agricultural and Biological Engineering
Course: ABE 557: Transport Operations in Food and Biological Systems II
Students will operate virtual process equipment to continuously thermally sterilize/pasteurize a biological product. Students will gather data involving product heat transfer, momentum transfer, and reaction kinetics for the system and develop performance curves. This information will enable students to design a scaled process system to thermally sterilize biological liquid products while maximizing the retention of nutritional components.
Associate Professor, Materials Engineering
Course: MSE 235: Materials Structure & Properties Lab
X-ray diffraction (XRD) is a foundational technique for characterizing the structure of materials. The virtual lab will introduce sophomores to the acquisition, analysis and interpretation of XRD spectra. It will enable students to determine the crystal structure of materials and, based on those findings, identify unknown materials.
Ravi and Eleanor Talwar Rising Star Assistant Professor, Industrial Engineering
Course: IE 370: Manufacturing Processes I
Students will gain familiarity with milling tooling and computer numerical control (CNC) operation. The virtual lab will acquaint them with the physical labs (e.g., equipment, operation procedures, and safety steps) beforehand. This will boost efficiency in the physical labs, as well as enrich students’ experience in lab sessions through more interaction with tools/equipment and opportunities for longer, more complex experiments.
Charles Davidson Associate Professor, Chemical Engineering
Course: CHE 435: Reaction Kinetics of Lactase Catalyzed Hydroplosis to Produce Lactose-free Milk
Using the virtual lab, students will select an array of experimental conditions under which to measure enzyme conversion rate, plotted as product concentration versus time. The collective data generated will contain random statistical noise to enable students to perform statistical analysis, identify optimal operating parameters, and determine intrinsic enzyme kinetics suitable for designing an industrial-scale bioreactor.