EGR 312

Course Description:

Modern engineers must be able to interpret and visualize large amounts of data and apply new technologies and modern tools to solve engineering problems [1]. Computational Modeling in Engineering is therefore a core course for WFU engineering students. The driving goal for this course is to support students’ development in applying mathematical frameworks to solve challenging real-world problems with computing resources. Students learn to use computational problem solving tools from the engineer’s toolbox (programming, systems modelling, and numerical methods), while also considering the social, economic and environmental outcomes of decisions that are made using certain techniques. The course introduces students to basic numerical analysis methods that can be used to solve a variety of engineering problems. Topics include programming fundamentals, numerical error analysis, root finding, numerical linear algebra, optimization, curve fitting, numerical integration and differentiation, and systems of ordinary differential equations. The emphasis is on applications of these techniques using a mathematical software package such as MATLAB. Examples are drawn from transportation, structural, biomedical, electrical and computer engineering problems.

Student learning culminates in a final project that requires students to apply multiple topics to a single, complex system. We source project ideas from the SIMIODE community and modify them to align with the course content and our learning objectives. Students publish major homework assignments and their final project on a personal Google Site, providing them with a digital portfolio that they can showcase to future employers upon completing the course. An example of a completed course project can be viewed here and is briefly illustrated below. Students complete a series of Problem Solving Labs throughout the semester to learn how to apply numerical methods. They complete an initial and final version to give them time to learn and implement the methods in stages. The final version should be thoughtful and demonstrate effective and professional presentation and written communication skills.

Illustration of mathematical model

Similar to other core courses in the WFU Engineering program, this course is typically taught by multiple instructors that have different backgrounds and research interests. Other instructors that have taught this course include Dr. Lauren Lowman, Dr. Erin Henslee, and Dr. Melissa Kenny.

We have adapted the Problem Solving Studio (PSS) framework to the in-class activities implemented in this course. This framework was originally developed by the Biomedical Engineering Department at Georgia Tech [2] and was selected as a pedagogical model to integrate hands-on, complex problem-solving into the class. Under this framework, instructors facilitate student learning by creating an environment where students explore open-ended problems with variable levels of complexity and structure. Problem complexity and structure is tailored to students in real-time to strike a balance between boredom and frustration.

Finally, another critical component of this course is the weekly journal assignments, part of our “Educating the Whole Engineer” initiative. The journal topics are chosen to align with course content to introduce students to some interesting applications of what they are learning and encourage them to consider the complex societal, economic, and environmental impacts. Each prompt asks students to think about the journal topic through the lens of a particular character virtue, or potentially a combination of connected virtues. Students complete a written reflection followed by an in-class discussion to dig deeper into the character virtue(s) and how students perceive their importance in their future careers. The character virtues we have focused on include practical wisdom, intellectual humility, curiosity, creativity, and resilience.