American Society for Engineering Education
American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition
Many students in our calculus-based introductory physics courses plan to pursue careers in high technology industries. The laboratory curriculum entitled Mechanics, Inc. is designed to resemble the typical work environment of an R&D consulting firm. Upon entering, students begin a series of training activities focused on applications of physics topics to situations of interest to ersatz clients. These physics topics are chosen to complement the usual sequence encountered in the classroom. Inspiration for the instructional design of the curriculum comes from Modeling Instruction, a well-known approach disseminated to science teachers in workshops across the country, and from Cognitive Apprenticeship, which is less well known in physics pedagogy but widely used in language instruction and other areas. Students are coached and guided in the development of laboratory skills, application of physics concepts, and in the communication of laboratory work in a formal report. During the training activities, components of that formal laboratory report are added sequentially; the initial emphasis is on readable figures and captions. After several activities that each focus on another section of a conventional report, the final training activity brings all sections together in a full, formal laboratory report. With a few weeks remaining in the course, the students apply what they have learned in training activities to tasks needed by another ersatz client. These present somewhat ambiguous problems that students must first clarify. Their responses to the client’s challenges are presented in a formal laboratory report.
© 2015 American Society for Engineering Education
Ludwigsen, Daniel O., "The Introductory Physics Lab as a Consulting Firm" (2015). Physics Presentations And Conference Materials. 26.