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WPI faculty and staff win ASEE best paper awards for hands-on learning experiences

November 18, 2021

Education studies and innovations by WPI faculty and staff members involving hands-on learning experiences have been recognized with two best paper awards from the American Society for Engineering Education in the last several months.


Professor Sarah Wodin-Schwartz (ME), Kimberly LeChasseur (Morgan Teaching & Learning Center and Center for Project Based Learning), and Caitlin Keller (Academic Technology Center) received the Best Paper Award from the Mechanics Division at the ASEE Annual Conference in July 2021, for their study of “Hands On Learning in a Remote Introduction to Statics Classroom Environment.” The paper demonstrates that hands-on learning activities completed remotely in a sophomore-level Statics course were able to compensate for lowered student learning from online lectures during the pandemic. Kimberly reflects: “This is a great example of how systematic analysis can help us check our intuition in the classroom. Many might have hypothesized that asking students to do hands-on learning activities from home during the pandemic was too much – but it actually played an important role in helping students maintain a high level of engagement and learning in this case.”

Collaborative scholarship across disciplines was key to their award-winning study, Caitlin says. “We came to the table with three different areas of expertise and acknowledgement of our own assets and areas of need. Being able to leverage those assets through effective collaboration definitely made the final product better.” Sarah agrees: “This collaboration allowed me to learn more about statistical analysis and detailed assessment. I would never have been able to draw these conclusions if I was working on this project alone.” Sarah and Kimberly conversed about their collaboration in a brief video prepared for a Celebrations and Reflections event in spring 2021.

In October 2021, Professor Dirk Albrecht (BME) received the best paper award at the ASEE New England regional conference held at WPI, for “Biomedical Instrumentation Lab Activities for Remote and Hybrid Delivery.” Over the last eight years, Dirk has refined hands-on bioinstrumentation lab activities for a sophomore-level course, scalable to more than 100 students without costly, seat-limited labs and at low cost to students (<$40). A scaffolded series of activities guide students through exploration of basic electric circuits, dynamic signals, frequency filters, and amplifiers, leading to a working electrocardiograph (ECG) instrument. A final open-ended project allows students to explore their interests while learning to program basic sensor-actuator systems. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Dirk successfully pivoted the lab exercises to hybrid and remote delivery, and student responses to the labs and other outcomes were highly positive during both in-person and remote/hybrid formats.

 

Both Professors Albrecht and Wodin-Schwartz received the Romeo Moruzzi Young Faculty Award for Innovation in Undergraduate Education at WPI in 2016 and 2019, respectively.

Congratulations to Sarah, Kimberly, Caitlin, and Dirk!