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Welcome to LITRE

Computer Based Modeling for Engineering

PI: Amy Craig, Jan Genzer, Jeff Joines, Stephen Roberts, Dianne Raubenheimer

This project is based on development of curricula to educate students to model problems, solve these problems using modeling tools, and then to analyze the solutions through decision support (i.e., become “power users” not programmers). A series of “in-class labs” integrate the traditional lab and lecture sessions into one, and in-class activities are completed on student-owned laptops. The instructors use tablet PCs to facilitate and guide student learning as they work on problems in class.

The LITRE project builds on two earlier initiatives of the Student-Owned Computing (SOC) program in the College of Engineering. The first initiative began in the departments of Industrial and Systems Engineering (ISE) and Textile Engineering (TE) in 2006. ISE and TE found that their students were not using the programming knowledge taught in the introductory computer programming course, either in upper level courses or when they graduated. Thus they decided to transition from the traditional programming course to something more applicable to their respective disciplines.

In Spring 2006, Dr. Stephen Roberts (ISE) and Dr. Jeff Joines (TE) jointly developed a new cross-listed course using advanced features of Microsoft Excel with Visual Basic for Applications (VBA). They have each taught a section of the new course the past three semesters, closely collaborating to have a common experience across the different sections. The results of these efforts have been extremely positive. (See Article for details)

Similarly, in Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering (CBE), Dr. Jan Genzer and Dr. Henry Lamb redesigned the department’s sophomore-level computing course. As in ISE and TE, the CBE faculty recognized the need to enhance their students’ computer modeling capabilities to allow them to solve complex problems relevant to the chemical engineering discipline. The redesign of CBE 225 has been very well-received, and as with IE/TE 110, and data gathered in Spring 2007 show a significant impact on student learning.

SOC’s second initiative, started in Spring 2007, was aimed at program-wide integration of computational tools in the curricula of ISE and CBE. Amy Craig and Dianne Raubenheimer noticed the success of introductory computer-based modeling courses but questioned how the applications taught in these courses were used in upper level courses in the curricula.

CBEM Project Design

The LITRE project is a ‘scale-out’ and ‘scale-up’ approach (see Figure 1). Other departments have expressed interest in reviewing their introductory computer programming course requirement and implementing a course similar to ISE/TE 110. We plan to reach out to Civil, Construction and Environmental Engineering (CCEE) and Biological and Agricultural Engineering (BAE) as the project progresses to solicit their participation. This is the ‘scale-out’ portion of the proposal. The ‘scale-up’ portion entails linking computational processes and skills across courses in the curricula.

Graphic showing schematic representation of the implementation process

Figure 1: Schematic representation of the implementation process


The project has three overarching objectives:

  • Increase the computational and analytical capabilities of students by building upon critical computing concepts semester after semester in a series of courses in the curriculum (“computing thread”).

  • Develop a repeatable, scalable framework that can be implemented in other departments.

  • Document strategies for implementation, key successes/failures, linkages to ABET outcomes, and cultural barriers observed.

Detailed Student Learning Outcomes

Research Questions

Time Line