CARNEGIE MELLON UNIVERSITY
This project will develop and apply a suite of freely-available internet chat-based tutorials for integrating computer modeling and design skills within any mechanical engineering undergraduate program. These tutorials will not only allow students to navigate complicated software interfaces, but will also teach fundamental concepts through dynamic dialogues between tutorial agents and student user groups. Further, chat-based tutorials will be applied as a unique distributed teaching tool, allowing students over wide distances to be intellectually engaged in engineering software use. A key goal is to train students to communicate technically with remote team members, a critical skill for global engineers. Most importantly, our research will use this platform to assess how students best learn in various collaborative contexts. In addition to its pedagogical applications, our research results will have relevance to the development of effective collaborative software tools used by practicing engineers.
Two recent developments centered at Carnegie Mellon are being exploited to realize these goals. They are: 1) Human/computer interaction research has shown that learning during software use can be greatly enhanced by combining interactive dialogue technology with computer-based instruction. Furthermore, it has been shown that the benefits of this technology can be enhanced if students work in teams, in on-line environments providing context-sensitive structuring to support collaboration. 2) Under previous NSF support, Carnegie Mellon University has integrated computer-aided engineering (CAE) experiences into its undergraduate mechanical engineering curriculum. The foundation of this effort has been the development of a variety of web-based tutorials allowing students to effectively use software packages for design and simulation. Tutorials guide students through software interfaces, freeing instructors to focus on physical and analytical reasoning for CAE analysis and design projects.
This project involves partnering between Carnegie Mellon University (CMU), Parametric Technology Corporation and Drexel University. At CMU, Mechanical Engineering (ME) and Human-Computer Interaction Institute (HCII) undergraduate and graduate students will collaborate (under the guidance of ME and HCII faculty) to develop a series of dialogue-based tutorials for use in mechanical engineering undergraduate courses. Parametric Technology Corporation is providing their complete library of engineering design, analysis and process management software, as well as software training tutorials for use within this program. Drexel University will not only use tutorials developed at CMU within their own courses, but their students will also take part in combined distance learning software sessions with CMU students.