Experimental Learning Outcomes

Experimental Learning Outcomes

Lab classes are an opportunity to experience in the real world the concepts learned in the classroom.  Seeing phenomena occurring gives our students a greater appreciation beyond understanding the underpinning physical principles, it allows them to identify and quantify the extent to which the theoretical models do or do not predict the behaviour of actual engineering systems.

These classes also give students the opportunity to develop into an expert experimentalist, capable of independently solving engineering problems with relevant practical skills.  The skills students gain won’t just apply to performing experiments. Learning to become an experimentalist equips them with an enquiring mindset and a systematic, research-based approach that can be used to tackle all manner of engineering challenges.

To help understand what skills are included as part of these practical activities, keywords have been associated with the learning outcomes. These keywords relate to the following experimental learning outcomes:

Experiencing concepts

When the concept “clicks” - the lightbulb moment. Appreciating and physically experiencing something you have learned about theoretically. It includes “seeing” physical mechanisms occurring in real life, appreciation that the concepts you have been told about are true (or not), and the interesting effects that occur when theory is applied to the real world.

Integrating the practical with the theoretical

Gaining skills in connecting experimental and analytical approaches to performing an engineering analysis. Determining when theory or experimentation is the best approach and how aspects of one can influence or enhance the other.

Using experimentation to solve problems

Applying practical skills to situations to learn something about the way the world works that you didn’t previously know.  Becoming comfortable with unfamiliar environments and applying general knowledge of experimentation to reach a conclusion.

Designing experiments

Determining an experimental aim and converting it into a procedure.  Understanding the principles of the experimental method and applying it to designing and project managing the delivery of an experiment (including managing resources).

Production skills

Engineers should be able to make stuff, both physical and virtual. To do this you need experience with the tools required to realise an idea into a product.

Selecting the correct production tool for the job knowing their advantages and limitations and how tools/processes create manufacturing constraints.

Managing risk

The art of recording information, such as what you did and the results obtained, in a lab book is an important aspect of being a practical engineer. The principle of being systematic, logical and rigorous with record keeping is transferable for all major engineering projects.

Practical skills

Practical skills are those that enable you to be a practical engineer in your chosen disciple. You should be able to understand and apply the fundamental techniques, select and operate relevant equipment and use appropriate language and terminology.

Communicating experimental findings

The only way to get your results, ideas and hard work recognised is by communicating with other people.  There are a variety of methods and audancies to whom you may need to communicate your experimental findings.

Handling error and uncertainty

Engineers can never know or measure things with complete precision. You therefore need methods to understand, estimate, record, process and present error, accuracy and uncertainty associated with any experimental process.  

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