Reinforcing student learning by MATLAB simscape GUI program for introductory level mechanical vibrations and control theory courses

Paul Pena, Kennesaw State University
Tristan Utschig, Kennesaw State University
Ayse Tekes, Kennesaw State University


The highly mathematical nature of introductory level vibrations and control theory courses results in students struggling to understand the concepts. Hands-on activity demonstrated in class can help them better understand the concepts. However, there is still an ongoing effort to lower the currently substantial cost of educational laboratory equipment for undergraduate-level engineering courses. Also, with the COVID-19 crisis, the Spring 2020 academic year took an unexpected turn for academics and students all over the world. Engineering faculty who teach laboratories had to move online and instruct from home. Online course preparation takes more time and effort compared to traditionally designed face-to-face courses and was compounded considering the unprecedented situation where many instructors didn't have time to record data from existing lab equipment or record video in their laboratories. In this paper, we present a Matlab Simscape GUI program designed to simulate modeling and control of dynamical systems for vibrations and control theory courses, and their associated laboratories, as one potential solution for online instruction. To complement the simulation program, online classroom and homework activities were designed using a learning sciences approach connecting several critical educational theories which can bolster student motivation, engagement with the material, and overall learning performance. The simulation is presented along with data from 19 students who completed the associated classroom and homework activities. Survey results probing student perceptions about the value of the learning tasks for the simulation were overwhelmingly positive and indicate this approach holds promise in supporting student learning.