The upper secondary school Science (S) stream used to be the one that prepared students to higher engineering education in France. It uses a scientific and technological approach where students first learn fundamental concepts in mathematics, physics and chemistry and then apply these in experiments and observe the result. However, changes in society and industry on sustainable development and new industrial techniques have increased the demand for engineers. The Science and Technology (STI) stream that previously prepared students for short term practical or manufacturing profession was therefore redesigned in 2011 to offer an alternative route into engineering. The teaching was actively designed to appeal to a group of students not generally attracted by the theoretical teaching of the S stream but by the applied sciences.
The new stream, called STI2D (Science, Technology and sustainable Development) considers systems in their global environment covering material, energy and information components. Teaching is then centered on multi-domain real applications to teach concepts from a top-down approach. Students start with experiments and then deduce concepts from their observations. As experimental labs are often expensive, simulation of behavioral models that reproduce the dynamics of the global system offers a cost efficient alternative and is therefore an integral part of the STI2D curriculum. Project-Based Learning with low cost hardware is introduced in the last year to demonstrate the engineering workflow and the concept of prototyping. The objective is for the students to gain a high level of understanding of complex concepts, with new teaching/learning activities to get there.
However, the STI2D approach sets high demands on the simulations tools used. It requires a multi-domain and graphical representation of the system where focus is not on the underlying equations. Moreover, the tool should be able to connect easily to hardware to illustrate the link between models and experiments.
In this paper, we share our experience of working with STI2D students using simulation and low cost hardware. The specific example is teaching control concepts through simulations using MATLAB® & Simulink® and experiment on LEGO® Mindstorms® NXT hardware.
Sahed (2024). Attracting youngsters to Engineering Education through Simulation Based Teaching: The French Example (https://www.mathworks.com/matlabcentral/fileexchange/44379-attracting-youngsters-to-engineering-education-through-simulation-based-teaching-the-french-example), MATLAB Central File Exchange. Retrieved .
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