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Simulation leads to more motivated students and improved teaching and learning

The quality of teaching and learning improved in an electronic materials course when José M. de la Rosa, associate professor of electronics and electromagnetism at the University of Seville, Spain, introduced nanoHUB simulation tools and lab exercises. Students became motivated and interested in course content when using the nanoHUB platform, multimedia resources, and remote computing tools accessible through links from the course’s WebCT site.

After incorporating nanoHUB for more than three years, de la Rosa authored a paper on the experience, “Using nanoHUB.org for Teaching and Learning Nanoelectronic Devices in Materials Engineering: A Simulation-based Educational Approach to the Study of Carbon Nanotubes.” The paper was published by IEEE in May, after a presentation delivered during the IEEE Global Engineering Education Conference held in Marrakesh, Morocco, on April 17-20.

When asked about teaching and learning with nanoHUB, de la Rosa shared his views on the advantages and challenges.

nanoHUB: What did students gain?

JosedelaRosa.jpg J. M. de la Rosa: Students had the advantage of the simulation tools, animations, and learning modules to get more insight into the theoretical contents of the course. Considering that using this computational infrastructure is for free, the benefits are immeasurable because students have the opportunity to put a number of theoretical concepts into practice by simply using nanoHUB—and with a very simple hardware, i.e., a computer connected to the Internet.

nanoHUB: What did you gain?

J. M. de la Rosa: Without nanoHUB, it would be very difficult—if not impossible—to prepare good lab exercises about nanoelectronics for my undergraduate courses. With nanoHUB, I can use a virtual lab with plenty of pieces of information very useful for students. In addition to broadening their knowledge about the contents given in the classroom, students become very well motivated and interested in the course.

nanoHUB: What challenges did you encounter?

J. M. de la Rosa: At first, I found it difficult to determine how to take advantage of the enormous amount of information available on nanoHUB for my undergraduate students. I mean, even considering that nanoHUB is very well organized, it is quite important to guide students through the multitude of learning modules, class notes, CAD tools, etc., which could be used by students in class. So, as a professor, I wondered which would be the most suited way of improving our teaching/learning experience. I decided to incorporate some of the software tools provided by nanoHUB as part of the practical lab exercises in an undergraduate course on electronic materials I am giving.

nanoHUB: What suggestions can you offer?

J. M. de la Rosa: I found it critical to provide a good guide to students, as well as the required theoretical background before starting to use the tools. Otherwise—at least from my experience—undergraduate students tend to diverge instead of focusing on the topic under study. Even worse, some students may become lost if they are not well introduced to a given topic or tool. Another practical aspect I have found very useful over the years of using nanoHUB in class is to give an overview of the nanoHUB environment before starting to use the different tools.

Writer: Jennifer Crowell, communication specialist, Network for Computational Nanotechnology, 765-496-6541, jmcrowell@purdue.edu