On Tuesday August 10, 2010, the first meeting of an ad hoc group focused on exploring the use of MapleSim in the engineering curriculum met at McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada.  Faculty from McMaster University, Kettering University, Lawrence Technical University, University of Waterloo, Ryerson University, University of Ontario Inst. of Technology, and the State University of New York (Buffalo and Binghamton).

The full-day workshop provided an ideal opportunity to discuss a wide range of viewpoints and approaches on how to introduce MapleSim effectively in the curriculum.  At the lower level (first two years), a significant discussion revolved around how to introduce simulation before the students grasp differential equations.  The consensus was that this can be done, but it is important that engineering concepts are carefully introduced and to avoid using MapleSim simple to generate simulation video.  Once students begin to understand the basics of differential equations, it was shown that MapleSim provides a powerful link between visual simulation and governing equations, thereby making MapleSim a powerful ally for engineering education.  to this end, McMaster is introducing an innovative approach in their first-year program whereby MapleSim will be used to provide visual and equation-based simulation and design of a gearing mechanism.  In addition, the capstone course in engineering physics has successfully used MapleSim to help design and simulate a motion control system.  Other Universities are also developing plans for introducing MapleSim at various levels of their programs.

A number of questions and discussion points resulted from our meeting.  These include:

How to best integrate engineering design with MapleSim in the curriculum?

What are the best practices for introducing MapleSim at the lower level of the curriculum?

How is MapleSim being used in capstone design courses?  In first-year courses?

How can MapleSim’s strengths (visual simulation linked with governing equations) be best leveraged in the engineering curriculum?

We hope that our first steps at opening the discussion on these topics will be carried on by us and others and together we can arrive at meaningful approaches that have positive impact on student learning.

Huge thanks to the great folks at MapleSim for their generous support and organizational acumen for this workshop.  Their enthusiasm and support of this project is greatly appreciated.  Special thanks to our hosts at McMaster University for providing a wonderful setting for the workshop.

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