Avoiding Pitfalls in Undergraduate Simulation Courses

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Interservice/Industry Training, Simulation, and Education Conference (I/ITSEC)
Simulation development has historically been a specialized skill performed by engineers with graduate-level training and industry experience. However, advances in computing technology, coupled with the rise of model-based systems engineering, have dramatically increased the usage of simulations, such that most engineers now require a working knowledge of modeling and simulation (M&S). As such, an increasing number of undergraduate engineering programs are now requiring students to complete a simulation course. These courses are intended to reinforce foundational engineering knowledge while also teaching the students useful M&S tools that they will need in industry. Yet, a number of pitfalls are associated with teaching M&S to undergraduate students. The first major pitfall is focusing on the tool or software without properly teaching the underlying methodologies. This pitfall can result in students becoming fixated on the software, limiting their broader knowledge of M&S. The second pitfall involves the use of contrived, academic tutorials as course projects, which limits students from fully understanding the simulation design process. The third and fourth pitfalls are only superficially covering verification and validation and not building upon material that was taught in other courses. Finally, the fifth pitfall is the over-reliance on group projects and tests over individual projects. These pitfalls were uncovered during academic years (AYs) 2017 and 2018 in different undergraduate simulation courses at the United States Military Academy. The combat modeling course adapted its structure and content in AY2019 to address these pitfalls, with several lessons learned that are applicable to the broader simulation education community. Generally, students gained a broader understanding of M&S and submitted higher quality work. Additionally, the course-end feedback found an overall increase in M&S knowledge, with many students choosing to use M&S to support their honors theses and capstone projects, a trend not seen in past years.
Engineering Curriculum, Modeling, Simulation
Mittal, Vikram; Lesinski, Eugene; and Dabkowski, Matthew, "Avoiding Pitfalls in Undergraduate Simulation Courses" (2019).