S. Le Clainche, J.M. Pérez, E. Ferrer

Universidad Politécnica de Madrid (SPAIN)
The main goal of this work is to motivate undergraduate students, following mechanical and aerospace engineering subjects, to increase their interest and deepen their knowledge in fundamental sciences such as mathematics. To this end, we present a practical course of ten hours that will show the students the link between mathematics and engineering and will also show them how important is to study fundamental mathematics and how to solve real practical problems. This course will not only increase the motivation of the students in maths, but also will help them to develop some additional important skills such as practical thinking or the ability of linking and applying theory to practice.

Motivation is one of the key words in the learning process. A recent study in neuroscience [1] shows that dopamine neurons in the midbrain send signals that can be identified as rewards, and this fact encourages human beings (or even animals) to perform and repeat certain types of activities. In a similar way, the cognitive learning process can be related to such increase in the dopamine levels. Thus, if the student is motivated, this rewarding mechanism will be active in the brain and, consequently, the probability of remembering in the future the new acquired knowledge will increase.

In general, subjects related to sciences and engineering are difficult to understand for both, secondary school and undergraduate students. In particular in engineering degrees, the percentage of students who achieve a high mark in subjects such as infinitesimal calculus or linear algebra is under 50% [2]. With the aim of encouraging undergraduate students from mechanical and aerospace engineering to study more in depth these two particular topics, we present a practical guide that can be used as a complement to the theoretical background taught in class. This tutorial consists of 10 hours lessons performed in the laboratory that will show the students the real applicability of the mathematical concepts learnt in class. In this way, the students’ motivation for studying fundamental sciences such as mathematics, whose theoretical background is dense and complicated, will increase. This extracurricular activity will show the students that mathematics and engineering are two branches that complement each other, and that is very important to establish robust basis in mathematics, first, in order to develop more applied activities related to engineering next. Students will study the fluid dynamics effects produced by the performance of the landing gear of the airplane.

The curriculum of this activity could be structured in 5 lessons of 2 hours each one in the following way:
-Lesson 1: 'The project and the model'
-Lesson 2: 'Modelling and simulating the reality'
-Lesson 3 and 4: 'The analysis: Mathematical tools to extract information'
-Lesson 5: 'Conclusions of the mathematical analysis to solve the engineering problem'

We will present in detail the 5 lessons previously described at the time of the conference. For this aim, we will provide some mathematical tools, easy to understand, and a Matlab code that can be used in class by the students. The code will model the cavity of the landing gear of the airplane and the mathematical tools required to analyse the data.

[1] N.D.Daw, The cognitive neurosciende of motivation and learning, Social Cognition, Vol. 26, No. 5, 2008, pp. 593–620.
[2] Statistics from Technical University of Madrid, Spain.