The use of virtual learning environments to aid teaching of heat transfer and
Artificial Neural Network modelling in Bioprocess Engineering
Brian Freeland, Sumsun Naher, Greg Foley and Dermot Brabazon
School of Mechanical and manufacturing Engineering &
chool of Biotechnology, Dublin City University, Ireland.
Paper Type: Practitioner
Virtual instruments, engineering laboratory practicals, labview, artificial
High quality laboratory
practical’s for undergraduate students require extensive
demonstrator resources to implement on a week to week basis. This can be difficult to
maintain over the course of a semester. This paper presents work in which an
alternative technique to the traditi
onal approach was developed. A virtual learning
environment was employed to implement the entire lab, reducing demonstrator
involvement and ensuring a constant quality of explanation and demonstration of
concepts was provided to each group of students. Thi
s new laboratory practical was
developed to demonstrate heat transfer and artificial neural network modelling to bio
process engineering students. The use of this virtual environment approach allowed
the inclusion of the application of industrial process m
onitoring and data acquisition
in the teaching process. A full user interface was constructed that the students
navigate through; this interface guided students through the entire lab, teaching heat
transfer and artificial neural network concepts along wit
h the general data collection
and machine setup procedures. The virtual environment was constructed, with
students learning styles in mind, providing information in both a global and sequential
manner. This approach was seen to useful in terms of enabling
National Instruments LabView software was selected as the programming
environment as it allowed easy integration with data acquisition and analysis with
high quality graphical user interfaces. This work shows how it is possible to att
low cost multifunctional data acquisition and device control to develop educational
resources. Safety features were inbuilt into the program to ensure students could not
damage the heat transfer rig, or injure themselves from the rig overheating, or
lfunctioning. Trajan was used to simulate the artificial neural network models. The
lab practical has been run quite efficiently over the course of the semester and it was
seen that the use of a virtual learning environment engages the students more than
raditional techniques, reduced the demonstrator workload, and provided increased
student interactivity with industrial equipment. Evidence of this is presented in
student and staff surveys as well as student learning outcome results.
Interest in teaching techniques for engineering has increased over the years.
researching how best to present classical theories
. There is an aim to try and match their learning styles w
questions have been posed of how best
equip students for
industry. More and more practical based teaching
employed either using
or using full laboratory practical’s
the processing industries the requirement for graduates to be able to problem solve
and work with processing equipment is critical. Therefore
on experience on
processing equipment during
uate studies is a requirement.
the BSc degree program in Biotechnology in Dublin City University offers a
considerable amount of its teaching
time to laboratory practicals. H
owever due to
resource restrictions it is not practical to offer undergraduate students full access to
he schools bioreactors.
It was decided to develop a new
third year engineering
laboratory to teach heat transfer
and artificial neural networks while demonstrating
bio processing equipment
to biotechnology students
This new laboratory
a virtual learning environment that can integrate with low cost data acquisition
and control equipment to offer a hands on fully interactive computer program and lab
equipment driven practical.
The aim of teaching through the use of a virtual environment
was to provide a visual
would reflect the systems in use in industry while also offering a
consistent and quality teaching platform
that would guide students
through the lab using
a custom built user interface.
It was expected t
hat using a
graphical user interface should reduce the require demonstrator involvement
providing experience with industrial specification user interfaces
1.1 Student assessment
In order to assess the learning styles of a significant sample of the
student population, the 2
year students were given Fielders learning styles
. The outcome of
would be used to
type of teaching
best suits biotechnology stude
nts. The survey was conducted by
86% of the total class. The survey
results showed that 80% of student’s surveyed are
strongly visual learners,
they learn better by reading charts and diagrams to
explain concepts rather than presented in a verbal manner. Most of students are
balanced between sequential and global, me
aning that they like to be presented the
full picture of concepts at the start of a lesson and then, introduced to the concept
piece by piece. 75% of the class are active learners, with the rest balanced and a small
percentage reflective. Its surprising th
at some students are reflective as studies have
show that the engineering and science students are heavily active based learners
rather than reflective.
: BT2 Visual/Verbal learning style
Sequential/Global learning style
: BT2 Active/Reflective learning style
: BT2 Sensing/Intuitive learning style
From the results of the fielder surveys it can be determined
that laboratory practic
and teaching using problem
based learning, are techniques that would best suit,
biotechnology students. These results also ties in well with general engineering
have been seen to be
more active and visual learners
As a result of
was designed to provide information in a
sequential manner, u
sing a lot of visual aids to explain
should have a lot of input into the practical, and have a sense of ownership over the
practical and their work, this was seen to be a beneficial motivating factor with the
design and build he
at exchanger project in previous years
Labview was chosen for the user interface, data acquisition and machine control
programming environment because of its straight forwa
rd integration with data
acquisition equipment and its easy to use graphical user interface. It utilises a
graphical programming language using icons rather than calling text. It operates in
parallel rather than sequentially this offers operational speed a
dvantages as functions
can execute as soon all their terminals have received information. Programs
developed in Labview are called vi’s or “virtual instruments”.
The completed rig seen in
is composed of a stainless steel jacketed vessel
(1), agitator (2), coolant tank (3), coolant pump (4), thermocouples (5a), coolant flow
meter (5b), tachometer (5c) and ancillary pipe fittings.
: Completed Rig
The pump, valves and agitation speed can be set manually by the students, from the
instruction given in the laboratory interface, for safety reasons the steam line
ally controlled by the program. A low cost national instruments
n data acquisition card (USB 6008) interfaces with the sensors
controls the steam valves
. A low cost RS232 Pico Technology
temperature readings to the computer. Both devices integrated
seamlessly into the labview progra
mming environment and provided reliable
information and control of the equipment.
process variables; coolant flow
ation speed, process fluid bulk
temperature and coolant jacket input
monitored and recorded automatically.
These variables along with
calculated values are
stored into a .txt file for analysis.
the bioreactor and labview program there was
a lot of thought given to
students “hands on” access to as much of the equipment as
. This was made
possible by writing “fail safe
into the labview program.
The laboratory practical
a full day every week in semester 2.
One group of
participate each week. The Labview
rface drives the lab, almost
all the required information is provided to students via the interface, a
rate the use of the
neural network simulator
The basic structure of the lab is as follo
From the main welcome screen, students
study the relevant theory.
The rig operation is guided through in a sequential manner.
Heat transfer experiments are performed for varying process parameters
(selected by the students).
The experimental resul
ts can be reviewed via an “Analys
is screen”, students
perform heat transfer calculations
The experimental data
gained by the students is automatically added to
previous groups collected data. This
exported to Trajan artificial neural
An appropriate artificial neural network model is generated
by the students
based on the theory provided
Instead of a laboratory report the students filled in a workbook. This
along with an online version of the
as study for a
laboratory exam given at the end of semester.
Virtual environment implementation
The lab is started from the welcome screen in the labview interface; all options can be
accessed from there, except the ANN model devel
opment, which uses Trajan neural
network simulator software.
The students are offered all relevant theory, to aid the
global learners and demonstrated the rigs operation in a sequential manner. Screen
shot of various parts of the program can be seen in the
following figures. An
emphasise was placed on making the experimentation screens as close to industrial
specification machine status and control displays as possible as seen in figures 9 and
10. This was in keeping with the projects aims to offer students
industrial specification industrial equipment.
As a whole the Labview programming
environment proved a straight forward platform to produce a high quality interactive
executable program and code can be download
ed from the
: Welcome Screen
Rig operation and current
: Data Analysis
are currently being graded and will be displayed in the presentation.
environment dramatically reduced the
as students w
ere guided through every aspect of the practical.
All student groups were
able to successfully navigate the program and set up the
the step by
step instructions. Students were ab
le to grasp a complicated subject matter such as
within a single day’s demonstration, and they seemed
genuinely enthusiastic about using a different, more “Hi
tec” learning technique.
Based on the success of this project, it has been decided to develop more virtual
learning environment bas
ed laboratory practicals.
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