Enhancing Learning Through Innovative Technology: Education in 'Surf Equipment, Design, Materials and Construction' Course
World Scientific Publishing Co Pty Ltd
Faculty of Regional Professional Studies
School of Regional Professional Studies / Centre for Sustainable Regional Futures
This chapter deals with results obtained through active research conducted between 2004 and 2007 in the 'Surf Equipment, Design Materials and Construction' course unit. This 2nd year unit is offered at Edith Cowan (ECU) University (South West Campus) in Bunbury (W.A., Australia) as part of the Surf Science and Technology (SST) course. It aims to engage students in research and technological activities related to design modelling, materials' selection, optimisation procedures, and performance testing when working on their individualised fins and surfboards. So far, only little has been published about the effects of surfboard/fin design and materials on performance and durability, and from this, it is clear that the opinion of various users and designers on the importance of surfboard design features with respect to performance is in conflict. Consequently, the driving force and rationale for this study is associated with four principal issues. The first one looks at the need for technology education to respond in a quicker and more flexible way in order to keep up to date with advances in scientific, technological and industrial fields. The second one deals with the necessity to gain a deeper understanding of Austmlia's industry needs in order to stay competitive in the worldwide market and prepare a universal 'generic' teaching module for teaching, learning and training purposes to address such issues. The third one considers the need to eliminate the use of expensive testing equipment that is not always available in remote campuses, and to devise the test and facilities for carrying out experiments and training exercises from available resources in order to get both reliable and accurate results from a practical point of view. Finally, the fourth one deals with the necessity to better understand the students' diversity and technical decision-making ability and to reflect on it properly in practice in order to make technology education more attractive to a wider student audience. In this study, over the course of several units the students were taught to understand materials, art and design-related features, quality management, standards and safety engineering. After acquiring the necessary skills, they were encouraged to design, produce and test their own fins and sUliboards. In an open learning environment they felt free to combine research science with hands-on skills to develop their ideas. The teaching mode involved lecturer's assistance (by face-lo-face and/or via websites), including videos and the additional presence of professional shapers. On completion, each student was required to submit an individual project report and prepare materials for a 15 minute debate for sharing ideas, results and achievements with group members. To assist in the analysis of the sample results, and to provide a quantitative comparison of relative importance of each qualitative criterion with respect to other criteria associated with surfboard design features and performance, a statistical method was established. This allowed the results to be discussed from both qualitative and quantitative points of view and to create a mutually involving and stimulating topic for the students and the lecturer, . This information assisted in the optimisation of fins and surfboards. The students' attitudes to project-related issues and effectiveness of teaching initiatives were evaluated from pre-tests and post-tests - group desIgn - experiments and surveys. It was found that those students who worked closely with experienced supervisors believed that they were better prepared for solving technically-orien.ted problems In design and production, and reported more satisfaction with their individually desIgned surfboards and fins than those relying on web-sites and video links.