Engineering Graphics Programming Goes to High School

National Instruments, maker of the graphical programming software LabVIEW, has introduced LabVIEW Education Edition (LEE), a version of the software designed for high school users.

Developed in conjunction with the Tufts University Center for Engineering Education and Outreach (CEEO) and its director, Professor of Controls and Mechatronics Chris Rogers, LEE is designed to give high school students in STEM courses hands-on experience with the same graphical design and data acquisition technology used by professionals in their work.

The software, while emulating much of the functionality of the professional version, is designed to work with science-based educational hardware platforms such as Lego Mindstorms Education NXT and Vernier SensorDAQ. In addition to standard LabVIEW drag-and-drop graphical menu format, LEE offers several classroom-friendly tools, including the Data Viewer, which graphically displays sensor data; a virtual oscilloscope; and other virtual instruments that offer introductory hands-on experience with several electrical and mechanical engineering techniques.

"Engineering is a powerful motivator for learning math and science as it makes it possible for students to be innovative and creative while learning," Rogers said. He added that he looks forward to the day when teachers can play the skeptic and students can use computing tools like LabVIEW to experiment, innovate, and convince the skeptical teacher what is possible. As educators are beginning to discover that academic content is more effectively imparted through project-based learning, software applications like LEE are ideal for both managing science projects and visually demonstrating the components and processes involved.

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Scott Aronowitz is a freelance writer based in Las Vegas. He has covered the technology, advertising, and entertainment sectors for seven years. He can be reached here.