Statistical Computing Laboratory

Dolores Tichenor

Instrumentation and Laboratory Improvement
Tri-State University
Angola, IN 46703
(219) 665-4200

Project Director:
Dolores Tichenor
Chair, Mathematics and Computer Science
(219) 665-4242

Tri-State University, established in 1884, and accredited by the North Central Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools, is a private, coeducational, four year undergraduate institution of about 1100 students enrolled in three schools, Engineering, Business, and Arts and Sciences. The university is located in Angola, a city of about 6000 residents in northeastern Indiana. The Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology accredits the Engineering School's degree programs in aerospace, chemical, civil, electrical, and mechanical engineering. Over half of Tri-State's students are pursuing degrees in Engineering, about 30% in Arts and Sciences, and the remainder in Business. Many of these students are, and have traditionally been, first generation college students.

Historically, Tri-State has implemented practical application of theoretical concepts by emphasizing the role of laboratories in science and engineering courses. Our graduates are known in industry as "job ready."

The Mathematics Department in the School of Arts and Sciences has been offering Bachelor of Science degrees with majors in mathematics and mathematics-education since the early 1970's. The graduates of these degree programs are employed by industries or by school corporations as secondary teachers. There are currently nine mathematics faculty members in the department serving approximately twenty mathematics/ mathematics education majors. The department also serves the Schools of Engineering and Business by teaching courses appropriate to the disciplines in those schools.

MA 3124 and MA 3134, Probability and Statistics I and II (P/S I and II), are junior level courses (4 credit hours each) which have the calculus sequence as prerequisites. Engineering, mathematics, mathematics- education, and computer science majors account for more than half of Tri-State's total enrollment. MA 3124 is required of mathematics- education majors. Both courses are required of computer science majors, while mathematics majors are strongly encouraged to take both courses. The courses, particularly the first one, are elected by engineering majors because of the applications in the area of quality control. Because some of the math majors enrolled in the courses are planning careers in actuarial science, it has been (and will be) important to keep the solid theoretical nature of the courses in order that these students be properly prepared for the Society of Actuary exams.

The two quarter sequence in probability and statistics uses no computers currently. All calculations are performed on hand-held calculators. Thus, the assigned problems must have very limited data in order not to make the work too onerous for the students. The result is that although the students can use the appropriate statistical formulae and can draw appropriate conclusions from their calculations, they cannot work with data from "real applications" nor can they experiment with larger data sets and decide on a statistical analysis method to solve "real-life" problems. Also, all work is done by individuals and not in groups. In order to accomplish the goal of enabling students to work with "real life" problems, to experiment with the larger data sets, and to work with groups, two items are necessary: the data and computers on which to experiment.

Tri-State University is located in a northeastern Indiana county which has 101 lakes. Area residents are very conscious of the impact on the lakes environment on the homes and businesses in the vicinity. The Biology Department of Tri-State University and the Analytical Testing Laboratory in the University have gathered (and continue to gather) extensive data for various studies. However, adequate statistical analysis has not been performed on most of it. Similar data are also readily available from the Steuben County Health Department, the Indiana Department of Environmental Management, and the Indiana Department of Natural Resources.

The funding of this proposal by NSF will provide a computing laboratory to be used with the data described above in order for the two quarter sequence in probability and statistics to become a more applications oriented course, while not slighting the statistical theory which is necessary. Each course will have three or four individual projects and then a "capstone" group project.

Projects for the first course might be:

(a) Construction of histograms (Individual project)

(b) Descriptive statistics -- measures of central tendency and dispersion (Individual project)

(c) Central Limit Theorem (Individual project)

(d) "Capstone Project" -- Goodness of fit (Group project) As the course progresses, students will begin to make their own choices about how to approach the problems. They will be required to write a report indicating their approach to the group project and the results.

The projects for the second course might be:

(a) Confidence intervals (Individual project)

(b) Two-sample t test (Individual project)

(c) Analysis of Variance (Individual project)

(d) Curve fitting (Individual project)

(e) "Capstone Project" (Group project) Option 1 The students will be presented with the data from the Tri-State University Fitness Center which has been collected on all its users. The project will be to argue that the Fitness Center is "effective." The word "effective" will not be defined. They will use the available data and decide which statistical methods would lead them to that conclusion. A written and oral report will be required.

(f) "Capstone Project" (Group project) Option 2 The students will serve as statistical consultants to students enrolled in several Biology courses during the fall quarter when this second course in Probability and Statistics is taught. The Biology Department is pleased to participate in this phase of the project. Written and oral reports are required.

The projects given above are examples. Projects and applications will be varied from term to term and as new data are acquired.

The importance of statistics in everyone's life is becoming more apparent. The Accrediting Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET) has discussed the role of statistics in engineering. With its concentration of engineering majors, Tri-State University wants to be at the forefront of engineering education. The use of computers and statistical software will be of great benefit to the students in helping them to analyze the problem and then to analyze the data. One of the thrusts of ABET is the concept of "design," that is, a problem stated in such a fashion so that many solutions are possible. The capstone projects in these courses fit that mold and will be valuable to all students enrolled in these courses, not only the engineering majors.

Return to Cobb Paper | Return to Table of Contents | Return to the JSE Home Page