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Susann Olsen Haga

Fornybar energi
Fakultet for teknologi og realfag
15. juni 2022

Evaluation of virtual laboratory in ENE237-G- Materials and Corrosion

In the ENE237-G - Materials and Corrosion, the class was introduced to a virtual corrosion laboratory during fall semester 2022. The lecturer had made 22 videos for five different themes, showing routines and experiments commonly done in a corrosion laboratory.

This blog is an evaluation of the concept as it is widely adaptable also to other types of laboratory work. The task was to see how it worked and propose improvements.

Virtual lab is a concept where you should be able to be in the laboratory from anywhere. You will be able to access any equipment, and teachers will be able to reach a broader audience. From the corrosion course my teacher filmed himself how to perform the experiment, so we learn how to do it ourselves.

Session No. 1:

For the first session/segment we observed how the formation of rust appears on iron. Our teacher first went through some theory about how corrosion happens, before doing the experiment.

Session No. 2:

The second lab was about the galvanic series, which would build on our knowledge form the first lab. The galvanic series shows which element will corrode in water. All through the labs we build on our knowledge.

Session No. 3:

The third lab on the subject was the Agar gel test. This was the lab with the most element, first we observed how to make the agar gel, then how to remove a zinc layer form a bolt, and third we went through how four bolts with different conditions reacted to the gel. In the end of the lab, we observed the evolution of the agar gel over a 24-hour period.

Session No. 4 and 5.

For the fourth and fifth lab there were used a potentiostat. In the fourth lab we looked at how an IV-plots (current-voltage plots) were made for steel and stainless steel. The lecturer always went through the theory behind the experiment before performing it. The fifth lab was about the Tafel analysis and linear polarization resistance (LPR), which was the most theoretical lab. Explaining thoroughly how Tafel analysis and LPR works.

The virtual laboratory concept was supported by an assisting teacher revising the exercises in plenum. Focus for these exercise sessions is for the students to be able to calculate corrosion rates, as this is important tool for engineers. The reactions involved was visualized using the indicators, which helped understand the processes. For most part the learning target was met in my opinion. From each lab we had to answer questions, which would in the end of the semester end up as a full rapport. This made a big difference in the learning outcome forcing us to watch and understand the experiments. 

Virtual lab isn’t an all-new concept, other companies like Labster offers virtual lab for educations purposes. This are more advanced than the once we used during the corrosion course. This company offers 3D virtual lab, making it possible to move around in the lab. This giving a feel of being in the lab, without having to be there. Labster offers a training ground for students, letting them learn how to do simple experiments without any risk.

The question about virtual lab is about the benefits and disadvantages. A recommendation is that there should have been an introductory session on lab safety and HSE. Part of what we learn in labs sessions is how to use acids or bases safely, which is something that should be included in the virtual lab to. One of the benefits with virtual lab is that we get explanations through all the steps of the experiments, which isn’t always easy to get in the lab. Another benefit is that we can watch a process that usually takes a lot longer time without using the time. One of the biggest benefits for me is that I could watch the experiments multiple times and could pause the video if I needed time to process. One of the things I see as a disadvantage is the lack your own experience. With the type of virtual lab we had, we didn’t get to do any of it our self. Our teacher is of course experienced, which means that he won’t always explain all the questions we would have in the laboratory. All in all I think this was a good solution, when it wasn’t possible to be in the lab. The solution presented with the lecturer filming and explaining himself is cheap and easy concept to copy for others.

Corrosion is an undervalued field of engineering and teaching as it expensive for the entitling high cost of repairs and renewals. The corrosion lab concept is useful to share the knowledge also with students and engineers not involved with the topic first hand.

I want to thank Tor John Rødsås for the opportunity, and for the guidance with the project.