Jianbiao John Pan, PhD, is a Professor of Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering and expert in microelectronics and electronic packaging. His courses in manufacturing engineering are specifically designed to prepare students for high-power careers in the industry.
Real-world analytics unite engineering classrooms on two continents
Professor Jianbiao John Pan uses JMP® to prepare his engineering students for industry careers in an increasingly globalized marketplace
California Polytechnic State University
|Challenge||Undergraduate engineering majors overwhelmingly end up in industry careers after they graduate. Preparing them to not only be successful, but to bring real innovation and a global worldview to their fields, is no easy task.|
|Solution||Students are encouraged to use JMP both in and out of the classroom.|
|Results||By using JMP to teach engineering, Pan prepares his students for competitive careers at some of the top companies not only in the US but around the world.|
When undergraduates at California Polytechnic State University (Cal Poly) choose to major in engineering, they know they’re destined for a career in an industry that rewards innovation – especially when that innovation is supported by precise and accurate analytics. As such, readying students for employment in the engineering industry has become the cornerstone of 21st century pedagogy in university-level engineering classrooms around the world.
Jianbiao John Pan, PhD, is a Professor of Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering at Cal Poly and an expert in microelectronics and electronic packaging. Each quarter, he teaches undergraduate courses on a range of topics, from the introductory level Engineering Test Design and Analysis to advanced courses including Quality Engineering, Design of Experiments, and Reliability Engineering.
Like others leading the way in engineering education, Pan seeks to energize his students through project-based active and cooperative learning.
The Cal Poly College of Engineering is one of the nation’s leading institutions for engineering education. Professors at Cal Poly espouse a project-based teaching philosophy that combines theory with hands-on practice. Their mission? To “provide an excellent Learn by Doing education and graduate in-demand, Day One-ready professionals.”
Pan walks students through an example of how analytics can be used to help overcome quality and process improvement challenges. As he demonstrates the analysis, students follow along in JMP on their own monitors—playing around with the data to see for themselves what’s possible.
“JMP is very powerful and has such dynamic graphics,” Pan says. That flexibility, coupled with its user-friendly interface, makes JMP an important tool for students to learn engineering concepts for themselves by exploring—and experimenting with—data. “As we were going through concepts, Dr. Pan would pull up JMP and show—in a very tangible way—what that looked like,” says graduate student David Otsu. “JMP was great for learning and then applying that learning.”
Interactive JMP® analyses facilitate engaged learning in quality, reliability and design of experiments
The thinking goes that if you contextualize theory by couching it in relatable problems, students will be more intellectually stimulated. Bringing applications and hands-on practice into the classroom, however, also necessitates the ingress of new technologies that are more accessible to students.
For Pan, that means introducing his students to JMP statistical discovery software. “JMP is very powerful and has such dynamic graphics – I like that very much,” he says. “You can easily manipulate the scale and type on both the y and x axis, and even change the font size. You have so much freedom.” In his course on engineering test design, Pan says he relies on analysis models – Distribution, Fit Y by X, Matched Pairs and Fit Model. In more advanced courses, he adds design of experiments, quality and process, and reliability and survival capabilities to the mix.
By projecting JMP during his lectures, Pan demonstrates step-by-step even the most advanced concepts with interactive visuals that students can then replicate on their own, whether they follow along in JMP on a laptop during class or use JMP to complete assignments. “For many homework tasks and projects assigned in my classes,” Pan says, “students will create plots and visualizations.” These outputs are great not only for reporting and communicating results but also for deepening students’ understanding of the concepts and theory underlying real-world challenges they may later come across while working in the manufacturing industry.
“I focus on materials engineering and there is a lot of experimentation that is required in that field. Fortunately, the whole design of experiments process is facilitated by JMP—for example, if you’re doing some kind of fractional factorial, it’s really easy to set it all up to be generated in JMP. Since it’s so interactive and intuitive, JMP makes it a lot easier to look at the data and work with it on the fly. For someone like me who’s a visual learner, that’s really useful.”
— David Otsu, Graduate student
For example, in a recent final project, several students examined the crystallinity of polylactic acid, a versatile, biodegradable thermoplastic polymer produced from renewable sources like corn and sugar cane. The polymer’s biodegradability makes it an ideal, more environmentally sustainable alternative to traditional commodity applications like food packaging and disposable tableware.
Knowing that polylactic acid can be processed at a variety of degrees of crystallinity, Pan’s students sought to identify and investigate those factors affecting crystallinity – and therefore also its potential as a viable alternative plastic – by varying polymer grade, dwell time and cooling rate. “In our first phase, we focused on a manufacturing method for PLA crystallinity that was very realistic – a process you would actually use in the industry – but it didn’t work,” recalls Cal Poly graduate student David Otsu. “So we had to switch to a different phase where we did the same thing in a laboratory setting – very controlled but not something you would ever use for production. And from those results, we were able to transition into a stage that was somewhere in between those two – a lab-controlled process that could actually be used to generate products in the end.” Moreover, by analyzing the interactions of their variables, Otsu and his peers were able to state with a high degree of confidence that material and cooling rate have a significant impact on crystallization. “JMP helped us set up a series of experiments – and made the whole project go smoothly and quickly by enabling us to plan things ahead of time,” he says. “Because JMP is so easy to work with, we were able to adapt to changes and problems that arose as we went through that process.”
Engineering students from the US and China work together to design solutions to real-world challenges
At Cal Poly, learning isn’t confined just to the classroom or to campus alone. In addition to teaching during the school year, Pan leads a unique study abroad program for aspiring engineers known as Engineering in China, for which Cal Poly has partnered with Zhejiang University of Technology (ZJUT) in Hangzhou. In the summer of 2016, 11 students from Cal Poly and 22 from ZJUT studied quality engineering and worked together in teams to identify and solve real-world engineering challenges using JMP.
Over the course of the summer, Pan instructed students in the basics of quality engineering and ANOVA. Students then built upon what they learned by preparing a team project. In it, they were asked to identify an engineering problem for quality improvement within an existing system – a hospital, bank or transportation network, for example – collect data pertinent to that problem, analyze the data, prepare a presentation and produce a report.
Cal Poly also offers engineering students a unique opportunity to study abroad in China. Coursework in quality engineering is enhanced with an independent project component in which students are challenged to design solutions to real-world engineering problems. “I took Professor Pan’s Quality Engineering class in China and worked with students [from Zhejiang University of Technology] on a project looking at the transportation system in Hangzhou. Both in class and for the project, JMP was really useful,” says undergrad Wade Bedinger.
“JMP is flexible, so you’re able to do a lot of different things. You can change your graphs to fit into presentations really nicely and manipulate the axes to show the data you really want to focus on.”
— Wade Bedinger, Undergraduate
When one team observed lengthy wait times and an inefficient registration system at a local hospital in Hangzhou, the students saw an opportunity for improvement. They set about engineering a solution that would improve the patient experience. To do so, they began by collecting data: number of patients by time of day, duration of wait times and length of time spent in the registration process. Students then analyzed the data and made improvement recommendations.
“[In Dr. Pan’s class] we used Six Sigma processes to analyze team projects. The project definitely helped me learn statistical process control and a number of different quality modules, looking at the charts that were available. The interface that JMP has is very nice—you can use the raw data to create charts and analyze and interpret the data.”
— Kyle Batman, Undergraduate
The learning objective of the program, Pan says, is not only to have students apply learned engineering concepts to existing systems but to “educate our students to function in a multidisciplinary international team environment. It’s a very, very important skill – being able to work in a team, understand different cultures and navigate language barriers.” And it’s one that is especially relevant in the field of engineering today.
“It’s so important to calibrate with the industry,” Pan says. With so many global manufacturing companies looking to hire top-notch graduates, Pan ensures that his students leave Cal Poly with the right toolkit – a superior understanding of engineering concepts and theory, a demonstrated ability to work collaboratively with peers of all backgrounds and nationalities, and experience with the technologies of the trade.
Preparing students to enter industry careers after graduation
Several years ago, after attending a series of American Society for Quality chapter meetings in San Jose, CA, Pan says, he noticed that many industry leaders were using JMP. “I thought it would be a good idea for our students to know how to use JMP because so many of them will go on to work for these companies in California.
“We provide the training, and with their knowledge of the software once they graduate, our students will have an advantage.”
“Studying quality engineering with Dr. Pan in China, I expanded my understanding of ways to process large quantities of data. We were able to practice using our engineering and statistical knowledge with various different software packages, though I primarily use JMP. I know that in the manufacturing field, whenever you’re dealing with analysis with multiple dimensions, statistical software like JMP will play an integral part in helping me analyze large data sets. I’m told in manufacturing, JMP is what everyone is using for analysis.”
— Kyle Batman, Undergraduate