158 Harmon Drive, Northfield, Vermont 5663

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CAT I Dana talk with Dr. Prairie

What do Old Flutes have to do with an Engineering Education? 

That’s a great question! The short answer is it’s not really about flutes. It’s not even so much about using transmission line theory or fluid dynamics to study acoustics of ancient flutes. In an undergraduate engineering education setting, it is about laboratory instrumentation and measurement, specialized tool design, testing hypotheses, and crunching data. In this talk I will describe how my quest for a research topic as a newly-established academician in 2008 led me to the unlikely focus on flutes. I will talk about how I wrestled with finding the intersection of what I teach as an instructor, how I could engage students as learners, and what topics would excite and sustain me as a researcher. I’ll highlight several projects in which I was fortunate enough to work with students to explore unanswered acoustics questions as they learned about their engineering craft. Finally, I hope to inspire others to find ways to bring their own unlikely passions into their teaching and scholarship. 

Michael Prairie’s teaching focuses on courses that involve sensors, including electronics, electromagnetics, control systems, and the ECE capstone courses. Once a Norwich electrical engineering student who almost switched to mechanical engineering, he has been known to feed latent mechanical urges by hanging around the ME Department and teaching the embedded systems to the ME seniors. On occasion he will give in to distraction in class and tell “war stories” from his Air Force career when he was developing and acquiring electro-optic technologies, and from his time in industry working on infrared hyperspectral systems. His design focus at Norwich has been on assistive technologies and low-cost water testing instrumentation, while his pure research pursuits have been in the acoustics of ancient aerophones. 

  • Michael W. Prairie

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