Conference Paper

Collaborative Research: Center for Mobile Hands-On STEM

Conference: ASEE

ABSTRACT Hands-on activities are an essential part of the learning experience for STEM students to
demonstrate theoretical concepts in practice and to connect students with the experimental
component of our STEM disciplines. Historically, these activities were relegated to structured
experiments conducted during formal lab courses in limited access, centralized laboratories
utilizing expensive equipment and requiring extensive support infrastructure. In recent years, the
ready availability of portable, low-cost, experimental platforms (e.g. standalone systems like
LEGO NXT kits and electronic measurement systems that connect to laptops through USB ports
like the Analog Discovery design kit from Digilent and the myDAQ data acquisition device from
National Instruments) is making it possible to fundamentally change the educational experience
we can deliver to our students. These new tools can help create a ubiquitous hands-on learning
environment anywhere and anytime: at desks in a traditional classroom, in a dorm room, in a
study group setting, at a coffee shop, etc. These small, mobile experiments allow for a new
pedagogical model that opens new avenues for inquiry-based learning of fundamental concepts,
experimental concepts and skills, and give students experience in system level design and
integration.

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    ABSTRACT: Engineering programs across the country promote the success of their courses to engage students through the use of hands-on projects, cooperative learning and other non-traditional educational strategies. While alternative strategies to lecture-based instruction are preferable in many ways, there are formidable obstacles to their widespread implementation. The goal of a project funded by an NSF CCLI grant addresses several of these obstacles through the use of portable, low-cost experiment modules in traditional lecture-based courses to enhance the learning environment. This research describes the introduction of these experiments at a top tier university and the lessons learned about implementing a cohesive program of hands-on experiments in several courses that do not have lab components. The challenges associated with both integrating experiments in long-running lecture-only classes and evaluating the impact on students is examined. The experience of using a quasi-experimental design to more fully understand both the costs and benefits of using portable experiments in a Systems and Controls course is also discussed, which highlights the inherent costs and potential benefits of integrating hands-on experiments in lecture-style courses.
    Frontiers in Education Conference (FIE), 2010 IEEE; 11/2010
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    ABSTRACT: STEM education at all levels from kindergarten through grad school generally requires expensive, complex equipment and thus is typically built around elaborate facilities with well-trained staff support. Mobile Studio Pedagogy (using the Mobile Studio Desktop software and the I/O board) makes it possible for instructors and students to participate in hands-on learning to any place they have a computer. Mobile Studio gives them access, at any time and any place, to a full electronics laboratory for the price of a textbook; students have a portable lab in which tinkering is again possible; requiring only a spark of interest - not a big budget. With a good start provided by interested and dedicated teachers, student accomplishments are only limited by their imagination. Since the Mobile Studio provides a portable lab facility, students can apply the tools they use in the classroom in their personal projects. The most obvious examples involve tinkering with cars (e.g., finding security system workarounds for someone building a car from an early 90’s GM drivetrain) and robotics (e.g., adding a real electrical engineering component to a project for a robotics competition). Less obvious are the kinds of activities that show how exciting engineering can be provided by our students that make us so proud of them (e.g. finishing that great idea they had in their high school science fair on their own or a handicapped driver visiting science classes in their old high school). When students share these real world experiences, they are providing the best kind of motivation for future STEM professionals.
    ASEE; 06/2011
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    ABSTRACT: The Mobile Studio I/O Board is a small, inexpensive hardware platform for use in a home, classroom or remote environment. When coupled with the Mobile Studio Desktop software, the system duplicates a large amount of the hardware often used to teach electrical engineering, computer engineering, control systems, physics courses and K-12 technology oriented courses. The project's goal is to enable hands-on exploration of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education principles, devices, and systems that have historically been restricted to expensive laboratory facilities. The Mobile Studio Project is now being utilized to enhance STEM education around the world. Mobile Studio instrumentation capabilities are similar to those available with traditional, stand-alone instruments, but the experience of building a course or outreach activity can be quite different. Thus, a significant milestone for this new pedagogy is the expansion of its use beyond the original core partner institutions. The Mobile Studio learning platform began development at three schools, where it has been used to teach electrical engineering courses for both majors and non-majors. This activity has recently been expanded to additional schools with some notable early success that demonstrates how this approach can be transferred elsewhere, eventually improving programs at the original partner schools. Content development continues at several schools with new partners being added, including some in Africa. In addition to application in electrical engineering education and outreach, Mobile Studio materials are being developed by and for students in adolescent education and computer science at a small liberal arts college. Activities at all involved schools have added significantly to the value of Mobile Studio pedagogy.
    ASEE; 06/2011

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May 17, 2014