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Introducing Augmented Reality and Internet of Things at Austrian Secondary Colleges of Engineering

  • HTL Wels & HTL Linz

Abstract and Figures

In Austria technical education is taught at federal secondary colleges of engineering (HTL) at a quite high level of ISCED 5. Despite mechanical engineering , design with industrial standard 3D programs being state of the art in industry and education, technologies using Internet of Things (IoT) and Augmented Reality (AR) are still at an early stage. This publication describes the introduction of the IoT platform Thingworx at Austrian HTL for mechanical engineering, with focus on AR and IoT from an educational perspective as well as the training aspects from the platform developers' perspective. In addition, an assessment using a system usability scale (SUS) test among students and teachers has been undertaken to obtain knowledge of how students and teachers see the usability of the IoT and AR platform Thingworx. The assessment results are presented in this paper.
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Draft originally published in: Probst, A., Ebner, M., Cox, J. (2018) Introducing Augmented Reality and
Internet of Things at Austrian Secondary Colleges of Engineering. 21th International Conference on Inter-
active Collaborative Learning (ICL), Kos, 11 pages
Introducing Augmented Reality and Internet of Things at
Austrian Secondary Colleges of Engineering
Andreas Probst1 (*), Martin Ebner2, Jordan Cox3
1HTL Ried, Austria
2Graz University of Technology, Austria
3PTC Inc., USA
Abstract. In Austria technical education is taught at federal secondary colleges
of engineering (HTL) at a quite high level of ISCED 5. Despite mechanical en-
gineering, design with industrial standard 3D programs being state of the art in
industry and education, technologies using Internet of Things (IoT) and Aug-
mented Reality (AR) are still at an early stage. This publication describes the
introduction of the IoT platform Thingworx at Austrian HTL for mechanical
engineering, with focus on AR and IoT from an educational perspective as well
as the training aspects from the platform developers’ perspective. In addition,
an assessment using a system usability scale (SUS) test among students and
teachers has been undertaken to obtain knowledge of how students and teachers
see the usability of the IoT and AR platform Thingworx. The assessment results
are presented in this paper.
Keywords: Augmented Reality (AR), Internet of Things (IoT), Engineering education
1 Introduction
Through the development of technology, the products of today which are connect-
ed to the internet are quite complex and require a constant exchange of operational
data via the Internet. For instance, passenger cars are a good example of how rapidly
mechatronic products have been integrated with computing power, something that
was unthinkable not so long ago. The computing power and connectivity possibilities
that such devices contain provide brand new avenues for product development. Par-
ticularly when the customers have received the products and are first using it, we can
obtain data which allows us to improve the next product generations technology. In
addition, AR can be used in product development and to support technicians and
companiesstaff in several service cases.
Porter and Heppelmann [1] describe the five different stages of industry bounda-
ries, where product and smart product are state of the art. Currently smart connected
product is on the focus list of every technology leader and should be from the authors
perspective on the list for short-term educational implementation too.
Furthermore, interesting research work about IoT and AR has been conducted. For
example AR for usability testing was done by Choi and Mittal [2]. They did not only
do simple augmentation, they also undertook a project and conducted a survey about
AR in a very early stage of product development, and used different items like a play
card or a 3d printed handheld to use the AR. Concerning IoT Abraham [3] did a pro-
ject and survey in which they established IoT connections with the sensor data of the
participating studentscellphones. He et al. [4] describe in their research work the
process of introducing IoT into STEM undergraduate education, whereas Cin and
Callaghan [5] investigated IoT technologies by using the college building as an IoT
The basis for IoT technologies is the increasing number of connected objects via
the internet [6] (see Fig.1 left) as well as decreasing costs of sensors [7] (see Fig.1
right) and the possibility to connect them via the Internet.
[Add Picture 1 here]
Fig. 1. Development of Internet of Things [6] and average costs of IoT sensors [7]
However, the disadvantage of IoT applications is the security aspect. Sensor and
user data and their connection via cloud services to an IoT platform can be manipulat-
ed or be the target of cyber-attacks [8]. Bradley et al. [9, p. 67] describes some inci-
dents of this.
2 Training IoT and AR developers – a company’s perspective.
2.1 Overview of current challenges
The new technology waves of IoT and AR have introduced significant problems
for companies in terms of training their own workforce but also in terms of recruiting
new employees. It is difficult to find university graduates who are trained or even
familiar with these technologies. Most universities are not teaching IoT and AR in the
context of industrial usage because these technologies are so new and difficult to
Technology companies who create these IoT and AR solutions usually maintain
“education” departments whose responsibility it is to work with universities to pro-
vide access to the company’s technology solutions as well as some limited curricu-
lum. These technology provider companies usually build networks of reseller partners
who provide educational services to universities. A company like PTC works with
hundreds of partners to reach thousands of universities throughout the world. IoT and
AR offerings are however, sparse because of how complex these technologies are and
how recently they have been on the market. Even if technology providers offer their
solutions for free, universities are not able to utilize these services because there is not
any curriculum or courses or because the faculty is in the process of learning it.
This complexity has prevented many universities from offering any courses on IoT
and AR and especially in the context of industrial use cases. It is difficult to create
and maintain an IoT server with the capability to connect to diverse data sources and
sensors while providing easy access to students. AR also presents its own challenges
since it is an integration of 3D CAD data, animation and IoT data. It takes time for
faculty to learn the technologies and then prepare curriculum and digital platforms so
that students have access.
2.2 New changes in education
Significant changes are also happening in the education world at the same time that
IoT and AR are changing industry. Today one out of every four university students
are actively engaged in online courses. Unlike the online education courses of the past
20 years, today’s online courses are of much higher quality and are available to be
consumed anywhere, at any time and at any speed. A group of online education digi-
tal platforms have been launched in the past 5 years to deliver these courses. Plat-
forms like UDEMY, LYNDA, UDACITY, EDX, HBS, iMooX etc. provide students
24/7 access and provide mentoring services, communities, and credentials.
Technology companies are beginning to align with these approaches to education.
Companies will either partner with these digital platform providers to build courses
and credentialed learning paths or they will build their own platforms. An example of
this is the ANDROID developer’s nanodegree offered by Google and UDACITY
where students can learn to be an android developer and receive a credential certify-
ing their completion of the nanodegree.
Other companies like PTC and IBM have chosen to build their own digital learning
platforms. PTC offers courses on becoming an IoT developer on their
platform where students can learn about IoT and then build apps using PTC’s IoT
solution ThingWorx. All of the courses are free with the exception of the capstone
exam which when a student passes they are credentialed as an IoT developer. IBM
launched their Watson IOT Academy online education platform in November of 2016
and offers over 70 2.5 hour courses on IoT.
2.3 Opportunities for partnerships
This new revolution in education can be a real opportunity for faculty at universi-
ties. Integrating online courses into the curriculum of a university course, “flips” the
classroom. Students can learn outside the classroom the way industry professionals do
using these online platforms and then come into the classroom where the faculty can
bring context and strategy to the technologies the students have learned. This partner-
ship between universities and technology companies provides students with the latest
in technology learning and helps universities stay on top of these rapidly changing
PTC’s online education platform was launched in June of 2017 and since then over
11,000 students have registered and taken courses. University students who register
for courses find themselves learning alongside industry professionals and developers.
They engage in online communities with them. They also get hands-on experience
with PTC’s IoT solution ThingWorx in a highly scaffolded environment. The courses
are story based so that student finds themselves in a fictitious settlement on Mars
having to develop IoT solutions.
Augmented Reality poses the same challenges as IoT for universities. Again, edu-
cation platforms like can help by providing courses such as “The Funda-
mentals of AR using Studio.” Where students learn about AR and then build two in-
dustrial AR use cases like the one shown here where students build an AR service
work experience for replacing the servo motor on an industrial robot.
Fig. 2. IoT University online training working with Thingworx
Coupling these types of online education experiences with strategic initiatives like
HTL provides students with state-of-the-art education and prepares them for the new
workforce. Consortiums like HTL are the way of the future where universities and
industries partner to provide students with the best education possible and prepare
them for their future careers.
Companies are looking for IoT developers and AR specialists who can work in
these new technologies. Partnerships between universities, technology providers, and
online education providers is the most effective method of providing this new work-
3 Introducing IoT and AR to secondary colleges – an
educational perspective.
Since the future workforce in engineering will have to work with AR und IoT
technologies and tools [6], there seems to be a chance to introduce it to students with-
in their education. Fernandez-Miranda et al. [10] mention that “students will have to
master the combination of mechanical engineering and IT”. They also find that uni-
versities will educate the future workforce with the skills needed, but see a “close
relationship between the competencies that the students acquire at the universities
with the needed professional profile”. Education at Austrian HTL with their compul-
sory internships seems to address exactly these topics.
Schuh et al. [6, p. 1390] mention several challenges in product development for In-
dustry 4.0:
How should products and the product development be orientated?
Which data is available and which role does it play?
How is an Industry 4.0-specific communication and collaboration defined?
Which resources, methods and tools are needed for Industry 4.0?
Some might believe that classic approaches and methodologies could be substitut-
ed for by IoT technologies. Like the situation in the 90s as CAD technologies were
introduced in industry and education, they did adopt the way we are designing ma-
chines. For example, hand sketching is still part of engineerseducation, but creating
technical drawings and documents is done with CAx technologies. Moreover, new
jobs like IT technicians or CAD administrators were created. In connection with this
Robertson and Radcliffe [11] investigated the impact of CAD tools on creative prob-
lem solving in engineering design. They found amongst other issues“… the strengths
of the current, most widely used 3D mechanical CAD programs lie more at the de-
tailed stage of design than the conceptual stage” The new IoT technologies will adopt
and support engineering daily practice, and present new possibilities to engineers but
of variable strength in the different stages of the development process
3.1 Use cases and benefits of using AR and IoT in engineering lessons
Especially for education of mechanical engineers there seem to be the opportuni-
ties to use AR and IoT technologies into the following daily engineering lessons:
mechanical engineering design education
general engineering education to explain the mechanical structures of a machine
workshops to create work or assembly instructions
Additionally, AR could for instance be used in general education to explain the sun
system in a 3d model to students
From the authors perspective there seem to be some benefits in using AR and IoT
technologies in engineering lessons:
Good visualization of machines, equipment and maybe factories
Good supplement for currently-used technical drawings, which are some-
times hard to understand
Easy transfer of knowledge about how things are working
Concerning the IoT platform Thingworx the benefits are:
Usage of existing 3d CAD data of engineering design lessons
No programming skills are needed to create an AR experience
Creation of an AR experience is easy to do and very quick
Sensor data can be accessed within the Thingworx platform
3.2 Challenges using AR and IoT Technologies
Whereas introducing AR to engineering design lessons is comparatively easy because
of having a lot of 3D CAD data available, setting up and lecturing in an IoT lab is a
challenge. Fig. 3 shows workflow regarding how 3d CAD data for AR and sensor
data are collected and processed to generate an IoT experience available to users’
mobile devices or hololens.
[Add picture 3 here]
Fig. 3. AR and IoT with Thingworx
Unlike CAD programs, which are installed once a year by the user, the program
Thingworx and the technology behind it is changing constantly, the web-application
user-interface can even change overnight. Additionally, there is a lot of information
available via the web, but few people with AR and IoT knowledge available like
every technology in its early stages, this is especially a problem if someone is seeking
support or instructors. Unlike CAD software no company has years of experience
with this kind of software and technology, this sometimes leads to a bottleneck related
with instructors and support technicians.
3.3 Training courses for AR and IoT technologies at Austrian HTL
The aim is to introduce IoT and AR technologies in all HTL for mechanical engi-
neering and industrial engineering in order to integrate current topics into teaching on
the one hand and to increase the attractiveness of these branches of education on the
other. With regard to the introduction, a task force of the Austrian Federal Ministry of
Education was first formed with the aim of familiarizing themselves with the IoT and
AR topics. For this purpose, a basic training course and an advanced training course
were conducted. The IoT topics were trained using a Raspberry Pi with sensors con-
nected with cables and an IoT training server (see Fig.4 left).
At the same time, a server was installed at the HTL Mödling which has been oper-
ated since then. For wider use in the approx. 35 HTL, colleagues from this task force
will hold further internal training sessions, but with modified content, which is
adapted to the HTL needs. The reason for using HTL teachers as instructors is that the
number of instructors available for these technologies is also low in companies. 50
teachers are planned to participate in a basic training course in autumn 2018 and an
advanced training course in spring 2019. The aim is to integrate the IoT and AR top-
ics with the academic year 2018/19 into the HTL in the classroom.
[Add picture 4 here]
Fig. 4. Raspberry with sensors and cables (left), Raspberry Pi with sensor board (right)
With regard to the training environment, some changes will be made for the train-
ing courses in the academic year 2018/19 compared to the first training courses. The
IoT server operated by HTL Mödling is intended as a platform for the IoT application
and user administration. In addition to Raspberry Pi, an Arduino is also offered as a
possible platform. Both the Raspberry Pi and the Arduino use a sensor board with
approx. 5 sensors (see Fig. 4 right) instead of individual sensors with cables (see Fig.
4 left) which eliminates the wiring. The sensors on the boards are already configured
and programmed for use in training, and the focus of the training itself is on integrat-
ing the sensors and their measured data. This is important for the authors because the
training participants are mechanical and industrial engineers with limited program-
ming knowledge. In addition, the authors expect these factors to increase acceptance
of the IoT platform. Further training courses are planned for the next few years with
the aim, among other things, of controlling actuators.
3.4 Integration of AR and IoT Technologies into Curriculum
There is currently an agreement with the Austrian Federal Ministry of Education to
introduce AR and IoT in education at different HTL without changing the current
curricula. The reason for this is the fact that a curriculum change sometimes takes
several years and with the added risk that the changes made are no longer up-to-date.
This is to be feared especially with such dynamic technologies as AR and IoT are.
Additionally, the task force has worked out how AR and IoT technologies can be
integrated into daily engineering lessons of all 5 years of HTL education. Besides
using AR and IoT technologies in mechanical engineering design lessons, the focus is
also on the areas of engineering workshops and laboratories. At least one aim is to
establish an AR and IoT lab in the education of mechanical and industrial engineers.
Additionally, AR and IoT present the possibility to establish remote laboratories.
Andujar et al. [12] conducted some research work about remote laboratories for elec-
trical engineering and reported their findings which are referenced here.
4 Evaluation of the Thingworx AR platform through a
standardized SUS assessment among students and teachers.
To find out how students and teachers rate working with the IoT platform Thingworx,
a field survey was conducted using a standardized System Usability Scale (SUS) as-
sessment. The SUS was originally created by Brooke [13] and permits analyzation of
a diverse array of products and services. Referring to Martin-Gutierrez et al. [14] the
SUS comprises 10 questions covering the different aspects of a system’s usabil-
ity, such as the need of support, training, and complexity so it is highly valuable as a
tool for measuring the usability of a certain system. SUS responses are based on a
Likert scale of 1 (totally disagreed) to 5 (completely agreed). The online questionnaire
was given to all HTL persons who had had experience with Thingworx, teachers as
well as their students.
While a total of 46 people from six Austrian secondary colleges of engineering
participated in the survey, 3 of them did not complete the whole test. The remaining
43 responses were from 33 students including two female students, in their 3rd, 4th and
5th year of college education. All of the attending 10 teachers were male. The students
had an average of 38.33 hours and the teachers had an average of 44.56 hours experi-
ence with AR and the IoT platform. Included in this average of hours of experience
are one student with 500 hours and one teacher with 200 hours experience. Without
these two high single values, the mean value for students is 13 hours and for teachers
25 hours.
The survey was done with an SUS usability questionnaire originally created by
John Brooke in 1986. Since the test is well known and documented, only the ques-
tions and the results are displayed in Table 1.
Table 1. SUS test
I think that I would like to use this system frequently.
I found the system unnecessarily complex.
I thought the system was easy to use.
I think that I would need the support of a technical
person to be able to use this system.
I found the various functions in this system were well
I thought there was too much inconsistency in this
I would imagine that most people would learn to use
this system very quickly.
I found the system very cumbersome to use.
I felt very confident using the system.
I needed to learn a lot of things before I could get
going with this system.
SUS score
Despite the minimal amount of programming required to generate an AR the over-
all students’ rate for the SUS-score was 56.52%, whereas teachers rate it 63.5%. Con-
cerning Martin-Gutierrez et al. [14, p. 759] “A product’s usability is considered ac-
ceptable for values higher than 55%.” Improving the usability of the Thingworx plat-
form appears to be a necessity, as does increasing the number of practice hours for
students and teachers.
5 Conclusion and Outlook
Augmented Reality and Internet of Things are currently in their introduction phase
at Austrian secondary colleges of engineering (HTL). Though the first steps are (like
every new technology and software) quite interesting and labor-intensive, these tech-
nologies might have a positive impact on engineering education, from the authors
perception especially in mechanical engineering. The opportunities to introduce the
technologies into daily engineering lessons have been determined, attempts to use
them without any changes in existing mechanical engineering curriculum at HTL are
being made. Although, students and teachers gave the usability only average ratings
of the utilized IoT platform Thingworx, there seems to be a good opportunity to in-
crease future ratings with more practice. In a former publication [15] particularly the
enjoyment of working with AR was rated highly. Therefore, the authors hope that the
use of these technologies will make mechanical engineering more attractive for poten-
tial students, since mechanical engineering is presented in a new and modern way
without old fashioned prejudices, new and diverse groups of people, for example
female students, are being addressed.
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