San Antonio, Texas
June 10, 2012
June 10, 2012
June 13, 2012
25.46.1 - 25.46.14
A First-Year “Introduction to Engineering” Course at a Community College Using Hands-On MATLAB Experiment ControlFirst-year “Introduction to Engineering” courses have been widely adopted in engineeringprograms at universities nationwide as a response to excessive attrition, commonly exceeding50% -- mostly in the freshman year. The goals of these freshman courses are varied but typicallyinclude improved retention, engaging students in the practice of engineering, and reinforcing thelearning of fundamentals including applications of mathematics and science and, often, learningand applying programming skills.The advantages of hands-on exercises in achieving these goals have been widely discussed. Inparticular, interfacing computers or microprocessors to mechanical and electrical systems ispervasive in engineering practice and has been show to be conducive to enthusiastic learning, asin the FIRST international high school robotics competition. Barriers to more widespreadapplication of such computer control applications into first-year engineering courses include thecost and complexity of equipment, a lack of instructor time and expertise for coursedevelopment, and, perhaps, a perception of a lack of rigor in robotics exercises.We report on the introduction at a northeastern state community college of a new introduction toengineering course using computer controlled projects based on the fundamentals of ultrasoundwave propagation, spectroscopy, color identification, color-based sorting of objects. Theprojects are implemented using relatively low-cost electromechanical components and custom-designed parts fabricated by electrical shop and machine shop students at a localvocational/technical high school. The community college faculty member was assisted byfaculty at a national research university though workshops funded by national grants anduniversity research center educational outreach programs. The hands-on projects implemented inthe community college course are based on a similar first-year course at the university adaptedfor the more limited resources of the community college.The hands-on projects include measurement of the speed of sound, range-finding, and imaging ofa hidden object using 40 kHz ultrasound; distinguishing of olive oil from corn, soy, or motor oilthrough visible/IR spectroscopy; and identification and sorting of colored ping-pong balls using avideocam image and a stepper-motor-driven sorting mechanism. In addition to a standard GPIB-compatible oscilloscope, the most expensive equipment is a compact “no moving parts”spectrometer and light source (~$3000). (All costs are per station – our classes use 11 stationswith two students per station.) Other components include a USB A/D module (~$125), a steppermotor and controller chip (~$40), a micro-controller 40kHz burst mode signal generator (~$150),videocam (~$50), a stepper-motor-driven linear positioner (~$500), and various materials andparts (~$200). Software control is through pre-prepared m-files and student-written MATLABcode using the Image Acquisition, Data Acquisition, and Instrument Control toolboxes.Course assessment results will be presented through before-and-after student evaluation of theirengineering skills and knowledge, open-ended and quantitative post-course comments, andperformance on exercises and quizzes similar to those taken by students at the university. Figure 1 Stepper‐motor‐driven carrousel for color sorting painted ping‐pong balls using videocam image. This picture is taken in the university electrical engineering teaching lab.
McKnight, S. W., & Pelletier, M. E., & Leventman, P. G. (2012, June), A First-year "Introduction to Engineering" Course at a Community College Using Hands-on MATLAB Experiment Control Paper presented at 2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, San Antonio, Texas. https://peer.asee.org/20806
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