June 22, 2008
June 22, 2008
June 25, 2008
Computers in Education
13.169.1 - 13.169.7
An EiA Approach to Support Laboratory Learning Environments
When developing or expanding hands-on laboratory environments that rely on technology, one faces various challenges. Such inconvenience varies from expensive technological renovations to the reliance of devices on human intervention, to the non-standardized communication between networked objects that use different native programming languages. To overcome these specific problems, an “Everything is Alive” (EiA) approach is proposed. To explore the potentials and investigate the effectiveness and usefulness of this strategy in hands-on laboratory environments, the idea is implemented and tested on a laboratory system that uses RFID equipment, servers and databases, and moving mechanisms. The set of the different involved agents include RFID readers of different brands, motorized RFID tags and antennas, remote databases that store the RFID reads, and friendly Graphical User Interfaces (GUIs). After constructing the structure and its framework, students and interested individuals are able to change RFID experiments’ setups, control different types of RFID readers, gather the read data, perform computational processes; all is carried out remotely and through one easy-to-use interface. Thusly, educational tools can be built on top of this agent infrastructure and teaching modules can be embedded to the GUI, yielding a creative way to convey the technical knowledge. Furthermore, since they are independent and easy to integrate, agents can be separately developed by advanced-level students in academic milieus, a fact that leads to considerable practical experience. Partial support for this work was provided by the NSF CCLI program.
Everything is Alive
Some people envision the future as an environment where people can talk to all objects. A person can tell the lights to switch on, a house can tell a police station about a threat or robbery, or even more extreme, the soil can tell the water that it is thirsty. This vision became an inspiration for one of the research topics: “Everything is alive1,” also known as EiA. “Everything is Alive” is a concept that says that all objects in the world can be connected to a network called the “Internet of Things2” and be intelligent enough to communicate with humans as well as other objects without human intervention. Once these abilities are acquired by an object, it is called an “EiA agent,” and it is said alive because it can interact with humans and agents.
While many people think that the vision of the future is just a dream and may not be feasible at all, EiA does have a plan to make it come true. Ideally, one can integrate a microchip into an object, program it to create some kind of intelligence, then, plug this “thing” to the ubiquitous “internet.” This entity therefore becomes an agent that is ready to communicate with its outside world. However, this idea needs a while before being implemented because of the cost of the integrated microchips and their installation. Fortunately, there is a cheaper way to achieve our EiA goal. The solution is to use computers for they are powerful and can connect to the internet. Now, imagine that XML, which is a structured programming language used in the web technology, is chosen to be the standard language that every agent speaks. One can then write a
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