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Capturing Technical Lectures on Lightboard

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2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Seattle, Washington

Publication Date

June 14, 2015

Start Date

June 14, 2015

End Date

June 17, 2015





Conference Session

Mechanical Engineering Division Poster Session

Tagged Division

Mechanical Engineering

Tagged Topic


Page Count


Page Numbers

26.325.1 - 26.325.9



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Paper Authors


J. Alex Birdwell Northwestern University

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J. Alex Birdwell is a lecturing professor with the Mechanical Engineering department at Northwestern University. His research was conducted at the intersection of robotics and biomechanics in the field of human-machine interactions, and explored novel ways to control robotic prosthetic hands. He is very passionate about student education and currently teaches five separate courses at the undergraduate level that include manufacturing, design, experimental methods, and thermodynamics. He greatly enjoys advising all levels of undergraduate and early graduate students. He is the producer for the Lightboard studio, and is currently exploring models for effective online and hybrid teaching models.

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Michael Peshkin Northwestern University

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Michael Peshkin, a Charles Deering McCormick Professor of Teaching Excellence awardee, has been at Northwestern University for 25 years. His research area is human–robot interaction, particularly haptics, as well as investigation of bioinspired electrosense. He developed a very popular Electronics Design course for mechanical engineering students, which is a partially flipped course, in the sense that in the classroom, and at home, the students build and debug circuits with the use of portable instrumentation. He developed the Lightboard in response to the needs of that class and his ongoing interest in methods for online teaching. In addition to his research and teaching interests, he has started four spinoff companies.

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Capturing technical lectures on LightboardEngineering lectures are most commonly done with the aid of drawings and equations,usually on chalkboards or whiteboards. In capturing lectures on video however, thesetraditional props become liabilities: the presenter must turn away from the audience towrite or draw on the board, and the presenter’s body often obscures the material.We developed the Lightboard to create visually compelling videotaped lectures, to avoidthe liabilities of chalkboards, and furthermore to be able to produce upload-ready videosegments with no post-production.The Lightboard is a glass board, carrying light internally via total internal reflection fromLED strips along its edges. A video camera captures the presenter and his/her writing byviewing through the glass. The result is vivid, luminous writing floating in front of thepresenter, who can now face toward the camera while drawing and interacting with thematerial on the board. The video is mirror-imaged on the fly to correct left-right reversal.The ability to produce a lecture segment in one take, essentially live, and without post-production, has proven to be a huge incentive to faculty. Graphics sources such asPowerpoint slides, close-up video of an experiment or demonstration, or live contentfrom a personal computer, can be merged in real-time with the Lightboard camerastream. This allows the presenter to interact with the material, and even to annotate itwith markers on the glass board.Faculty have used the Lightboard for recording lectures for flipped or hybrid classes,created lectures for distance learning courses and MOOCs, answered student questionswith video responses, held live on-line review sessions, created engineering graphicstutorials, and recording solutions for homework and example problems. Students havecreated final presentations for classes, design competition entries, and promotional videosfor philanthropic and extra-curricular organizations.Numerous other schools have constructed Lightboards from our plans and specifications,which we have offered as open-source hardware ( )The figure below shows some examples of how we have used the Lightboard to do atraditional lecture (C), interact with slides or a video (A, B, D, E, F), and run experiments(F). A A B C D E$ F$ F$Figure 1. Uses of the Lightboard. A) Interacting with Powerpoint graphics in a flippedclassroom recording. B) Filling in a slide with handwriting. C) Drawing circuit diagrams.D) Student showing a video and then diagraming a model to describe the behavior. E)Working example problems. F) Student running an experiment, diagramming the model,and running a real-time script to graph the system output, then annotating the graph.

Birdwell, J. A., & Peshkin, M. (2015, June), Capturing Technical Lectures on Lightboard Paper presented at 2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Seattle, Washington. 10.18260/p.23664

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