New Orleans, Louisiana
June 26, 2016
June 26, 2016
August 28, 2016
New Engineering Educators
The Learning Enhanced Watershed Assessment System (LEWAS) lab is a high-frequency, real-time environmental monitoring lab located on the campus of Virginia Tech. This lab has developed over the course of 9 years from a prototype system used in one class to a real-time environmental monitoring system that has been in used in 21 courses across 6 institutions and in 3 countries. Throughout its development, this lab has also hosted an NSF/REU site at Virginia Tech for 8 years. Every year for 10 weeks during the summer 8-11 students, coming from several universities and having various disciplinary backgrounds, join the site. Among them, 1-2 engage in interdisciplinary research work in the LEWAS lab, while others join different research labs across the Virginia Tech campus. As of 2015, 12 REU fellows have been mentored by the faculty advisors and the graduate students (including four authors of this paper) of this lab. In this paper, we will discuss the work of these 12 REU fellows and how their combined contribution aided the development of the present LEWAS lab. In 2007, the first REU student to join the lab developed a simple prototype for a wireless data collection system, aiming to design an on-campus watershed sciences and engineering laboratory. This prototype iteratively evolved with the help of other REU students to the present LEWAS, which has the following four stages: 1) data inputs that consist of environmental instruments including an acoustic Doppler current profiler, a water quality sonde and a weather station each taking measurements every 1-3 min., 2) data processing occurring locally on a Raspberry Pi, 3) data storage on a remote server and 4) data visualization through an Online Watershed Learning System (OWLS) (www.lewas.centers.vt.edu/dataviewer) through which end users access the LEWAS data for research and education. Each REU fellow significantly contributed to the development/maintenance/application of two or more of these stages. The implementation of all four stages was a complex process that required interdisciplinary knowledge and skills, which were obtained not only through graduate mentors representing different disciplines (engineering education, civil & environmental engineering, electrical & computer engineering, computer science and environmental science) but also REU students who were pursuing a range of undergraduate degrees (civil & environmental engineering, computer science, computer engineering, chemical engineering and environmental science). Through research experiences in an interdisciplinary lab, REU fellows were exposed to a wide spectrum of learning and research work, beyond their disciplinary domain. The authors, in turn gained experience mentoring the REU fellows in their research work. The knowledge shared in this paper demonstrates how an interdisciplinary engineering system/lab can be iteratively built as a result of undergraduate research work under graduate mentorship. This study also shows how an REU program can support the development of an engineering lab as well as the research of several masters and PhD students.
Basu, D., & McDonald, W., & Brogan, D. S., & Maczka, D. K., & Lohani, V. K. (2016, June), Combined Contribution of 12 REU Students to the Development of the LEWAS Lab Paper presented at 2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, New Orleans, Louisiana. 10.18260/p.26512
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