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eSMART: A collaborative, competitive challenge to foster engineering education

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2022 ASEE Gulf Southwest Annual Conference


Prairie View, Texas

Publication Date

March 16, 2022

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March 16, 2022

End Date

March 18, 2022

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Jay R Porter Texas A&M University

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Jay R. Porter joined the Department of Engineering Technology and Industrial Distribution at Texas A&M University in 1998 and is currently the Associate Dean for Engineering at Texas A&M University - Galveston. He received the BS degree in electrical engineering (1987), the MS degree in physics (1989), and the Ph.D. in electrical engineering (1993) from Texas A&M University. His areas of interest in research and education include product development, analog/RF electronics, instrumentation, and entrepreneurship.

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Paul M Koola Texas A&M University

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Paul Mario Koola Ph.D., MBA is the Asst. Director of Freshman Engineering at Galveston and a Professor of Practice at the Ocean Engineering Department, Texas A&M University. His passion is to educate the next generation engineers.
Dr. Koola has a BS in Mechanical Engineering in 1983. His Ph.D. is in Ocean Engineering in 1991 from the Indian Institute of Technology, Madras, where he was a tenured faculty until 1998 when he came to Texas A&M to do an MBA with full scholarship. Dr. Koola is a US Fulbright Scholar, German Alexander Von Humboldt Fellow, and a Danish DANIDA Scholar. He comes with a wealth of knowledge from the industry and his greatest strengths are his experience spanning across a significant spectrum of interdisciplinary science and engineering and the management of these technology programs. He has worked on multimillion-dollar contracts with the Department of Defense, Missile Defense, Department of Energy and NASA. His current work spans a broad range of problems in computational science and engineering specifically in the use of AI and machine learning to Ocean Engineering. Some of the specific applications he works on include new ocean infrastructure, Smart Energy Absorbing Structures (SEAS), ocean renewable energy powered autonomous exploration vehicles and marine cybersecurity.

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Rahul Subramanian Ocean Engineering, Texas A and M University

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Dr Subramanian is currently a lecturer with the Ocean Engineering Department at Texas A and M University at Galveston. He is primarily involved with teaching and mentoring undergraduates. He teaches courses including design of ships and floating structures, fluid mechanics and computational methods for engineers. Professional interests include developing and applying computational hydromechanics towards the hydrodynamic design of floating structures and engineering education.

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eSMART (educating Smart Marine Aggies Robotic Technologies) is a semester-long challenge welcoming student teams across the Texas A&M University Galveston Campus to put their innovation, creativity, and communication skills to the test. The competition was conceived in the Fall of 2020 as a way to have students: • actively involved in extra-curricular activities, • translate their course-based learning to the real-world, • connect professional and socially with their peers across the campus, • and find their internal drive and self-motivation through a fun, hands-on, innovative activity. As core tenets of the eSMART competition, students are challenged to work in a team environment to design, build and demonstrate a remote-controlled water vehicle. Their vehicle must use bi-directional communications over WiFi for control of the platform. Each team is limited to a $100 budget to ensure that all teams compete on a level playing field.

Interdisciplinary teaming is encouraged through a constraint that all teams must include five to seven members with at least two freshman engineering students, one ocean engineering student, and one student from any other department on campus, such as marine biology. The intent is to cross-pollinate ideas between disciplines and encourage students to work outside of their domain. Once approved, they work together to complete the project, demonstrate their solution, and compete for monetary awards. An essential goal of eSMART is to foster more interactions among students on this small campus that would not have otherwise happened. For the first offering of eSMART in Spring 2020, 94 students across multiple academic programs registered and competed.

As this project is often the first opportunity to engage in an open ended-project, the students are supported by a stage-gate process similar to real-world engineering projects. In addition, numerous informational sessions were held to guide students through the design and build process. To qualify for the final competition and compete for awards, teams had to complete three gates: Gate 1: Demonstration of remote control of two motors on land; Gate 2: Static Flotation Stability in protected waters; Gate 3: Dynamic Flotation Stability – Vessel Maneuvering.

Another goal of the eSMART is to engage our large number of freshman engineers on the Galveston campus. With this in mind, all teams must use the Lego NXT intelligent brick and Python programming to control their vehicle. Because our freshmen students take a Python programming course in their first semester, this allows them to participate and use their newfound knowledge to support the team. Lego control brick and motors were the only forms of propulsion control & power allowed for their sea-going design, not a standard choice given that these modules are not waterproof and seaworthy. This paper describes the competition in detail, including goals, implementation, and challenges. The paper also discusses the challenges introduced by the COVID pandemic and how the event was moved to a virtual platform to ensure social distancing. Finally, lessons learned and future plans will be presented.

Porter, J. R., & Koola, P. M., & Subramanian, R. (2022, March), eSMART: A collaborative, competitive challenge to foster engineering education Paper presented at 2022 ASEE Gulf Southwest Annual Conference, Prairie View, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--39180

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