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Experiences of Integrating UAVs into the Curriculum through Multidisciplinary Engineering Projects

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2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


New Orleans, Louisiana

Publication Date

June 26, 2016

Start Date

June 26, 2016

End Date

June 29, 2016





Conference Session

Integrating Curriculum and Labs in ET Programs

Tagged Division

Engineering Technology

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Paper Authors


Ciaran McGoldrick Trinity College, Dublin Orcid 16x16

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Prof. Ciaran Mc Goldrick is a lecturer in the School of Computer Science and Statistics in Trinity College Dublin, Ireland. Since 2015 he is also a Visiting Professor at UCLA. His research interests encompass wireless networking, constrained communications, security, robotics and computer science and engineering education, and he has published widely in these areas This research is supported by both National and European H2020 funding awards. Prof. Mc Goldrick is widely experienced in the formation and development of undergraduate and postgraduate programmes and syllabi at National level, and is regularly called upon to assess and validate existing postgraduate programmes.

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Smita Shivaram Trinity College, Dublin

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I am Smita Shivaram, a student of the M.Sc in Mobile and Ubiquitous Computing course at Trinity College Dublin. I have finished my bachelors degree in Computer Science from VIT University, India. My interests include hardware and software programming, gaming and virtual reality applications.

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Meriel Huggard Bucknell Univeristy and Trinity, College Dublin Orcid 16x16

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Dr. Meriel Huggard has been a tenured faculty member in Trinity College Dublin, Ireland since 2000. For the 2015/16 academic year she is on leave of absence and is a visiting associate professor in Electrical and Computer Engineering at Bucknell University, PA. She teaches courses in computer science, computer engineering and mathematics. She obtained her B.A. (Mod) in theoretical physics and her Ph.D. in computer science education from Trinity College Dublin. She is an IEEE senior member, an ACM senior member and a member of ASEE. Her research interests extend from wireless networking, including the internet of things and constrained communications, through computer science and engineering education, and she continues to publish in these areas. Her research is supported by both national and European H2020 funding awards. She is widely experienced in curriculum development at both undergraduate and postgraduate level and she has served on curriculum development committees at a national level.

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The content and means of delivery of many electronic and computer engineering courses has evolved radically over the past decade due to the rise in the availability of affordable, open-source programmable microcontrollers and accessible wireless communication devices. Many engineering modules have been extended to more closely integrate the underlying technologies and systems with modern engineering practice. One of the more exciting additions to the range of inexpensive robotic technologies is unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), or drones. Drones have a wide range of real-world applications and the full potential of these devices has yet to be explored by either industry or educators.

Drones have an enormous capacity to engage students and facilitate classroom learning. Drones offer a challenging platform for existing engineering design modules where students face challenges in electronics, control, programming and project management.

However, one of the challenges facing educators is how to integrate drones within their courses in a meaningful way; so that UAVs are not viewed as mere toys, but as devices that have a credible role to play in the solution of real world problems. In this paper we describe how UAVs have been included in a multidisciplinary project where students work on real world problems that cut across a broad range of engineering disciplines. The project draws on the capabilities of UAVs: the ability to sense objects in their surroundings, to plot and maintain an accurate course, to make on-the-fly adjustments based on environmental data, to use computer vision to interpret data gathered by the on-board camera etc.

As a proof-of-concept we focus on a practical, contemporary Engineering task – the use of UAVs to monitor the structural health of next generation wind turbines. We describe the high level task, decompose it into multiple complementary facets, relate those to specific Engineering disciplines and associated educational concepts at both undergraduate and postgraduate levels, and then present specific learning and developmental opportunities and describe and present the student engagement and achievements.

McGoldrick, C., & Shivaram, S., & Huggard, M. (2016, June), Experiences of Integrating UAVs into the Curriculum through Multidisciplinary Engineering Projects Paper presented at 2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, New Orleans, Louisiana. 10.18260/p.26818

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