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Introducing the Internet-of-Things to the Next Generation of Engineers

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2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Columbus, Ohio

Publication Date

June 24, 2017

Start Date

June 24, 2017

End Date

June 28, 2017

Conference Session

Electrical and Computer Division Technical Session 4

Tagged Division

Electrical and Computer

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Paper Authors


Samuel J. Dickerson University of Pittsburgh Orcid 16x16

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Dr. Samuel Dickerson is an assistant professor at the University of Pittsburgh Swanson School of Engineering. His general research interests lie in the area of electronics, circuits and embedded systems and in particular, technologies in those areas that have biomedical applications. He has expertise in the design and simulation of mixed-signal integrated circuits and systems that incorporate the use of both digital and analog electronics, as well as optics, microfluidics and devices that interface to the biological world. Prior to joining the University of Pittsburgh faculty he was a co-founder and the president of Nanophoretics LLC, where he led the research and development of a novel dielectrophoresis-based lab-on-chip technology for rapidly detecting drug-resistant bacteria strains. Dr. Dickerson is also interested in enhancing undergraduate engineering education, and investigates new and innovative methods for improving the learning experience for electrical and computer engineering students.

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The world is currently on the verge of the next industrial revolution, the Internet-of-Things, the movement towards embedding everyday objects with intelligence and the ability to wirelessly communicate information to the cloud. The Internet-of-Things promises to drastically change several aspects of our lives, from the way business is conducted to how we go about otherwise routine day to day activities. This oncoming revolution will create a workforce need that those in STEM education fields must work now to fill via efforts to broaden participation in electrical and computer engineering. In particular, this specialized future workforce will have to be bolstered through K-12 outreach and recruitment of students from traditionally underrepresented groups in engineering.

In this paper, we present our University’s efforts to contribute to this need by way of a hands-on activity designed for high school students. The workshop was devised to achieve three primary goals: 1) Encourage consideration of a career in electrical and computer engineering 2) Build excitement about the Internet-of-Things and provide students with a future technical focus and 3) Introduce students to the fundamental building blocks that make up the Internet-of-Things. During this activity, students complete a project in which they first construct a circuit to read data from a temperature sensor using a microcontroller platform. The students then write software to transmit that data over a short-range wireless network and then eventually to an Internet-connected device. Finally, that information is used to actuate a DC motor, thereby emulating the same loop carried out by many Internet-of-Things devices, creating data that originates from a sensor, goes to the cloud and then comes back to perform action.

We report on two offerings of this workshop and present results in various forms. In addition to student surveys, an observation protocol was used to collect information on the level of activity and student engagement. Finally, samples of student work were directly assessed in terms of their quality and completeness. The results show that the activity is engaging and is successful in meeting its three stated goals. We also provide lessons learned, suggestions for educators who wish to deploy similar activities and propose ideas to improve future offerings.

Dickerson, S. J. (2017, June), Introducing the Internet-of-Things to the Next Generation of Engineers Paper presented at 2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Columbus, Ohio. 10.18260/1-2--28580

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