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Letting Students Learn Through Making Mistakes: Teaching Hardware and Software Early in an Academic Career

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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

Microcontrollers, Programming, and Data Acquisition

Tagged Division

Mechanical Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

26.1089.1 - 26.1089.8



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Paper Authors


Derrick Rodriguez P.E. Colorado School of Mines

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Dr. Rodriguez is a Teaching Associate Professor at the Colorado School of Mines in the Mechanical Engineering Department. He has taught over 30 courses and specializes in Thermal/Fluid Systems.

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Jenifer Blacklock Colorado School of Mines

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Dr. Jenifer Blacklock is the Assistant Department Head in the Mechanical Engineering department at Colorado School of Mines. Jenifer is active in the Undergraduate Curriculum in the Mechanical Engineering department and is an advocate of using hands-on-learning tools to help develop strong math, science and engineering foundations.

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Joel M. Bach Colorado School of Mines

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Associate Professor, Mechanical Engineering, Colorado School of Mines

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Letting students learn through making mistakes: Teaching hardware and software early in an academic career.A new course is being taught at the Colorado School of Mines in order to develop a consistentframework for the students to learn software and hardware together early in their academic careers.What they learn in this course will be carried out throughout the program in an effort to provide aconsistent baseline for future courses. Students typically have learned programming and hardwareoutside of the Mechanical Engineering Department. The Department is now undertaking this task inorder to develop what they need to know early in their academic careers. The course does not follow thetypical course structure in that it does not have exams and a lot of homework assignments. The coursedoes incorporate a hands-on approach with learning Matlab programming in conjunction with a widearray of hardware including Arduino boards and a multitude of sensors. Students are started off with atwo-week introduction to the software, but then are shifted to learning the hardware through a hands-onapproach in smaller groups. The instructors are very hands-off; thereby allowing the students to makemistakes and learn from these mistakes. The class is generally organized into smaller project groups,with each group assigned a variety of hardware. This hardware includes a multitude of sensors that willbe used throughout the semester. The students are responsible for learning how to control the hardwarewith various software scripts. This course varies from the norm in that it merges software and hardwaretogether with a specific application to future mechanical engineering courses.

Rodriguez, D., & Blacklock, J., & Bach, J. M. (2015, June), Letting Students Learn Through Making Mistakes: Teaching Hardware and Software Early in an Academic Career Paper presented at 2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Seattle, Washington. 10.18260/p.24426

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