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Models of Mobile Hands-On STEM Education

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2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Atlanta, Georgia

Publication Date

June 23, 2013

Start Date

June 23, 2013

End Date

June 26, 2013



Conference Session

Laboratory Experiences in Electronics and Circuits

Tagged Division

Division Experimentation & Lab-Oriented Studies

Page Count


Page Numbers

23.910.1 - 23.910.17



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Paper Authors


Kenneth A Connor Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

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Kenneth Connor is a professor in the Department of Electrical, Computer, and Systems Engineering, where he teaches courses on plasma physics, electromagnetics, electronics and instrumentation, electric power, and general engineering. His research involves plasma physics, electromagnetics, photonics, engineering education, diversity in the engineering workforce, and technology enhanced learning. Since joining the Rensselaer faculty in 1974, he has been continuously involved in research programs at such places as Oak Ridge National Laboratory and the Universities of Texas and Wisconsin in the U.S., Kyoto and Nagoya Universities in Japan, the Ioffe Institute in Russia, and Kharkov Institute of Physics and Technology in Ukraine. He was ECSE Department Head from 2001-2008 and served on the board of the ECE Department Heads Association from 2003-2008. He is presently the Education Director for the SMART LIGHTING NSF ERC.

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Bonnie H. Ferri Georgia Institute of Technology

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Bonnie Ferri is a Professor and Associate Chair for Undergraduate Affairs in the School of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Georgia Tech. She has been doing research in the area of hands-on education for 10 years and has won several awards for her efforts including the Harriet B. Rigas Award from the IEEE Education Society.

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Kathleen Meehan Virginia Tech

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Kathleen Meehan is presently an Associate Professor in the Bradley Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Virginia Tech. Her previous academic positions were at at the University of Denver and West Virginia University. Prior to moving in academia, she was employed at Lytel, Inc., Polaroid Corporation, and Biocontrol Technology. She received her B.S.E.E. from Manhattan College and her M.S. and Ph.D. from the University of Illinois - Urbana/Champaign under the direction of Prof. Nick Holonyak, Jr. Her areas of research include design of optoelectronic materials, devices, and systems; optical spectroscopy; high heat load packaging; and electrical engineering pedagogy.

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Mobile Hands-On STEM EducationHands-on activities are an essential part of the learning experience for STEM students todemonstrate theoretical concepts in practice and to connect students with the experimentalcomponent of our STEM disciplines. Historically, these activities were relegated to structuredexperiments conducted during formal lab courses in limited access, centralized laboratoriesutilizing expensive equipment and requiring extensive support infrastructure. Portable, low-cost,experimental platforms that utilize student resources such as laptops and other mobile devicesallow for ubiquitous hands-on experiences available to students anywhere and anytime: atdesks in a traditional classroom, in a dorm room, in a study group setting, at a coffee shop, etc.These types of experiments allow for a new pedagogical model that promotes a more completeintegration of theory and laboratory experience. This new paradigm opens new avenues forinquiry-based learning that will enhance and deepen student learning of fundamental concepts,experimental concepts and skills, and give them experience in system level design andintegration.Imagine mobile hands-on learning activities that involve both thestudent and the faculty member in the learning process withoutconsiderable time or effort by the instructor. And, suppose thatthere are freely available resources to assist a faculty member,educated under the old lecture system, to introduce hands-onlearning modules and rapidly develop his or her own modulesusing validated procedures. Now, let’s consider what wouldhappen if this pedagogical approach is integrated throughout aSTEM curriculum so that students see how concepts from onecourse can be applied in other course to build a system-levelunderstanding of their discipline and how theory and practice are used in the design process.Suddenly, we have STEM graduates who know, and appreciate, the complexities of theirdiscipline and who are able go out into the workforce and immediately contribute to productdevelopment.Different constituencies benefit from this new mobile hands-on approach to learning:Students have the tools immediately available to solve problems on design projects, toparticipate in design competitions, and to just tinker and follow their own creativity to new areasof discovery. They also find learning concepts with the mobile equipment to be easier and moreaccessible than with traditional, high-cost, limited-access and intimidating equipment.Instructors have a new way to facilitate experiential and inquiry-based learning through hands-on activities. They can develop course content anywhere and anytime; new ideas for labs,activities, and projects can be easily tried out at home.Institutions will have new options for incorporating practical lab experiences into theircurriculum without the need for expensive equipment and dedicated lab space since students owntheir own equipment.This paper will summarize current models for delivering mobile hands-on education inengineering, including in-class demonstrations, in-class labs, mobile studio classes, and labsdone at home. The authors of this paper come from three different institutions, each having anNSF grant on mobile hands-on education in engineering and each using a different model ofdelivery. The generic aspects of these models will be discussed in the full paper along with adiscussion of the best practices in each model; evidence of the success of the differentapproaches will be included.

Connor, K. A., & Ferri, B. H., & Meehan, K. (2013, June), Models of Mobile Hands-On STEM Education Paper presented at 2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Atlanta, Georgia. 10.18260/1-2--22295

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