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Non-Expert Sensor-Based Laboratory Development: A Prototype Mobile Application for Rapid Development, Deployment, and Sharing of Laboratory Experiments

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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

Division Experimentation and Lab-Oriented Studies - Pedagogy of Lab Courses

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Division Experimentation & Lab-Oriented Studies

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Paper Authors


Tania Celli Machet The University Of Sydney

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Tania Machet is a PhD graduate working at The University of Sydney whose current research concerns remote laboratories and how these can be used to enhance engineering education. She is currently working on the development of non-expert sensor based laboratories for use in schools and universities.

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David Lowe The University of Sydney

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Professor David Lowe is Associate Dean (Education) and Professor of Software Engineering in the Faculty of Engineering and Information Technologies at The University of Sydney. Before this he was a Director of the Centre for Real-Time Information Networks (CRIN) - a designated research strength at the University of Technology, Sydney focused on blending embedded systems and telecommunications in addressing real-world problems. He is also the CEO of the not-for-profit organisation The LabShare Institute, and past President of the Global Online Laboratory Consortium. Professor Lowe has published widely during his more than 20 year teaching career, including three textbooks.

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Laboratory activities are ubiquitous in schools and universities and allow students to investigate the relationship between real-world phenomena and theoretical models in a controlled setting. As well as traditional ‘hands-on’ laboratories, both simulations and increasingly remote laboratories are widely used and their educational benefits have been supported by the research. Despite the prevalence of laboratories across educational programs, both the number of new experiments being designed and the sharing of the design of these new experiments has been more limited than might be considered desirable. However, developments in sensor and actuator technology, fuelled by the increasing interest in the Internet of Things (IoT), mean that more data is accessible from a range of ‘things’ which have been specifically designed to easily share information about themselves and their environments. This presents an opportunity for the design and delivery of laboratory activities based on the real world data available from IoT enabled ‘things’ without long lead times and expert technical knowledge of the sensors or interconnection technology. This ‘non-expert’ design of sensor based laboratories has application for both remote and hands on laboratories in schools and universities, but is only valuable if teachers are both willing and able to make use of the solutions. This paper reports on the results of a case study into an educational mobile application which makes use of IoT enabled wireless sensor technology to allow educators to easily design, deliver and share laboratory activities based on real world sensor data. Of particular interest is whether teachers would be willing and able to make use of the framework. The prototype developed is an Android application that makes use of TI SensorTag sensors and provides a low cost, flexible solution for the rapid non-expert design, deployment and sharing of laboratory activity design and data. Initial feedback from high school teachers and students using the application shows positive results, but also suggests key aspects that would need to be incorporated in approaches to supporting teacher engagement.

Machet, T. C., & Lowe, D. (2017, June), Non-Expert Sensor-Based Laboratory Development: A Prototype Mobile Application for Rapid Development, Deployment, and Sharing of Laboratory Experiments Paper presented at 2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Columbus, Ohio. 10.18260/1-2--28708

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