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Wireless Sensor Networks: An Interdisciplinary Topic For Freshman Design

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2005 Annual Conference


Portland, Oregon

Publication Date

June 12, 2005

Start Date

June 12, 2005

End Date

June 15, 2005



Conference Session

Emerging Trends in Engineering Education Poster Session

Page Count


Page Numbers

10.1474.1 - 10.1474.7



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Paper Authors

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Tony Keller

author page

Jeff Frolik

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Session 1793

Wireless Sensor Networks: An Interdisciplinary Topic for Freshman Design Jeff Frolik and Tony Keller

University of Vermont


Wireless sensor networks (WSN) are a nascent technology that builds upon the recent decade’s advances in electrical and mechanical engineering including wireless communications, low-power embedded systems, MEMS-sensor design, network architectures and instrumentation applications. These networks promise a means by which to better monitor and understand our industrial, military and natural environments. Wireless sensors have broad interdisciplinary interest and have been recognized as one of the significant emerging technologies by the National Science Foundation1 2 and the general press 3 4. Using wireless sensor networks as a motivating technology, this paper discusses a new course for electrical and computer engineering (ECE) and mechanical engineering (ME) freshman at the University of Vermont (UVM). The course provides students with a hands-on experience in which interdisciplinary team work, technical communications and hardware design is emphasized. The engineering program at UVM is relatively small with three departments (electrical and computer, civil and environmental and mechanical engineering) and with ~100 freshman entering each year. Thus the methodology presented herein may serve as a model for similarly sized programs.


In recent years, retention among freshman engineering students at UVM has only been ~60%. To improve retention and attract new students into engineering, faculty from ECE and ME worked to identify components of the freshman curriculum in need of revision. Historically, engineering students at UVM had not been exposed to engineering design until their junior or senior years. This lack of a hands-on design project experience during the freshman year is inconsistent with the curriculum at universities with a strong engineering presence. Thus, a new cross-listed course, EE/ME 001 – Freshman Design Experience, was developed in the Fall 2003 and introduced during the Spring 2004. The key objectives of this course were to:

1. Provide students with a better understanding of the electrical and mechanical engineering disciplines. This objective is key for UVM has historically had ~40% of its entering engineering freshman classified as “Undecided Engineering”. 2. Provide students with an appreciation for the interdisciplinary nature of engineering, while stressing the importance of structured problem solving. 3. Provide students with an opportunity to develop practical skills through self-motivating, hands-on, team-based design activities. These skills are the same as those required by practicing engineers, namely critical thinking, team-work, and good communication

Proceedings of the 2005 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright © 2005, American Society for Engineering Education

Keller, T., & Frolik, J. (2005, June), Wireless Sensor Networks: An Interdisciplinary Topic For Freshman Design Paper presented at 2005 Annual Conference, Portland, Oregon. 10.18260/1-2--15128

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