Work in Progress: Development and Implementation of a Self-Guided Arduino Module in an Introductory Engineering Design Course
This Work in Progress paper will describe the development and implementation of a self-guided Arduino module in a required, multidisciplinary design course for first-year engineering students. The development of this module was motivated by feedback from former course participants indicating that basic microcontroller programming knowledge would have been valuable not only for completing the projects in the introductory design course, but also for use in upper level engineering courses and projects of personal interest. The introductory engineering design course has an enrollment of nearly 600 students per semester, so implementing hands-on instruction of this technology poses a challenge for instructors.
In order to accommodate the large number of students and overcome computer lab space limitations, an online module was developed and is being deployed in this course during Fall 2017. Over the course of five weeks, students are instructed in the basics of programming an Arduino Uno, an open source microcontroller board. The learning objectives for students are (1) to learn the basics of Arduino programming through hands-on activities, (2) to connect with the numerous online resources available for creating their own projects for personal or class purposes, and (3) to gain a sense of curiosity about what types of challenges and problems they may be able to solve with their newfound skills.
Although instruction is provided via online video resources, the module is a hands-on learning experience for the students. Students check out kits with the necessary electronic components to use for the duration of the module and work through a series of guided examples and activities. The Arduino software is open source, so students are able to download it for free on their own computers and complete the lessons anywhere. Because the weekly tutorials and activities are self-guided rather than in a classroom setting, students are required to be responsible for their own learning and cannot constantly rely on an instructor for assistance.
The initial deployment of the Arduino module is currently underway, and throughout this pilot test students’ understanding of the technical content is being assessed through weekly assignments and multiple choice quizzes. At the conclusion of the module, students will complete a survey with questions related to their experience during the module and their confidence in their ability to use this technology to take on engineering design challenges.
The semester-long design challenge that students address in this course can be solved using a wide variety of methods, and although students will not be required to incorporate an Arduino Uno microcontroller board into their design project this semester, it is anticipated that many will choose to do so after completing the module. Students’ incorporation of this technology into their semester projects and the quality of these projects will be recorded and compared to projects from semesters prior to the deployment of the online module. Although this study is ongoing, initial feedback has been positive, and it is expected that more students will make use of an Arduino Uno or another microcontroller board in their projects than in previous semesters. If successful during this initial deployment, the online module is intended to become a permanent feature of the introductory design course with the goals of increasing students’ technical skills and allowing them to take on more advanced engineering design challenges.
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