Educational Technology Exemplars for US Schools of Engineering
author: Irene Georgakoudi, School of Engineering, Tufts University
author: Alan W. Cramb, Illinois Institute of Technology
author: Shekhar Garde, The Howard P. Isermann Department of Chemical & Biological Engineering, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
author: Don P. Giddens, Wallace H. Coulter Deptartment of Biomedical Engineering, Georgia Institute of Technology
author: Amy Pritchett, Georgia Institute of Technology
author: David C. Munson Jr., Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, University of Michigan
author: Peter M. Chen, Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, University of Michigan
moderator: Thomas L. Magnanti, School of Engineering, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, MIT
published: Jan. 3, 2013, recorded: December 2006, views: 3292
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Innovators from some of the nation’s top tech schools demonstrate their methods for making science and engineering education more engaging, if not fun.
At Tufts, Irene Georgakoudi hands out Legos to a freshman class on optics and lasers. While conveying properties of light and principles of laser operation, she hopes to excite students about physics and engineering. Teams design and build instruments out of Legos, and conduct experiments, gathering and recording data. Georgakoudi says with some sophisticated add-ons like motors, light sensors and control modules, Legos can “enhance understanding of basic concepts, promote creative thinking, provide practical experience with building and controlling instruments and promote teamwork.”
Shekhar Garde of RPI aims to feed the minds of an even younger audience. His Molecularium, an animated musical film introduction to the world of molecules, targets K-4 children. If this country is falling short in producing scientific and technological talent, Garde believes, we must convince kids that “atoms and molecules are amazing and interesting, and that it’s cool to learn about them.” Instead of a planetarium experience, Garde and colleagues focused on expanding the minuscule – water molecules, carbon atoms – and telling a story about the transformation of matter with cartoon characters. He’s hoping to move to an even bigger medium, IMAX film, with foundation help.
From her research studying how long air traffic controllers need to adapt to new technologies, Amy Pritchett figured that introducing novel technologies and methods to her institute peers would not be instantaneous. While many instructors have already developed technologies suited to their particular curriculum, other faculty remain completely uninterested. In her own industrial engineering course, students use a website for asynchronous dialogue to review each other’s designs. Pritchett believes what’s needed in the classroom is “not new technology but work processes,” especially those designed around cognition. Only by demonstrating that new technologies are effective and reliable in the classroom, and by showing how to implement new applications, will faculty want to sign on.
At the University of Michigan, Peter Chen has come up with an introduction to computing systems that allows first year students “to experience the joys of engineering,” harnessing both enthusiasm and creativity. His Microprocessors and Music course demands that students conceive a product, then design, build, test and report on it. In the process of creating music machines, students pick up the basics of digital logic, computer architecture and embedded systems. Chen “plays” some of these products, which, he says, gave students a sense of pride and accomplishment. The course yielded overwhelmingly positive reviews among students as well as deep interest in pursuing computer engineering careers.
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