Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Grade 8 Girls Enjoy Quanser's Ball and Beam Experiment

Every year, Blair McKay, the electronics teacher at Listowel District Secondary School, invites Grade 8 students to his custom-designed electronics lab - eLab. During the electronics workshops - eDays - the students can find out more about electronics and robotics and engage in hands-on activities.

The eDays are held separately for boys and girls. For the girls' eDay, the guest speakers are all women who have exciting careers in electrical engineering, computer engineering and mechatronics. I have been a guest speaker at eDays since 2004. This year, I talked to the girls about how much fun I have working at Quanser, and I showed them Quanser's Ball and Beam experiment. I demonstrated how the computer can control the position of the ball on the beam, and then I let the girls try to control the experiment manually by moving the mouse. All the girls were eager to participate, and although no one was able to control the position of the ball as quickly as the computer, everyone had fun trying!



The eDay workshops are clearly successful at attracting young women to take electronics in high school. At Listowel District Secondary School, Grade 9 electronics is taught as part of an Introduction to Technology class, and there are typically two full all-girl classes!

4 comments:

Tom 4 said...

Very cool ... did you make any attempt to try to answer the question "what does an engineer do?" with the girls? or was the main intent fun ... which is not a bad thing.

Heidi Wight, R & D Engineer, Electronics said...

One of the guest speakers is typically a college or university professor who explains what an engineer is. The goal of the workshop is to dispel the stereotypes surrounding engineering, and show students how exciting and fulfilling a career in electronics can be.

Abhishek said...

Do you have a simulink file for this?

Heidi Wight, Electronics Engineer said...

We made a custom controller for the Ball and Beam, adding a manual switch that allowed selection between open and closed loop control. In open-loop, the vertical mouse position was mapped to the reference angle of the SRV02 position control loop, which allowed the students to attempt to control the position of the ball.