Thursday, September 15, 2011

How Quanser Is Helping Engineering Grads Become Global Engineers

Today it is essential that engineers work in a global environment. After all, their colleagues and assignments are located across many time zones and cultures, and the effective solutions they seek usually require a multi-disciplinary approach that can be applied anywhere in the world. All this poses a considerable challenge to engineering educators. In 2010, to help answer that challenge, Quanser partnered with a leading educational institution and put together a pilot program that teaches the diverse new skills a global engineer requires.

A Team Approach To Finding Open-Ended Solutions
The strategy involved helping senior students develop two new skill sets. The first involved:

  • basic organization and project planning
  • teamwork, focusing on personal interaction and respect for the opinions of others
  • improved communication, including written, oral, graphic, listening, digital and internet collaboration
The second set consisted of more specific engineering-related skills: modeling, control design, programming and mechanical design.

Quanser Partners with NYIT Faculty and Students
Quanser's partner in this enterprise is the New York Institute of Technology (NYIT). Together we defined the student project: design a mechanism that employs two Quanser SRV02 base units and a camera to create their own version of the 2 DOF Ball Balancer rotary motion experiment.

The students formed four teams, three at the NYIT's Manhattan campus and the one at the Old Westbury campus. Each team was tasked to come up with its own solution. The entire project was conducted through the senior year capstone course during the 2010-2011 academic year, with the process occurring in four distinct phases:
  • Phase 1 - Understanding: In October of 2010 the Quanser SRV02 was integrated into the Senior Design Project. The students installed Quanser hardware, software and cameras and using Quanser-developed course materials, they quickly became familiar with the SRV02 system.

  • Phase 2 - Project Planning: In December of 2010 the design objective was presented to the students, who then organized themselves in teams to solve the problem using Quanser SRV02 units.
  • Phase 3 - Design & Development: From January 2011 to March 2011 the student teams worked independently to develop, simulate and fabricate a controller design system to solve the assigned problem.
  • Phase 4 - Implementation & Evaluation: From April 2011 to May 2011 the students worked on validating, analyzing and reporting on their design solutions.
Quanser engineers worked with the NYIT engineering faculty as reviewers of each team's progress. Being so closely involved with students and their professors also helped our engineers to identify where the project's pedagogy and processes need to be refined. Quanser has made recommendations based on the feedback and outlined a series of "next steps" to make this a more effective experience. These steps are currently being implemented.

The Goal: Graduating Students With Global Engineering Skills
Over the long term the Global Engineering Project will likely evolve to teach comprehensive collaborative work, between teams, across campuses or across the world. Currently consideration is being given to involving students in China. This potential expansion, and continued refinement of the pedagogy over the 2011-2012 academic year and beyond, will bring us closer to ensuring that engineering schools will routinely be graduating students that can immediately meet the real-world engineering opportunities that await them. Stay tuned for the updates on the project!

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