Rensselaer has recently begun to examine the potential for creating experiment‐centric, instrumentation‐based studio environments that are flexible, re‐configurable, and location independent. With the advent of a Rensselaer‐developed Mobile Studio Instrumentation Board (I/O Board, which is connected to a PC via a USB port), the collaborative learning milieu can now expand beyond the campus classrooms – to the dorms – and the rest of the university spaces. The I/O Board, with an estimated cost of $150, replicates the functionality of an oscilloscope, function generator, multimeter and power supplies at a significantly lower cost. Students from all demographics – including those from disadvantaged backgrounds, students with special needs, distance learners, and students attending resource‐limited institutions ‐ can now have 24/7 access to state‐of‐the‐art instrumentation capabilities.
Educators need to incorporate more dynamic, hands‐on opportunities into the pedagogy to reach and motivate today’s more diverse student populations. Students do not enter college with the same amount of practical experience that prior generations had. Ultimately, we can enable scaffolding and improve retention of concepts through laboratory experimentation, since students can gain valuable insight through practical hands‐on experience. Therefore, the focus of this project is to develop an experimentation-centric pedagogy that allows faculty and students to implement laboratory instrumentation based Mobile Studio environments anywhere (classroom, library, union, dorm, etc.), at anytime (24/7) to enhance STEM education. Mobile Studio based demonstrations, in‐class activities, and follow‐up take‐home experiments will be designed, developed, utilized, evaluated and disseminated for each of the two courses (Circuits, Electronics Instrumentation) – with guidance from an advisory group that has representatives from both industry and academia. Each student will devise experimental procedures for each given problem, test their ideas in class, and then complete an activity outside of class at his/her choice of time and place.
The intellectual merit of the project is to develop a low-cost, highly flexible Mobile Studio pedagogy using the Mobile Studio Instrumentation Board that allows instructors to link theory and practice in each class through demonstration and handson laboratory experiences, while also further expanding experimental activities beyond the classroom. An extensive deployment and evaluation plan is being completed under the direction of the Evaluation Consortium (from the University at Albany) in engineering courses at Rensselaer, Howard and Rose‐Hulman. The plan will result in a valuable set of vetted Mobile Studio resources and pedagogy that can be widely adopted by other institutions – as was done with Rensselaer’s original Studio model.
The broader impact of this project includes giving students the ability to perform and further explore experiments at their own pace anywhere/anytime while additionally providing STEM educators with innovative educational technology to utilize both in and out of the classroom. The faculty are teaching the course content at both their home institution and at the partner’s as part of an instructor exchange program – as well as in a K‐12 classroom outreach program. Educational outreach materials (using the Mobile Studio pedagogy) are being produced that focus on K‐12 grade science/technology areas in order to help institutions meet or exceed the state assessment standards.