RFID-Based Multidisciplinary Educational Platform to Improve the Engineering and Technology Curriculums

By Yelamarthi, Kumar | Journal of STEM Education : Innovations and Research, October-December 2012 | Go to article overview

RFID-Based Multidisciplinary Educational Platform to Improve the Engineering and Technology Curriculums


Yelamarthi, Kumar, Journal of STEM Education : Innovations and Research


Abstract

Multidisciplinary projects involving electrical engineering (EE), mechanical engineering (ME), and computer engineering (CE) students are both exciting and difficult to conceptualize. Answering this challenge, this paper presents a multidisciplinary educational platform on radio frequency identification-based assistive devices. The combination of software, hardware, circuit, and mechanical design makes this platform an excellent choice for undergraduate student projects and curriculum development. Through working on these multidisciplinary projects, students will be able to study a complex engineering and technology system that: a) exposes them to applied and cutting-edge technologies, b) encourages them to participate in an integrated, multidisciplinary curriculum, and c) trains them in methods of applied technology and the skills necessary to transition from academic to professional environments.

1. Introduction

The rapid advancement in technology has laid a path for the design and manufacture of many multidisciplinary integrated technologies. These advancements have provided new avenues for the engineering educators to better prepare tomorrow's global citizens through innovative methods capable of responding to the future challenges, such as an aging society, a higher need for assistive devices, and methods to integrating new developments into the society (National Academy of Engineering, 2004). On the other hand, engineering educators are faced with a challenge of low student enrollment in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) disciplines, resulting in a low graduation rate of STEM professionals in United States (US) compared to that of other nations (National Science Board, 2012). For the US to continue being the global leader in engineering and technology, engineering educators need to be proactive in preparing tomorrow's global citizen through integrated and innovative multidisciplinary approaches.

While proposing solutions for a technical problem, conventional design projects in the engineering curriculum limit the scope to just one discipline, and focus on improvement rather than innovation (Dutson, Todd, Magleby, &Sorenson, 1997). A student-focused curriculum should be designed to address one such drawback. Undergraduate education is a stimulating and nurturing process during which students are open and eager to learn new concepts, and it is up to engineering educators to provide appropriate opportunities to actively engage and guide students. On one hand engineering education requires the adaptive grasping of basic theories, but on the other hand, it emphasizes hands-on experiences, innovative ideas and creativity to meet societal needs. Accordingly, there is a genuine necessity to bridge the gap between theory and practice (Haddara & Skanes, 2007).

Two such critical success factors for engineers in the "flat-world" are their ability to adapt to changes and their ability to collaborate with others from different disciplines (Friedman, 2005; Schaefer, Panchal, Choi, & Mistree, 2008). In this "flat-world", engineers and scientists need to constantly learn and teach others new ways of performing old/new tasks, and also to learn how to collaborate. By collaborating across disciplines, students: a) obtain opportunities to experience a different domain, b) combine knowledge and skills from different disciplines, c) work as a team members, d) solve real-time design/research problems, and e) gain personal and professional development opportunities(Skates, 2003).

ABET recommends engineering programs that focus on theory, where engineering graduates spend their time planning, solving problems, designing and developing new products, systems, and technologies. Technology graduates would focus on product design and application of these new technologies (ABET, 2012). A multidisciplinary and integrated platform for the collaboration of engineering and technology students answers few of the challenges in this "flat-world," such as globalization, an ability to adapt, and collaboration between different disciplines and cultures (Friedman, 2005). …

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