NI Engineering Education Webinar Series Focuses on Mechatronics

At the beginning of March, the Engineering Education Webinar Series presented by National Instruments is focusing on mechatronics education. As this topic is of main interest for our community, here is a brief description of the webinars as shown on the NI website, for all those who would be interested in joining:

Transforming Labs to Accelerate Student Understanding of Core Mechatronics Concepts

Tuesday, March 7, 2017 - 11 am CST
Presented by Dr. David Mac Nair, Director of Laboratory Development, Georgia Tech

Laboratory experiments are a mainstay of undergraduate engineering education. To increase inquiry-based aspects of the lab, a redesign is necessary. Future engineers must both gain an understanding of the fundamental concepts as well as build their engineering intuition on the how, why, where, and when these concepts must be applied. Dr. David MacNair explains the techniques he uses at one of the largest engineering universities in the world and shows how they can enhance the preparation of students to meet the growing needs of industry and research. 

Preparing Our Undergrads for Ambitious Engineering System Design Through Mechatronics

Wednesday. March 8, 2017 - 11 am CST
Presented by Dr. Tom Lee, Chief Education Officer, Quanser; Adjunct Professor of Systems Design Engineering, University of Waterloo

Most engineering schools have introduced some form of mechatronic design into undergraduate curriculum over the past few years. Ambitious mechatronic design, however, refers to the skills and insight that the emerging generation of engineers needs to create driverless vehicles, travel to and from Mars, and technologically respond to severe physical ailments. But how do we close the gap between introductory concepts based on hobby-grade embedded platforms and the advanced methodologies required to perform modern mechatronic magic?

To establish a comprehensive framework for mechatronics education, Dr. Tom Lee has been working with institutions around the world. Technologically, he has worked with commercial partners to establish flexible, scalable, and persistent lab platforms. Pedagogically, he has been working to reconcile the theoretical foundations of the engineering sciences and mathematics with the digital realities of modern design. Practically, he has explored techniques to make new teaching strategies consistent with the course structure of academic programs.

In this webinar, see an overview of these new approaches in the context of global trends fundamentally changing if not challenging the way we teach undergraduates.

To find out more about the webinars and to register, visit the NI website.

Mechatronics Educators Exchange Ideas

Professor Kapila from the NYU Tandon School of Engineering believes that “mechatronics as a field has grown sufficiently mature, that instead of simply offering individual courses or a sequence of courses, we must be at a stage now to create entire academic programs.” He wanted to share his experiences from building a Mechatronics and Robotics program at NYU Tandon with other educators facing similar challenges, and see how they approach mechatronics education at their institutions.

In June 2016, Dr. Kapila invited a small group of fellow professors to NYU Tandon. They represented institutions that already designed and launched mechatronics programs, as well as those who are just starting. He also brought in Quanser, a leading developer of experiments and courseware for mechatronics, robotics, and controls research and teaching, to get the perspective of the industry. The Mechatronics Education Workshop: Designing and Building Effective Programs was a great success, and all the participants agreed this type of forum was extremely useful and needed. Professor Kapila started working on a second workshop, wanting to bring a larger group of educators and companies to engage in discussion on the future of mechatronics education.

Dr. Kapila hoped for some 30 participants for the second workshop. Being able to secure an NSF funding, as well as support from companies such as Quanser, National Instruments, and Dassault Systemes, the Mechatronics Education Innovation Workshop by far exceed his own expectations.

More than seventy attendees representing universities and two- and four-year colleges from all over the U.S., UK, and Denmark, convened to NYU Tandon’s Brooklyn campus in mid-November. Together with the panelists from a wide range of industries, they discussed the skills engineering graduates need, the role of industry in shaping mechatronics education, key components of the mechatronics programs, and how best to balance the theory and applied work, the new mechatronics courses and related traditional courses. They also heard how their peers at the California University at Berkeley, University of Illinois, Chicago, US Naval Academy, Worcester Polytechnic Institute, University of Alabama, and the University of Sheffield, UK, approached creating mechatronics programs, what challenges they encountered and what are their plans for the future. And as hands-on approaches to learning are inherent to mechatronics, the workshop concluded with the demonstration session and a tour of the labs at NYU Tandon.

There’s still a lot to discuss – and that’s way the participants welcomed the idea of creating a community site for mechatronics educators, where they would be able to exchange ideas, share curricula, and best practices and continue the conversation.