Collaborative Research: Center for Mobile Hands-On STEM Experiment Centric Pedagogy and Wh It Should Be a Core Part of Every Engineering Student's Learning Experience

Project No.
PI Name
Kenneth Connor
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

Abstract 1

Collaborative Research: Center for Mobile Hands-On STEM Experiment Centric Pedagogy and Wh It Should Be a Core Part of Every Engineering Student's Learning Experience

Presentation Type
Kenneth Connor, RPI Kathleen Meehan, Virginia Tech Bonnie Ferri, Georgia Tech Aldo Ferri, Georgia Tech Deborah Walter, Rose-Hulman Yacob Astatke, Morgan State Mohamed Chouikha, Howard Dianna Newman, U Albany


Remarkable progress has been made in the development and implementation of hands-on learning in STEM education. The mantra of See One, Do One, Teach One overly simplifies the idea but does provide a helpful structure to understand how many engineering educators are attempting to change the learning experience of our students. Until recently, this effort has been faced with a major limitation. We can easily incorporate traditional paper and pencil and numerical analysis, synthesis, and simulation in our classrooms. However, the remaining key aspect of doing the job of an engineer ヨ experimentation ヨ has only been included through the use of expensive and limited-access lab facilities. Small, low-cost Mobile Hands-On STEM (MHOS) learning platforms (e.g., myDAQ, Analog Discovery, and Circuit Gear Mini) provide almost unlimited opportunities to solve this remaining problem in engineering courses. Pedagogy based on these tools has been implemented and studied in several institutions in the US and in other countries, impacting thousands of students each year. In all cases in which hands-on learning has been studied, the pedagogy has been successfully implemented. This has occurred even in traditionally theory-only based courses, resulting in more engaged students and instructors. Although the initial assessments of this new approach to STEM education argue for broad application, the definitive case for its adoption has yet to be documented so that all STEM educators can fully appreciate its merit.


The Center for Mobile Hands-On STEM is pursuing activities that support the following goals:
ユ Gather strong evidence of the effectiveness of Mobile Hands-On STEM (MHOS) pedagogy on student learning.
ユ Develop an effective and pro-active dissemination strategy for the entire STEM educational community.

To achieve these goals, we have recently focused on:
ユ Creating and implementing new standardized assessment tools that measure student learning, especially through the development of new experimentally focused concept inventories, as well as measure ease of adoption by instructors.
ユ Identifying implementation barriers for wide-spread adoption and how these might be overcome by applying the business start-up methodology of the NSF I-Corps program, working with faculty who have recently received funding to implement the mobile pedagogy, and holding focus groups among different constituencies.


Both of these general areas of activity represent works-in-progress. In the former we are investigating formulations of concepts and possible learning and assessment activities and collecting data on their effectiveness. We identify three objectives of Hands-On instruction, 1) to apply instrumentation to make measurements of physical quantities, 2) to identify limitations of models to predict of real-world behavior, and 3) to develop an experimental approach to characterize and explain the world. We have consulted with experts to develop a list of common misconceptions students display in laboratory instruction. A unique feature in testing Hands-On concepts is that laboratory skills are inextricably tied to analytical concepts and therefore both analytical and hands-on concepts have to be tested in order to distinguish the root cause of the misunderstanding. Based on these common misconceptions, test questions are being developed and data is being collected on their effectiveness to assess learning. Feedback from faculty and students interested in MOHS pedagogy is being solicited. For the latter, we have had a group of our colleagues go through I-Corps training as part of a pilot program to determine whether the I-Corps model could be used to expand the impact of educational research. Strong collaborative relationships have been developed with new groups who are aggressively implementing similar pedagogy throughout all of their engineering programs. Finally, we will be hosting a series of online practitionersメ workshops rather than the usual physical face-to-face workshop, because of the potential for wider and longer term impact. The workshops will engage leaders in various aspects of hands-on learning who will develop videos that address issues associated with adoption and sustainability, key areas within engineering curricula and time into degree where students gain significantly by engaging in active learning to facilitate learning, a review of the models of adoption, etc. An exemplar video is being created for use as a guide for those who will be asked to develop videos on specific topics related to hands-on learning and as the video associated with the first online workshop.


1. A large amount of content utilizing Mobile Hands-On STEM Pedagogy. All partner institutions have several fully developed circuits and electronics intensive courses covering most levels from 1st year intro/survey courses through required sophomore and junior courses, both inside and outside of electrical and computer engineering. At Georgia Tech, the content has been used to build MOOCs that can be easily used by other institutions. The activities and materials used were tested and are part of on campus courses where they enable a very effective blended learning experience for their students.
2. Materials have been shared with and implemented by many schools, but primarily those who have participated in workshops and more significantly by those who have obtained funding to add to the knowledge base and who are using the approach to impact the recruitment and retention of minority students. One group consists of all 13 HBCUs with ECE programs and another is all engineering programs in Puerto Rico. There has also been an impact on schools at all levels (K-16) through outreach and education programs at ERCs, through an ASEE Virtual Community of Practice and through participation in the pilot I-Corps-L program. Building this network has proven to be, by far, the most effective approach for dissemination.
3. A more mature version of MOHS Pedagogy has recently evolved based on collaboration with the HBCU Experimental Centric Pedagogy project. By playing an active role in this project, what ECP is and how it definitely should play a core role in engineering education has become much a more concrete concept, to the level where it will become much easier to assess progress. The guiding hypothesis is that engineering education works best in a learning environment in which experimentation plays a central role rather than existing on the periphery as is too often the case at too many engineering schools.
4. To make this new pedagogy a reality, we have to better understand what toolset is necessary for both the students and instructors involved. This is the purpose of the experimentally focused concept inventory that is under development. In addition, we need to further develop and facility the network of practitioners, which we will be doing with online workshops to keep the barriers to participation low.

Broader Impacts

Impacts are of two general types. The first is the development of content and a collaboration network that facilitates the spread of the pedagogy. Included are
1. Developing/facilitating a community of practitioners.
2. Making content available to others through workshops, MOOCs, freely available online materials, etc.
3. Having a positive impact on businesses working in this space. Project participants serve as advisors in the development of and act as early testers of new hardware and software.
4. Participation in and support of other communities working on related projects has helped them achieve their goals. This has been the most effective dissemination.
5. The usual participation in conferences, publication of book chapters, giving seminars at other universities, also has helped to spread the word, if less effectively than collaborations.
The second, and more important impact of this work has been in the focus on facilitating the adoption of the pedagogy at minority serving institutions and spreading the word throughout the world. In addition to the HBCU and Hispanic serving schools mentioned above, there has been a very effective effort to engage essentially all of the engineering schools in Sub-Saharan Africa. Several meetings and workshops in countries like Ethiopia, Ghana, Cameroon, Nigeria ... have been organized with the most recent involving most, if not all, deans. There has been good industrial support for this effort (mostly from Analog Devices) to make it possible to provide hardware to schools there.

Unexpected Challenges

1. The rapidly changing commercial options for personal instrumentation - Mobile Studio, Analog Discovery, myDAQ, myRIO, M1K forced us to develop a more flexible approach to content development. 2. MOOCs - New delivery methodology forced focus away from traditional education and develop more professional experiences for students. 3. New large related programs moved us to focus on actively helping them rather than delivering traditional workshops etc. for dissemination. 4. The lack of a good circuits concept inventory, especially with an experimental focus - we are doing our own.


Conference Proceedings
ユ Ferri, B., Ferri, A., Connor, K., BYOE: Mobile Experiment for Signals and Systems ヨ Analysis of a Guitar String, ASEE Annual Conference, Atlanta, GA, June 2013
ユ Connor, K., Ferri, B., Meehan, K., Models of Mobile Hands-On STEM, ASEE Annual Conference, Atlanta, GA, June 2013.
ユ Connor, K., Meehan, K., Ferri, B., Newman, D., Astatke, Y., Chouikha, M., Walter, D., Collaborative Research: Center for Mobile Hands-On STEM, ASEE Annual Conference, Atlanta, GA, June 2013.
ユ Meehan, K., Adam, J., Lab-in-a-Box: Strategies to Teach Online Lab Courses While Maintaining Course Learning Objectives, ASEE Annual Conference, Atlanta, GA, June 2013
ユ Astatke, Y., Connor, K. et al, Improving ECE Education in Sub-SaharanAfrican Countries Using the Mobile Studio Technology and Pedagogy, ASEE Annual Conference, Atlanta, June 2013
ユ Newman, D., Morris Deyoe, M., Connor, K. Using Technology in a Studio Approach to Learning: Results of a Five Year Study on an Innovative Mobile Teaching Tool, in Pedagogical Applications and Social Effects of Mobile Technology Integration, Keengwe, S., Ed (2013)
ユ Connor, K., Meehan, K., Ferri, B., Walter, D., Astatke, Y, Chouikha, M., Collaborative Research: Center for Mobile Hands-On STEM, ASEE Annual Conference, Indianapolis, IN, June 2014
ユ Connor, K., Newman, D., Morris-Deyoe, M., Flipping a Classroom: A Continual Process of Refinement, ASEE Annual Conference, Indianapolis, IN, June, 2014
ユ Connor, K., Meehan, K., Ferri, B., Walter, D., Astatke, Y,, Collaborative Research: Center for Mobile Hands-On STEM, ASEE Annual Conference, Seattle, WA, June 2015
ユ Connor, K., Newman, D., Morris-Deyoe, M., Lamendola, J., Transition to New Personal Instrumentation in a Flipped Classroom, ASEE Annual Conference, Seattle, WA, June 2015

Book Chapters
ユ Newman, D., Clure, G., Morris Deyoe, M., Connor, K. Using Technology in a Studio Approach to Learning: Results of a Five Year Study of an Innovative Mobile Teaching Tool. Pedagogical Applications and Social Effects of Mobile Technology Integration. Ed. J. Keengwe. Hershey, PA: IGI Global, 2013.
ユ Newman, D., Morris Deyoe, M., Connor, K., Lamendola, J. Flipping STEM Learning: Impact on Studentsメ Process of Learning and Faculty Instructional Activities, in Promoting Active Learning Through the Flipped Classroom Model, Keengwe, S., Onchwari, G., Oigara, J. Ed (2014)
ユ Newman, D., Lamendola, J., Morris Deyoe, M., Connor, K. Active Learning, Mentoring, and Mobile Technology: Meeting Needs across Levels in One Place in Promoting Active Learning Through the Integration of Mobile and Ubiquitous Technologies, Keengwe, J. Ed (2015)

General Overviews
ユ Goodbye, Podium: an Engineering Course Puts Theory Into Practice by Ken Connor in the Chronicle of Higher Ed, October 1, 2012
ユ A Dialog on Mobile Studio by Mohamed Chouikha and Ken Connor in the ECEDHA Source, Fall 2012
ユ Experimental Centric Pedagogy: HBCU Electrical Engineering Programs Collaborate Together for the First Time by Craig Scott in the ECEDHA Source, February 2014
ユ Blended Learning for Circuits and Electronics by Ken Connor in the ECEDHA Source, May 2014
ユ The Power of Partnerships by Ken Connor in the ECEDHA Source, October 2014