American Society for Engineering Education 2019

Tampa, FL
June 15-19, 2018
Conference Website

The American Society for Engineering Education annual conference is committed to fostering the exchange of ideas, enhancing teaching methods and curriculum, and providing prime networking opportunities for engineering and technology education stakeholders.

Monday, June 17

Beyond Trial and Error: Iteration-to-Learn using Computational Paper Crafts in a STEAM Camp for Girls

Colin Dixon, Corey T. Schimpf, Sherry Hsi

11:30 AM – 1:00 PM, Room 6, Tampa Convention Center

When asked how they deal with unforeseen problems, novice learners often describe a process of “trial and error.” This process might fairly be described as iteration, a critical step in the design process, but falls short of the practices that engineering education needs to develop. In the face of novel and multifaceted problems, future engineers must be comfortable and competent not just trying again, but identifying failure points, troubleshooting, and running systematic tests with relevant data.

To examine the abilities of novice designers to test and effectively refine ideas and prototypes, we conducted qualitative analysis of structured interviews, audio, video, and designs of eleven girls, ages 9-11, working on computational papercrafts as part of a museum-based STEAM summer camp. The projects involved design and construction of expressive paper and cardboard sculptures with gears and linkages powered by servomotors. Over the course of one day, the girls generated designs inspired by a camp theme, then had to work with mechanics, electronics and craft to create working versions that would be displayed as part of a public exhibit.

Analysis showed that technical supports for testing and refinement were successful in supporting valued testing and refinement practices as youth pursued personal goals. Use of the simulator and customized microcontroller allowed for consideration of multiple alternatives and for “trial before error.” Learners were able to conduct focused tests on subsystems of their paper machines, and to make “small bets,” keeping initial ideas and designs fluid. Inexpensive materials also allowed them to test and refine at late project stages, without feeling that they were wasting time or materials. The analysis sheds light on young students practices of testing and refinement, and how to best support young people as they begin learning trajectories in engineering. The approach is especially relevant within making-oriented engineering education and other settings working to broaden participation in engineering.

Tuesday, June 18

The Card-Board DIY Microcontroller for Use with Paper Mechatronics

Colin Dixon, Corey T. Schimpf, Sherry Hsi

8:00 AM – 9:30 AM, Room 30B, Tampa Convention Center

In engineering education and STEM education more generally, the use of microcontrollers is increasing common across a wide range of creative design projects found in robotics, programming, makerspaces, e-textiles, and more. Exemplified by the Arduino Uno, microcontrollers make it possible to connect digital and physical worlds, and help teach a wide range of computational concepts, like inputs, outputs, loops, sensors, and pulse width. Recent microcontrollers, like the Micro:Bit and HummingBird have tailored design for educational settings and lowered costs considerably. However, for many learners and educators microcontrollers are still costly, making it difficult to allow students to bring work home and to take risks with circuits and objects they are building.

In the context of computationally-enabled papercrafts, Paper Mechatronics, which emphasize familiar materials, transparency, low-cost, and relatively light ecological footprint, we have developed open-source designs and instructional resources that enable learners and educators to build their own microcontrollers for use with servomotors, sensors and switches. The “Card-Board” can be assembled using a very low-cost chip that can be programmed with the Arduino IDE and powered using a 5 volt phone charger or USB cord. The board is congruous with the look and feel of playful papercrafts and prototyping, and can be produced for under $8, making it possible to bring design activities to resource-constrained classrooms, and for learners to share their efforts, stories and expertise across settings. Board design is robust enough for novices to achieve early success, yet open enough to scaffold learning about computational concepts and physical computing hardware through prototyping, building, iterating, programming, and troubleshooting. In these ways, the design helps expand both the range of creative possibilities and depth of engineering education.

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