24-354: Sensors, Actuators and Microprocessors
CMU's introductory mechatronics Course.
In Fall ‘16 I took Gadgetry the first semester it was offered, in Spring '17, I became the first undergrad TA for the course, and since then, through Fall ‘17 and Spring ‘18, I helped restructure the course with a new professor, developed new course content, designed and implemented a term project, led lab sections, and helped turn an interesting new course into a favorite among students in the department.
The course is most students first exposure to electronics, and is an equal mix of circuit and component analysis, Arduino based prototyping, and hands on projects. I love this course because it so significantly elevates the abilities of a mechanical engineer. Prior to this course, most stuents have never touched an Arduino. After, students are confident enough to build complex electro-mechanical systems crossing all the way from the industrial automation to physical computing to culinary robotics and beyond.
In an effort to improve the course, I created the website below! Which was also my first attempt at web development. I didn’t know what Bootstrap was so everything is from scratch… was probably not the most efficient process, but great learning outcome!
The website evolved as a response to my observations of how students were interacting with the lab materials. For a given lab, a student might have the lab PDF, the file repository on the course page (Canvas) Arduino IDE, and Oscilloscope software (nScope) all open at once. And at the same time having to physically create circuitry, often googling component names to find what they look like in their box of components. Students were using a mix of Windows and Mac laptops, and visible amount of energy was wasted, and confusion created, by navigating between confusing documentation, the lab instructions, the lab hardware, and the files and software needed to do the lab.
The website acted as a centralized location for the lab instructions, the links to each file needed for download, instructions on where to place the files, and clear lists of the components needed for the lab. This reduced the number of windows needed for lab from 4+, to 2-3, and greatly simplified and sped up the initial set up time for each lab.
In an effort to elevate the course on campus and in the minds of students, I developed friendly branding to build affinity for the course.