Developing a Mobile Studio
The NSF is funding beta testing of a Mobile Studio project developed by the Academy of Electronic Media at Rensselaer to inexpensively give students hands-on experience with electronics equipment. Academy Director Don Millard and graduate student Jason Coutermarsh conceived of the Mobile Studio in response to a phenomenon observed by Millard in basic electrical engineering courses. Unlike teens of the ’70s and ’80s, students no longer had pre-college experience taking apart electronic devices and tinkering with the components of the circuit boards. Electronic products had become too complex and too integrated.
The Mobile Studio gives students the experience of using an oscilloscope, function generator, multimeter, and power supply, all in a package they can carry with them. The combination of hardware and software is expected to sell for about $130, compared to more than $10,000 for comparable equipment. Readouts can be seen on a personal or laptop computer.
Millard said students can have the experience of using lab equipment with their laptops while they are in the classroom, the library, the dorm, or at home. With the equipment, even students from resource-limited institutions can become familiar with state-of-the-art equipment. The low price has drawn interest from high schools as well as from schools abroad, with inquiries received from the Balkans, South Africa, and Australia.
Under the NSF grant, which runs until 2010, Rensselaer is collaborating with Howard University and Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology to develop Mobile Studio teaching materials, in-class learning activities, and follow-up take-home assignments. The effectiveness of these modules and materials will be assessed and evaluated in collaboration with the University at Albany.
In addition to NSF, support has been received from Analog Devices, Hewlett-Packard, Maxim Integrated Products, Molex Connector Corp., and PCBexpress.