S2-S&SI1-2 - New ways in engineering education for a sustainable and smart future

1. Innovative Practice Full Paper
Brit-Maren Block1 , Benedikt Haus1
1 Leuphana University Lüneburg, Institute of Product and Process Innovation

Full paper: Global transformation processes and sustainability issues lead to an increase in interdisciplinary problems, characterised by high degrees of complexity and responsibility as well as the need for competences on topics where disciplines intersect with engineering challenges. The engineering sciences have a special responsibility to offer suitable courses for a broader target group and interdisciplinary education of non-engineers, especially in light of the current shortage of qualified specialists.

This paper contributes twofold to that discourse; (1) by a novel theory-based teaching and learning concept for an engineering course for bachelor students of non-engineering disciplines (e.g. Environmental Sciences and Economics)  and associated empirical findings of implementation, and (2) by innovative project-based laboratory experiments that encourage interdisciplinary approaches.

As a specific contribution to the innovative practice of engineering education, part (1) concerns the student-centered lecture scheme “Electrical and Automation Engineering” (four semester-hours per week)  based on  constructivist and problem-based learning theories and on the model of Educational Reconstruction, as the research framework. The objectives and the didactic design of the bachelor course as well as as the engineering key topics in the context of smart technologies and sustainability are presented.

Part (2) details novel practices in the area of engineering education. As a specially designed lab experiment, an intuitive graphical model-based software development process for embedded systems with hardware-in-the-loop capabilities is combined with low-cost hardware in order to control a small DC motor as an all-encompassing example. Independently wiring and graphically creating the software in this rapid prototyping setup can convey basic, yet intuitive technical understanding of select engineering fields, like

- computer architecture, IT and embedded systems,

- metrology and signal processing,

- cybernetic systems theory (system boundaries, inputs, states, outputs),

- mathematics (modelling, differential equations),

- electrical fundamentals (interdependency of electricity and magnetism) and their application (H bridges, PWM);

by just slightly broaching individual aspects of these fields in practice, without comprehensive theoretical introductory courses for each of them. Especially students of non-technical fields can profit from such project-based-learning approaches. In fact, a basic grasp of engineering and technology is essential nowadays, in particular for future decision makers. An engineer‘s mindset, characterized by the goal to make best possible use of minimum resources, can make a decisive difference in favor of sustainable governance.

In this particular lab experiment, MathWorks Matlab/Simulink is used to design the models and automatically generate the C-code, with the added benefit of a complete simulation environment for the modelled DC motor, which further aids the students‘ understanding of the dynamical system behaviour. In accordance with last decade‘s Education for Sustainable Development program, the use of low-cost hardware, in the scale of 20 EUR for a fast universal microcontroller development board, can motivate students to privately acquire parts and start their own Maker projects with their classmates in an extracurricular context.

The paper outlines the experience of the first implementation of the course in winter semester 2019/20 and evaluation results and further discusses future perspectives within the discipline of engineering education and research.
keywords: theory-based engineering course design for non-engineers