Voice technology is a growing field and is becoming more prominent in society. In a study, National Public Research found that 65% of voice-enabled smart speakers’ users would not want to go back to life without using them and an estimated 39 million people own a voice-enabled smart speaker (National Public Media, 2017). The Amazon Alexa devices are such cloud-based, continuously improving, digital assistants designed to respond to voice commands. They are able to answer many questions and the number of questions they can answer is continuously increasing. One of the newer innovative applications of the Amazon Alexa devices is starting its integration into higher education. However, the focus of integrating voice technology thus far has been through campus life and residence halls and not through classroom instruction for actual curriculum (Ask ASU, 2018 & Developer Amazon, 2018).
This work-in-progress paper will summarize our efforts on embedding voice technology into our first-year fundamentals of engineering design course that reviews the basic concepts of engineering and introduces some tools used for the design and implementation of devices and systems. The goal is to enhance student learning through hands-on projects in first-year design courses and use this to not only further engage students with the course content, but also foster the skills necessary for effective communication on projects with multiple stakeholders. Students, with little background on the subject, are designing a working device (such as a portable fan, a remotely-controlled car, or a robotic arm) using Computer-Aided Design (CAD) software, making the parts with 3D printers, creating an Arduino code to control the action of their device, and finally writing a voice interface (given a skeleton code) to actuate the servo motors on the device using voice commands. For example, students use voice to turn a fan on or off, change its speed, and enable oscillation.
Ours is a unique approach towards not only integrating new emerging technology into the classroom but also finding new ways to engage students and help them learn new skills. Upon completion of this pilot, we expect that students would have expanded their communication, collaboration, and listening skills, learned how to personalize Voice technology, and the researchers would have improved the course design as well as prepared for the study to be offered on a larger scale.
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