Engineering courses have typically followed deductive pedagogy methods that are lacking in important student learning opportunities, such as; the reason why the concepts or mathematics are important, their real-world relevance, and how it will impact the students’ future career in engineering. Project Based Learning (PBL) is an alternative method that is an inductive pedagogy, which begins with a real world problem or observation. In addition to the potential for improved student outcomes with inductive learning, the real world nature of PBL modules can lend itself for engineering design experiences that may also include broader Entrepreneurial Minded Learning (EML).
The goal of this project was to introduce a PBL module with a real world scenario into “Biomechanics” courses that cover the theory and methods for solving dynamics problems. In addition to learning the related angular kinematics concepts, this project required students to design a sensor-based system for the measurement and interpretation of 3D angular velocities during a specific human movement.
The motivation for the project was a call for assistance help improve the university’s baseball and softball teams’ batting performance. Assignment questions guided the students through the engineering design process steps of; identifying customer needs, brainstorming, determining specifications, analyzing solutions. This was followed by informal presentations describing the initial concept to the “customer”. Next, students were introduced to open-source electronics like Arduino and sensor platforms like SEEED Grove to use for the prototype development phase of the project. During an in class activity, they were provided a hardware kit and “recipe” instructions to set up and program the electronics as an angular velocity measurement sensor. Then they had to work with their partners outside of class to develop a calibration method for the sensors and to record the motions during a baseball swing. Finally, they developed a formal design report that refined their concept into a commercial product that could be marketed to the Baseball Coach and potential investors.
Student outcomes during pilot implementations at two universities were measured with direct (formal design report) and indirect (student survey) assessments. The instructors also maintained close observation of student groups in class and during office hours to reflect and improve the module’s implementation.
Most students were able to collect and calibrate gyrometer sensor data and relate this information to the angular kinematics of a baseball swing. Although students had variable prior experiences with Arduino, they enjoyed the hands-on aspect of building a prototype. On the other hand, some students expressed confusion or did not appreciate the constraints imposed due to the staged nature of this project. The project was intended to reinforce the lecture topic of angular kinematics, but also introduced broader learning outcomes related to electronics and design.
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