March 26, 2007-- Engineers are widely known for their desire to take things apart and put them back together in a way that makes them more effective. So perhaps it’s no surprise that Mircea Stan, associate professor of electrical and computer engineering at the University of Virginia, is applying these classic engineering traits to the very process of engineering education. Through interactive design software and several Hewlett Packard Tablet PCs, Stan is hoping to more effectively engage computer engineering students in research.
The Tablet PCs, 20 in all, were awarded to the U.Va. School of Engineering and Applied Science when Stan secured a 2006 HP Teaching for Technology Grant, designed to transform and improve learning in the classroom through innovative uses of technology. Stan has outfitted the Tablet PCs with Xilinx software design tools, which the students would not otherwise have had classroom access to, and a new program developed by the University of Washington, “Classroom Presenter,” which Stan equates to “PowerPoint on steroids.”
Through this integrative technology, Stan hopes to reach out to more students, particularly those who would not ordinarily be the first to volunteer to share their work.
“The students are more engaged, more excited as a result of these advancements,” Stan says. “For that reason alone, I think it has been worth it to change the way we do things and to bring this new technology into the classroom.”
Stan has put the Tablet PCs into the hands of the 40 students in his Advanced Digital Design capstone course, required of computer engineering fourth-years, in which they work in teams to design a microprocessor system. This semester, each team has been given a Tablet PC to use as the group’s project repository and to enable the students to interact with the professor on a higher level than is traditionally possible during lectures.
“As professors, my colleagues and I are used to calling students to the blackboard as a way to engage students in classroom material,” says Stan. “But with the use of Tablet PCs and some powerful new interactive software, I am now able to give students an exercise to complete that they can each solve in their own way and send back to me immediately to be shared with the class.”
About the University of Virginia School of Engineering and Applied Science
Founded in 1836, the University of Virginia School of Engineering and Applied Science combines research and educational opportunities at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Within the undergraduate programs, courses in engineering, ethics, mathematics, the sciences and the humanities are available to build a strong foundation for careers in engineering and other professions. Its abundant research opportunities complement the curriculum and educate young men and women to become thoughtful leaders in technology and society. At the graduate level, the Engineering School collaborates with the University’s highly ranked medical and business schools on interdisciplinary research projects and entrepreneurial initiatives. With a distinguished faculty and a student body of 2,000 undergraduates and 650 graduate students, the Engineering School offers an array of engineering disciplines, including cutting-edge research programs in computer and information science and engineering, bioengineering and nanotechnology. For more information, visit www.seas.virginia.edu.