P. Candelas, C. Rubio, F. Belmar, A. Page

Universitat Politècnica de València (SPAIN)
Traditionally, education in first year technical courses in Spain has had a highly theoretical approach, focused on the acquisition of specific skills related to basic subjects such as physics or mathematics. The development of generic skills is usually assigned to subjects in higher courses. This approach does not help to improve the learning curve of high school students. Those students are used to focus more on acquiring knowledge than on learning how to use this knowledge to solve real problems.

The aim of this paper is to present an experience developed at the ETS Ingenieros de Telecomunicación in the Universitat Politècnica de València to develop generic skills in Physics in the first year of the undergraduate studies.

To achieve this, different projects have been organized. These projects improve the knowledge and the skill set in the field of mechanics, while developing different generic skills such as implementation and practical thinking, analysis and problem solving, critical thinking, teamwork, leadership, effective communication, planning and time management.

These projects include several home experiments that the students can develop at home by themselves. Each of these projects illustrates a different principle or phenomenon in mechanics such as energy conservation, Newton's laws, linear and nonlinear oscillations, terminal velocity and so on. Smartphone devices are used by the students as their measuring equipment. Those devices are nowadays available to all students and familiar to them. Thus, it is possible to implement a quantitative study of the analyzed phenomena, in contrast to other qualitative experiences developed in High School. The measurement techniques used in these projects are video analysis and accelerometry.

Students work as a research team. They have to produce a work team organization and planning schedule, a memorandum with the material and methods employed in the project, as well as providing results and discussion. The project culminates with a public presentation session.
Despite the limited theoretical knowledge of the students, the activity has been designed to make the students work with an autonomous and collaborative approach, facing up the solution of practical problems since the beginning when they enter college.
In this paper, we describe the developed projects and the results obtained through the final evaluation and the description of the objectives achieved in each stage. Although the results are encouraging, we have detected the advisability of incorporating these activities in more first year subjects, so that students perceive them as part of formal education and not as a singular experience.