DESIGN OF A SMART HOME TO IMPROVE THE LEARNING OF THE BASIC SCIENCES IN ENGINEERING
At the School of Engineering of the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), we teach the Drawing subject to students who are studying Civil Engineering, Geomatics Engineering and Earth Sciences Engineering.
In particular, for the students of Civil Engineering the course includes the elaboration of several projects that they must accomplish. Among them, it is the edition and design of architectural, structural or hydraulic installation drawings. It’s realization is subject to activities corresponding to a traditional learning; what is now sought is to add new teaching models that provide them to acquire more convenient capacities for their professional performance. The main intention is to improve the learning and the skills of our students.
We are currently asking Civil Engineering students to build the model of a smart home, that is, that has automated services. To do so, they have to use motion and light sensors. They can also place some alarm sensors to get warnings of unwanted intruders. The professors of the course use the concept of problem-based learning and pedagogical robotics that involves some fields such as Electronics, Electrical Circuits, Mathematics, Mechanics and Computer Science. Because the students must control the opening or closing of windows and doors, they need to know how an motor works and they should know how to connect it. Sometimes it is necessary to attach an alarm for safety. All this is done with the Arduino board and, gradually, they learn what a smart home is and how to control it.
Teamwork is the key in which we base the realization of this type of projects among the students. We make use of different areas of knowledge beyond the learning of the Engineering Drawing, which is the main academic objective. In this way, the students that apparently have little to do with electronic or computational aspects perceive the need to further explore into these fields that are present in the development of their projects and in their daily lives.
We have applied this type of learning activities to other basic sciences subjects, such as Statics or Differential Equations, which has allowed us to reinforce the students' learning through the linking of theory with practice.
To support our students in the development of their prototypes, multidisciplinary teams of professors and tutors have been formed to attend them. We also have videos that show how the sensors work, and how the students can use them and control them with the Arduino.
The way we have taught the basic concepts of Arduino has also changed over time. It has evolved. At the beginning, there were six additional class sessions which students had to attend. Today, a group of professors have developed an online course that is being offer by Coursera, surpassing our expectations, as it has allowed us to reach other countries and to continue learning.
The results have been very satisfactory and show us that we are on the right track. In this paper we show how we have worked and where future projects are going, supported on problem-based learning and pedagogical robotics.