About this paper

Appears in:
Pages: 5196-5202
Publication year: 2009
ISBN: 978-84-612-9801-3
ISSN: 2340-1117

Conference name: 1st International Conference on Education and New Learning Technologies
Dates: 6-8 July, 2009
Location: Barcelona ,Spain


R. Varbanescu, R. Dobrescu, A. Iordan, S. Arghir

Politehnica University of Bucharest (ROMANIA)
The “adventure” of the new approach of our teaching method began in 2006, after we read an article [1] about the education method used in an American college. We liked their ideas and we tried to answer some fundamental questions: Which is the right way: to learn and to do or to do and to learn? Can we reinvent engineering education? Can we replace the classical model, defined by the equation students+(professors+courses+assistants+labs)=exams, with a new and interactive one involving research and competition? As professors at the POLITEHNICA University of Bucharest, we developed and implemented a series of practical application that the students had to resolve. This new strategy was tested in the Data Acquisitions and Processing Systems course [2]. We recorded a lot of good results, but we encountered some problems too.

The “to do and then to learn” method

The main change we have made was the replacement of the unidirectional flow of information, from professor to student, with a mutual cooperation between students and professors. The steps we have done towards the new approach are:
- We have changed the ratio between theory and practical work. In other words, we made students ask for theory in order to solve the projects we were proposing.
- We have changed the ordering of teaching: we start with labs, and gradually move to lectures.
- We evaluate „in real-time” the students knowledge level and skills, thus being able to adjust the lectures and labs.
- We have replaced the „one-man-show” model of one professor with a more distributed approach, combining the competencies of several professors (both for labs and lectures) towards the overall course success.
- We have asked students to work in teams
- Lab work is completely changed: students have to build intelligent measurement systems, test them, experiment on them, and then gradually improve them.
- We have changed the weights of the practical work in the final grade, focusing more on the creativity and efficiency of the student teams.

How competition is involved in education

The improved method is applied now in the Intelligent Measurement Systems course, where the main topics are: embedded data acquisition systems, intelligent sensors, mobile sensors, sensor networks.

The main problem was that, although the projects were interesting, they were not challenging enough. So, we tried to introduce the competition concept in the teaching process. Wishing to offer our students a real challenge, we searched for some competitions with themes that address our field of work. We focus on three of them: EuRobot, RobotChallenge and Starter. Although the ultimate goal of these contests is to create robots, their design fit the topics of our discipline.

Based on the themes of these three competitions we created up to ten projects. Working in teams, the students develop their projects and, at the end of the semester, the teams compete with each other. The winning projects are selected to participate in the real competitions, where they can test their ideas against peers from all over the world.

Furthermore, by actively including the professors in the project solving activities, the cooperation between the sides was very fruitful, and it made both sides happier: by being colleagues, the students seemed smarter, and the professors younger.
author = {Varbanescu, R. and Dobrescu, R. and Iordan, A. and Arghir, S.},
series = {1st International Conference on Education and New Learning Technologies},
booktitle = {EDULEARN09 Proceedings},
isbn = {978-84-612-9801-3},
issn = {2340-1117},
publisher = {IATED},
location = {Barcelona ,Spain},
month = {6-8 July, 2009},
year = {2009},
pages = {5196-5202}}
AU - R. Varbanescu AU - R. Dobrescu AU - A. Iordan AU - S. Arghir
SN - 978-84-612-9801-3/2340-1117
PY - 2009
Y1 - 6-8 July, 2009
CI - Barcelona ,Spain
JO - 1st International Conference on Education and New Learning Technologies
JA - EDULEARN09 Proceedings
SP - 5196
EP - 5202
ER -
R. Varbanescu, R. Dobrescu, A. Iordan, S. Arghir (2009) COMPETITION: A WAY TO EDUCATION, EDULEARN09 Proceedings, pp. 5196-5202.