About this paper

Appears in:
Pages: 4027-4036
Publication year: 2009
ISBN: 978-84-613-2953-3
ISSN: 2340-1095

Conference name: 2nd International Conference of Education, Research and Innovation
Dates: 16-18 November, 2009
Location: Madrid, Spain

USING FUNNY TOYS TO BUILD SERIOUS LABORATORY PLATFORMS FOR TECHNICAL EDUCATION

R. Varbanescu, R. Dobrescu, A. Iordan

Politehnica University of Bucharest (ROMANIA)
Introduction
One of the most important problems, but complicated at the same time, in teaching technical disciplines is choosing/building laboratory platforms. These platforms and their associated works have to meet three basic conditions:
- to be representative: they must illustrate as well as possible the knowledge and the skills students have to assimilate;
- to be educative: they must emphasize that theoretical and practical aspects that can be defined as models of how a certain problem can be solved;
- to be attractive: they must represent technical challenges that arouse the students’ innovative spirit and make them forget about the bell.
In our educational activity, we have often faced the need to update our laboratory strategy and platforms. After each change we have received and evaluated the students’ feedback on the lab works we proposed. Our experience in choosing/building more and more efficient laboratory platforms for the fields of data acquisition, transmission and processing and intelligent measurements is presented in the paper.

The classical approach
In the first stage we used for the lab works platforms representing scaled replicas of industrial equipment specific to measurements and data acquisition fields. The full paper will contain some examples. That approach had the advantage of applicability, meaning that the students worked with and learned about real world equipment. The disadvantage was that the students didn’t always understand the “real world process” they were working with because they didn’t face the real industrial world yet. So, they didn’t always succeed to complete the data acquisition tasks on such platforms. Sometimes we had to explain the working procedure step by step, in which case the students became simply implementers of a given solution. Sometimes, the students’ rating of this kind of practical work was somewhere between satisfactory and well. According to the three conditions listed earlier, we can conclude that this method was representative and educative, but lacked the attractiveness component.

The “using toys” approach
The lack of enthusiasm of our students made us try a new approach in lab work. We wanted to arouse students’ interest and to make them work with pleasure in our laboratory. For this, we didn’t change our objectives; we merely changed the context in which the lab work was done.
One of the ideas, that finally proved to be a success one, was to change the lab platforms based on “smart toys”. The arguments for the implementation of this idea are:
- most of our students are already familiar with some of this toys or at least they know about them;
- improving the functionalities and the performances of these toys is a fun challenge
In the extended version of our paper we will present some implementations of this idea, using three different types of “smart toys”:
- mini railway network – based on the well known toy train sets;
- autonomous robots colony - built with LEGO Mindstorms NXT kits;
- autonomous or semiautonomous vehicle built on the chassis of a radio controlled toy car.
The full paper will include the educational objectives and also the functional and constructive characteristics of the using toys platforms.

Conclusions
We consider our idea a success because of our students’ increased interest compared with previous years. Quantitative assessments about the change in attitude will be included in the paper.
@InProceedings{VARBANESCU2009USI,
author = {Varbanescu, R. and Dobrescu, R. and Iordan, A.},
title = {USING FUNNY TOYS TO BUILD SERIOUS LABORATORY PLATFORMS FOR TECHNICAL EDUCATION},
series = {2nd International Conference of Education, Research and Innovation},
booktitle = {ICERI2009 Proceedings},
isbn = {978-84-613-2953-3},
issn = {2340-1095},
publisher = {IATED},
location = {Madrid, Spain},
month = {16-18 November, 2009},
year = {2009},
pages = {4027-4036}}
TY - CONF
AU - R. Varbanescu AU - R. Dobrescu AU - A. Iordan
TI - USING FUNNY TOYS TO BUILD SERIOUS LABORATORY PLATFORMS FOR TECHNICAL EDUCATION
SN - 978-84-613-2953-3/2340-1095
PY - 2009
Y1 - 16-18 November, 2009
CI - Madrid, Spain
JO - 2nd International Conference of Education, Research and Innovation
JA - ICERI2009 Proceedings
SP - 4027
EP - 4036
ER -
R. Varbanescu, R. Dobrescu, A. Iordan (2009) USING FUNNY TOYS TO BUILD SERIOUS LABORATORY PLATFORMS FOR TECHNICAL EDUCATION, ICERI2009 Proceedings, pp. 4027-4036.
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