I. Zualkernan, K. Mitchell, S. Shapsough, H. Ahmed, S. Amin

American University of Sharjah (UNITED ARAB EMIRATES)
A first course in Architecture Principles helps students understand physical and natural aspects of a space, and enables them to explore relationship of human experiences to a space in order to create architectural designs. These designs must take into consideration unity, harmony, contrast, illumination, space, and dimensions, etc., to provide the best balance between comfort, functionality, and sustainability. In addition to recognizing typical architectural forms (e.g., an arch) and their appropriate uses, the students also need to develop an informal feel for various aspects of space. For example, a student needs to conceptually understand how high (e.g., in meters) a particular ceiling is. A student also needs to develop an intuitive feel for humidity (how humid?), temperature (how hot?) and ‘comfort’ and to relate these intangible feelings back to actual physical parameters experienced in a living space (e.g., temperature in Fahrenheit). Although such a course has significant field experiences, it is difficult to teach such experiential concepts because of their intangible nature. However, with the advent of cheap sensors, microcontrollers and pervasive wireless technologies, it is possible to enhance this type of learning with technology. For example, a student can judge their own level of ‘comfort’ in a space and technology can readily help them relate these back to the actual physical parameters like temperature, humidity, luminescence, etc. This paper discusses the design and implementation of an ubiquitous learning system for Architecture students. The primary pedagogical approach focuses on enabling students to pose and answer questions about various aspects of a concrete space in the field; there is a strong correlation between students’ involvement in composing problems, and better problem solving and meta-cognition [1-3]. In this system, Architecture students interact with specially designed hardware pods called Archi-Pods. An Archi-Pod is a small box containing various sensors for measuring current temperature, humidity, barometric pressure, wind, incident light, and movement. Archi-Pods use Raspberry PI as the primary microcontroller and are connected wirelessly via WiFi to a central Learning Management System (LMS) based on the CouchDB database. Archi-Pods are strategically-distributed around campus in various indoor and outdoor locations. The outdoor Archi-Pods are independently powered through solar panels. Architecture Principles students connect to an Archi-Pod using their smart phone, and can interacts with the pod by posing and answering questions related to the properties of space. Students are able to record current conditions as well as images within their posed questions and upload them to the LMS. This produces a series of interactions between students and their instructor that results in a unique learning experience around properties of space and of possible alternative designs.

[1] J. Perrin, “Problem posing at all levels in the calculus classroom, school science and mathematics, vol. 107, no. 5, 2009, pp. 182–192.
[2] G.-Y. Lin, “Evaluating satisfaction regarding interaction with a collaborative problem posing and solving learning system,” in 2nd International Conference on Education Technology and Computer (ICETC), 2010, pp. 481–484.
[3] Stanford Mobile Inquiry-based Learning Environment (