Experiential learning of complex engineered systems in the context of wireless sensor networks

Paul Flikkema, Jeff Frolik, Carol Haden, Tom Weller

Research output: Contribution to journalConference articlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


There is a strong need for the reform of engineering education in order to prepare students for one of the great challenges of this century: to understand highly complex problems ranging from health care to geoengineering and to synthesize the necessarily complex-engineered solutions for them. A multi-university NSF-sponsored collaboration has implemented a modular, web-enhanced course that aims to develop the systems-thinking skills necessary to tackle these problems in the specific context of the engineering of environmental wireless sensor networks (WSNs). As part of this effort, we have developed and are currently testing hands-on experiments that introduce students to the range of engineering skills that are the foundation of WSN engineering. These experiments are based on two platforms: (1) a development board that can be used with a plug-in microcontroller/radio module to prototype simple WSN nodes and (2) a powerful circuit- and system-level simulator. The development board, which we call CLIO, facilitates team-based student projects that can integrate sensors, embedded computing, energy management and wireless communications. The CLIO hardware and software package includes the development board along with experiments that build upon each other. Experiments based on the simulator are complementary, allowing students to explore circuit- and systems-level wireless design parameters and the links between them. This paper describes the capabilities and suggested use for the development board, associated simulation projects, and supporting course material. We also present assessment results based on surveys and focus groups, conducted at two universities in Fall 2009. Two additional universities will be implementing the course with these experiments in Spring 2010. All hardware and software tools and extensive documentation, along with video-based course content, are available through the project website (www.uvm.edu/∼muse/). The CLIO boards are being distributed for beta testing at several universities; wider dissemination is being supported by the IEEE Microwave Theory and Techniques Society.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalASEE Annual Conference and Exposition, Conference Proceedings
StatePublished - 2010
Event2010 ASEE Annual Conference and Exposition - Louisville, KY, United States
Duration: Jun 20 2010Jun 23 2010

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Engineering


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