Oregon State University (OSU), Oregon’s largest public university, offers a 100% online degree program called OSU Ecampus. This top-ranked provider of online education is growing rapidly, welcoming more students and increasing the variety of degrees offered. In Automating the Future (ENG 100), an introductory, fully online engineering course for students across science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) majors, OSU Professor Jason Clark uses Moku:Go to introduce 110 students at a time to critical topics in electrical and computer engineering with implications for greater society.
Moku:Go is the first software-defined instrumentation solution from Liquid Instruments tailored for engineering education and general industry. The software-defined functionality enables Moku:Go to provide 10+ different instruments used in electronics and telecommunication labs.
With Multi-instrument Mode (MiM), users can combine pairs of instruments to run simultaneously with lossless interconnection. One of the instruments supported, Moku Cloud Compile (MCC), is a hosted service to create and deploy digital signal processing algorithms (Figure 1). With MCC, users can design algorithms using their favorite tools such as MATLAB and Simulink, then easily deploy them to Moku:Go, where they run in real time, alongside other software-defined instrumentation.
Figure 1: Moku Cloud Compile example for Moku:Go
Today, engineering students face complex challenges when pursuing higher education. While commercial technology is quickly evolving, university curriculum usually lags behind. As classrooms turn to remote learning, students are often met with tools that have been there for decades. At OSU, Professor Clark is looking to solve these challenges by engaging students with next-generation tools early in their education, 100% remotely. In ENG 100, most students are beginning their first college-level engineering coursework. Some have not yet chosen an engineering discipline, so it’s important for the course to pique their interest in technology.
With so many remote students sharing equipment, having a lab full of conventional benchtop instruments leads to unnecessary confusion and difficulty. Since many students have never used these types of tools before, trying to learn the buttons and dials of traditional equipment from a distance can be a difficult task. Additionally, some students have no coding, design, or test experience, so they need tools that are easy to learn during the fast-paced, 10-week quarter. The goal of the course is to interest students in engineering topics, not slow them down with hard-to-use tools and difficult projects. The cross-disciplinary groups needed an effective way to learn, test, and discover remotely, including a method to design and test prototypes outside of a traditional lab.
To introduce students to important engineering topics and tools in such a short time frame, Professor Clark has modernized his lesson plans with Moku:Go. With 10+ integrated instruments in a single device, remote connectivity, and a highly intuitive user interface, students use Moku:Go to quickly gain valuable experience with a variety of instruments, easily collaborate, and explore advanced-level topics sooner.
Using five Moku:Go devices, groups of students shared the equipment in organized timeslots. They worked collaboratively with easy data sharing and intuitive displays that show block diagrams of the instruments. This way, students could not only make measurements, but follow the signal path as they test. Professor Clark provided new design prompts centered around current events each week, allowing students to gain familiarity with the full suite of embedded instruments, effectively preparing them for future coursework while brainstorming solutions to real-world problems.
First, they explored the Moku:Go Oscilloscope, Waveform Generator, and Lock-in Amplifier. Using MiM, students chained together two instruments at a time to further analyze and test their schematics (Figure 2). As the quarter progressed and students rapidly advanced through introductory topics, Professor Clark presented advanced concepts normally reserved for graduate-level students. Using Simulink and Comsol in conjunction with Moku:Go, students imported schematic and sensor designs using MCC to build custom programs, unleashing their creativity. Students with no coding experience designed schematics in Simulink and connected their designs to Moku:Go using MCC.
Figure 2: MiM setup with Moku Cloud Compile and the Oscilloscope
“Moku can become anything you want it to be — not only the standard test instruments that it has and also replaces, but anything you can draw in a schematic in Simulink,” said Professor Clark. “Your Moku can be that as well, and that’s a really powerful concept.”
With nearly endless possibilities and a lowered barrier of entry to engineering, the students could design, prototype, test, and adjust all in one device, from home.
With Moku:Go, students learned and developed new ideas and easily tackled advanced concepts during their freshman year, exploring a new topic every week. During one exploration, students used Simulink, Comsol, and Moku:Go together to create a sensor that measured the centripetal acceleration of an object in orbit. Students determined how fast the object would need to spin to reach an acceleration of 9.8 m/s^2. Using Moku:Go alongside other software-defined tools, students conquered real-world problems years ahead of schedule.
Students walked away from this class excited about engineering, teeming with new ideas and ready to solve societal issues using the tools they learned. Computer science students enjoyed using MCC for applications such as artificial intelligence, while mechanical engineering students brainstormed new ways to use the Moku:Go PID Controller for robotics applications. With the success of last quarter’s students in ENG 100, Professor Clark plans to further improve the curriculum and utilize Moku:Go again next quarter to teach a new group of students. Moku:Go allows students to cover more material in a shorter amount of time due to the accelerated learning and cohesive design life cycle, all integrated into a single device. As a cost-effective, low-footprint tool, Moku:Go replaced the need for cluttered education lab benches.
“Why spend all that money on standalone equipment when the specs on Moku are just as good, it’s affordable, and it’s portable?” said Professor Clark.
As students move through the rest of their engineering education, the skills and ideas they developed using Moku:Go in Automating the Future will help shape the next generation of technological breakthroughs.
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