Project-Based Learning, Engineering education, Preparation for Future Learning
This project focuses on creating a “Center for Project-Based Learning” (PBL) for electrical engineering that aims at leveraging the fullest extent of the vertical coverage and diversity of at the department of information technology and electrical engineering (D-ITET). D-ITET is uniquely characterized by its diversity of research coupled with a full vertical span of theoretical and design expertise and experimental facilities, from materials to full-systems. The. The aim is to complement and enhance project-based learning activities with a centralized structure at the departmental level. With this, it will be possible to offer larger and interdisciplinary projects for students on all levels of their study, as well as for highly talented high-school pupils in their final years. The centre will reflect the wide and interdisciplinary nature of the D-ITET research groups (from the quantum scale (“electrons”) to full networks).
We envision the Center as a very dynamic environment, where the projects and even types of projects pursued change constantly from year to year. In many other existing project-based learning activities, the topics are either long-standing year over year and/or of no direct use to society and rather “playful.” While this is not negative per se, student motivation and societal recognition and appreciation will be even more significant with the envisioned concept of individual, non-repetitive topics of relevance and application. In addition to projects proposed by industrial and academic partners, also open calls for student-initiated projects will be offered.
Effectively, the initiative builds additional capacity in project-based education and with respect to critical thinking at ETH. The interdisciplinary nature of the student projects enables the involvement of all groups of D-ITET and collaborating departments within ETH. The primary motivation for this newly created Center is the benefit for students working on projects offered around this Center.
The centre is open to and collaborate with scientists that plan to carry out longitudinal studies on the effectiveness of new engineering education interventions, potentially following graduates into the workforce as well. Complement and enhance project-based learning activities with a centralized structure at the departmental level. The project is also synergically collaborating with other FLI projects, such as Neural Bases of Learning and Mixed Reality for Enhanced Lab Courses.
Figure 1. Prototype for the first prototype of the Smart Patch designed by student in one of the flagship projects.
We envision the PBL Center as a very dynamic environment, where the projects and even types of projects pursued change constantly from year to year. In many other existing project-based learning activities, the topics are either long-standing year over year and/or of no direct use to society and rather “playful.” While this is not negative per se, student motivation and societal recognition and appreciation will be even more significant with the envisioned concept of individual, non-repetitive topics of relevance and application. In addition to projects proposed by industrial and academic partners, also open calls for student-initiated projects will be offered. Moreover, on the learing scienc the core research goals that will drive our theoretical and empirical activities will address the following questions: What are the short-term and long-term cognitive, interpersonal, and intrapersonal outcomes of PBL? How does PBL affect future learning in traditional instruction classes or other PBL classes? What are the relationships between the number of PBL classes a student takes and their future learning? How are students of different learning achievements and different genders impacted by PBL? What are the effects of PBL on career choices and job satisfaction?
State of the project
The center started its activities in January 2020 headed by Dr. Michele Magno and is currently comprised by 7 post-doc, 10 young PhD/research assistants, and other staff. Since January 2020 over 200 student projects for bachelor’s to master’s students have been proposed and completed. Moreover, the center has been teaching more than 15 Projects & Seminars courses to teach, improve and promote engineering practical activities. The center is also offering students competitions in collaboration with world-leading industrial companies. Finally, a flagship project called “Smart Patch” has been concluded. The Smart Patch project designed autonomous, low-power and mesh-enabled multi-sensor wearable smart patches. They will be based on the always-on smart sensing paradigm to continuously acquire processes and stream physiological data in real-time. They can be trained to autonomously detect illness symptoms or other physical conditions, such as stress. More than 30 students participated to the development of the smart patch and in particular in the spring 2021.
In 2021 other flagship projects has been started and they will continue for the whole 2022 and part of 2023 involving more than 100 students they the following
– Robotic sailing
– F1TENTH autonomous racing
– Smart Chair
– ARIS satellite
– Autonomous Drones and autonomous navigation
More information can be found on https://pbl.ee.ethz.ch/flagship-projects.html
External Flagship project for ITET students
The PBL Center is official partner or/and supporter of the following students project
– ARIS Project 2021-2022
– Swiss loop tunnelling
PBL Impact study on the learning science
Moreover, PBL has started n explorative qualitative studies on the project-based approach, we collected weekly reflective journals from students during the PBL activity to track their learning as well as the challenges they encounter.
We also conducted interviews and surveys with the students of the Center for Project-Based Learning to investigate their perceptions of the outcomes of PBL. We are currently finalizing the design of the longitudinal study and planning the start of the data collection.
Our main objective is to create a large database that includes the measurement of different student outcomes through PBL and potentially identify and analyze the outcomes of PBL, exploiting the possibility to conduct the study and collect the data in the center for Project-Based Learning.
PBL Interdisciplinary research and Industry cooperation
Since 2020 PBL started to link with both academic and industry researchers and write european or national research projects as well as industrial research projects that are currently progressing. Thanks to the activities on embedded systems, IoT devices, Self-sustaning smart sensors PBL was able to connect with international rise around 3 Millions of external funding that allowed PBL to grow to the current dimension.