'Directed chaos' leads students to creative solutions in ELEC 121




'Directed chaos' leads students to creative solutions in ELEC 121

Calendar Icon Dec 09, 2016      Person Bust Icon By J.S. Engebretson     RSS Feed RSS

Students in ELEC 121 work on a device they created to shoot a rubber band from inside a three-sided box.
Students in ELEC 121 work on a device they created to shoot a rubber band from inside a three-sided box.

This semester, Mark Bauer, professor of practice in Electrical and Computer Engineering, decided to mix up the ELEC 121 Introduction to Electrical Engineering course for freshmen, making it much more hands-on and encouraging early innovation and creativity.

As part of the class, which focuses on basic electrical engineering concepts such as energy, power systems, communications and signal processing, the students broke into teams to create a small device that shoots a rubber band within a three-sided box. The project involved using a micro-controller, servo motors and 3-D printed parts.

This project culminated in what he called "directed chaos", but in a good way. He said the students took this competition challenge and ran with it. Each team determined their own design using CAD software and some basic computer programming, and then used 3-D printers to make the various pieces. The device had to maneuver within the three-sided box to shoot the rubber band through the open side.

On the first day of competition on Dec. 5, one band flew 244", but Bauer gave them another day to tweak their designs.

Bauer said he wanted to emphasize teamwork and collaboration in this class, especially as many of these new students hadn't been exposed to various engineering concepts.