In all undergraduate or graduate studies as well as on the job, students will be faced with emerging technologies, such as Industry 4.0, Blockchain, Merged Reality, Internet of things, etc. It is important that students understand the concepts and contexts of those technologies — the digital transformation — and how they relate and mesh with their daily life. It is equally important that they learn how to draw benefits from these technologies and how to fend off disadvantages. Unfortunately, many students are frightened and adverse to experimenting, prototyping and programming with these new technologies.
Details of the proposed idea
In our approach we offer the students and teachers a shared platform, where teachers can set up classes and groups to work collaboratively and observe the progress of their work. It is a didactic framework as well as a toolkit to build, explore and experiment with new technologies. In a real world scenario students alone or in groups build and program digital transformation, industry 4.0, blockchain, merged reality or internet of things scenarios, depending on the needs of their fields of study. They experience the new technologies and figure out their potential, strengths and limitations, especially for realistic cases and applications from their studies.
The didactic framework allows teachers to define the setting and the goals of the exercises. The students then program and set up tiny (real) robots that interact with the surrounding using sensors. For example, one could build a warehouse and study the various aspects of industry 4.0. Or robots could be programmed to water and fertilize plants on a tiny farmland, and from the data collected in the soil the internet of things and blockchain could be examined. As students progress, exercises become more an more difficult. The aim is that the students recognize and understand the link between emerging technologies and digital transformation.
Scope of the project
The project «Experience the Digital Transformation» can be used in any bachelor or master studies as a method of self-study. The most important step is to define the goals in relation to the students’ field of study and to set up the supporting didactic framework. The framework consists of procedures, processes, collaborative work, didactics, gamification and technological aspects.
With the help of real but tiny robots students can simulate several aspects of modern technology (such as digital transformation, industry 4.0, blockchain, merged reality, internet of things, etc.). By doing so they get hands-on experience and discover how technology impacts and relates to their field of study.
The tasks for the students are given within the didactic framework and depend on the field of study (for example chemistry, international business, etc.). The content may be adapted from semester to semester, as the students progress or topics change.
Example of a possible task: predictive maintenance
Starting point: Important tests in a chemistry laboratory must be done in the coming weeks. To make sure that everything works smoothly, it is important to maintain the centrifuges in a reliable way. The goal is to figure out if the motor works properly. If it doesn’t, a warning is issued before the motor breaks down.
Task: Program the robot to visit each centrifuge to conduct preventive maintenance using the built-in microphone. Compare the actual sound of the motor with the prerecorded «perfect» sound of the motor. Send a notification to the administrator with the results when the task is finished.
Effects on student’s learning and wellbeing: replace fear with love
We assume that learning new technologies and experimenting with them in a playful way will increase the motivation of the students. Although it is about technology, the technology remains in the background. Instead, the business applications and use cases are in the foreground. We hope that this approach will replace the fear of technology with a love for technology.
- Beuth, Patrick: Dieser Computer kann unser Schulsystem revolutionieren. Zeit online, October 11th, 2016. Retrieved 29 January 2019
- micro:bit developer community. Retrieved 29 January 2019