Result presentation of 1st DigiDemo demonstrator @FH Vorarlberg

On the 7th December 2021, the students of the 5th semester of the mechatronics undergraduate program at FH Vorarlberg proudly presented their results of the focus project course. This course is based on the first demonstrator implemented in the DigiDemo Erasmus+ Project.

The 5th semester is the exchange semester in which many of the students working in the project are from partner institutions, and 15 students from Austria, Norway, The Netherlands, France, and Spain participated in the course, split into three teams of five people. The teams were mixed in several manners: Both exchange students (from different countries) and local students worked in a team. Students were allowed to choose between two courses “focus mechanical engineering” and “focus electronic engineering”, depending on their interests. And each team had students from both the mechanical and the electronic course.

A given gantry robot with X and Y axes controlled by a PLC had to be augmented. The task of the students was to add a Z axis moved by a stepper motor controlled by an embedded system, build a gripper and a spinning top (to be picked and then placed) and some other parts needed. The students’ task was not only to design, implement and test the missing components, but also to set up a requirements specification document, to put all things together and make the whole mechatronic system running.

Students in the project lab
Students present their result to their “customer”, the professor doing the project acceptance.

Theoretical aspects and considerations behind using demonstrators in teaching

Lasse Christiansen, UCN & Aalborg University

In this article, DigiDemo team member Lasse Christiansen, lecturer at UCN and postdoc at Aalborg University, gives further insights into the theoretical aspects and considerations behind using demonstrators in teaching.

A way to activate and demonstrate knowledge

Over the last decades, the technical development in industry has intensified the need for a more cross-disciplinary approach within education. However, teaching has traditionally taken place in a mono-disciplinary setting at educational institutions. Consequently, there is a need to change the educational approach to ensure a stronger focus on the cross-disciplinary aspects. One such approach is the use of demonstrators. ‘Using demonstrators, taking a point of departure in practice, creates a natural cross-disciplinary setting for teaching. The different perspectives embedded in the demonstrator create a natural setting for cross-disciplinary activities.’, Lasse says. And he continues: ‘However, the use of demonstrators anchored in practice also creates an opportunity to activate the students’ prior knowledge.’. Merrill (2002) has operationalized the learning process, taking a point of departure in tasks linked to practice, into four steps: (1) the activation of prior knowledge, (2) the demonstration of new knowledge, (3) the application of the new knowledge, and (4) the implementation of the new knowledge in practice. ‘These principles can be used as inspiration to underpin the integration of demonstrators in teaching activities.’, Lasse explains. The use of demonstrators is, accordingly, not only anchored in a technical perspective, with the aim of demonstrating new technology and functionality. It is also anchored in a pedagogical and didactic theoretical foundation.

Time and room for reflection

However, to ensure learning, the students must be given both time and room for reflection. Connecting new and existing knowledge is a reflective process (Rutting et al., 2016), which is not necessarily occur by itself. RPL (Reflective Practice-based Learning), developed at UCN, consists of six core principles that can aid to ensure relevance and relatability to a learning activity. ‘These principles may serve as a pedagogical guideline in designing educational activities.’, Lasse explains. Besides activating the students’ own experiences (the 1st principle of RPL) as already mentioned, demonstrators can also be used both as a good example (4th principle of RPL) or as a boundary object to facilitate cooperation between students, and students and teachers (5th principle of RPL) (Horn et al., 2020). ‘Regardless of how you choose to integrate the demonstrators in the teaching activities, the importance is to create time and room for reflection.’, Lasse ends the interview.  

References

Horn, L. H., Jensen, C. G., Kjærgaard, T., Lukassen, N. B., Sørensen, I. M., Valbak-Andersen, C., & Bundgaard, S. B. (2020). White Paper on Reflective Practice-based Learning. Professions and Professional-ism (Vol. 10). University College of Northern Denmark.

Merrill, M. D. (2002). First-principles of instruction. Educational Technology Research and Development, 50(3), 43–59.

Rutting, L., Post, G., Keestra, M., de Roo, M., Blad, S., & de Greef, L. (2016). An introduction to interdisciplinary research : theory and practice. (S. Menken & M. Keestra, Eds.). Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press.

About the DigiDemo project

The DigiDemo project aims at strengthening the students’ knowledge and competencies within digitalization and sustainability. Twenty educational demonstrators exemplifying and containing aspects within digitalizing and sustainability are created during the project to support the development of new educational activities among the partners.

For more information about the DigiDemo project, please visit: www.digidemo-project.eu or contact project coordinator Esben Skov Laursen, esl@ucn.dk.

The 2nd DigiDemo demonstrator: A connected thermostatic valve

Efficiently heating a building, and especially an educational institutions with many lecture rooms that are only partly used, is a real challenge to minimise energy consumption while maintaining a sufficient comfort for users.

The first demonstrator developed by ESTA Belfort consists en a connected thermostatic valve. Based on a given prototype, multi disciplinary groups of ESTA 4th years students with industrial and digital specialisations optimise the layout, add sensors, and develop an application to visualise captured data.

Plan of the prototype
Student working on the prototype

Discover more on the page about the Connected thermostatic valve.

A Smart Chair – First DigiDemo demonstrator by UCN

The DigiDemo project aims at strengthening the students’ knowledge and competencies within digitalization and sustainability while developing new products. To support this objective, 20 educational demonstrators are developed by the partners in the project intended to enable new educational activities within digitalization and sustainability. The concept of the demonstrators is to exemplify various aspects of product digitalizing and sustainability, aimed at educational programmes, both within the field of mechanics, IT, and Sales.

UCN now presents their first demonstrator, a smart chair. The demonstrator is already used in class and appreciated by the students. Read more.

Welcome to Helene Mallasvik in the Digidemo Team

Helene Mallasvik joined Fagskolen in Viken and the DigiDemo Team at the beginning of the month.

(c) Helene Mallasvik

Helene is Senior Lecturer and Project manager at Fagskolen I Viken. She helds a Master of Science in Educational Leadership from Universitetet i Sørøst-Norge.

She is working and living in Kongsberg, Norway, and has been a teacher since 1989. She is specialized in pedagogical development and quality in training. In her free time, she enjoys hiking, running, and exploring the city by bike

Helene’s LinkedIn profile

We must train future sales engineers to be able to sell connected products!

Interview with Laure Viellard, Director of ESTA Belfort


Is the DigiDemo project the first Erasmus+ project at ESTA?

ESTA Belfort is a private higher education institution based in Belfort, close to the German and Swiss borders in Eastern France. We train sales engineers able to understand and to sell technical products. Therefore, they need both technical and commercial skills.

We are strongly cooperating with companies with regard to placements, lectures, projects, or company presentations. ESTA participated in other European co-funded projects (Interreg, Erasmus+) in the past. Our special interest in these projects lays in the improvement of our pedagogic programme and in the promotion and sharing of our double skills approach. And, finally, participating in European co-funded projects is important for us vis-à-vis to students, their parents, companies, or the national ministry of higher education.

What is your interest in participating in the DigiDemo project?

Today, we offer a sales engineering degree with three specialisations: Industry 4.0, ChemBiotech, and Digital transformation. Students follow the same lectures for sales, marketing, and management topics, but technical contents are mainly separated.

Modern products are getting more intelligent, we are speaking about Smart Products such as, e.g., connected refrigerators or loudspeakers. Even industrial machines are getting connected to facilitate data exchange, predictive maintenance, or to gather information for added-value services. This impacts not only engineering education; we must also train future sales engineers to be able to sell connected products!

DigiDemo allows us better integrating mechanical, electronics and digital contents. This is beneficial to our students who cooperate with pairs from other technical specialisations; and this will improve their future employability. And our sales and marketing contributions are bringing new aspects and insights to the pure engineering students at pour partner institutions.

ESTA will also benefit from the cooperation with our partners that is a good basis for further projects as well as for students’ and teachers’ exchanges.

How did you manage to integrate the project consortium?

We are always looking for opportunities to cooperate in projects that help us getting new insights and improving our programme. Concerning DigiDemo, we received a partner research alert from our French Enterprise Europe Network partner from Burgundy Franche-Comté. The DigiDemo’s lead partner University College of Northern Denmark shared, and we applied as potential partner. Our first online discussion went quite well, and finally UCN accepted us as partner. In January 2019, we then hosted the preparatory project meeting in Belfort where project details have been discussed and confirmed. We are very happy to be part of this interesting project.

What is the role of ESTA in the project?

As all partners, we are developing demonstrators of connected products that are used in class. This is the main objective of the project. All demonstrators will be publicly available and can be used by others.

In general, ESTA is involved in all work packages of the project. But we are responsible for two parts of the project:

1. The state-of-art analysis that led to the Mechatronics and IoT: Literature and study programme analysis deliverable with some interesting insights. There is a real need to complete mechanical as well as mechatronics studies with at least connectivity and network competences. This enables mechanical and electronics engineers to discuss with and understand computer science students that are responsible for IT networks and data-based services. These findings also confirmed the project partners’ choice to develop demonstrators of connected products for education in the DigiDemo project.

2. ESTA is also responsible for communication issues through the DigiDemo-Website and LinkedIn profile. And we are already looking forward to welcome partners and guests during the final DigiDemo conference in Belfort in June 2023. This will be a great opportunity to present demonstrators and to discuss results obtained through this European cooperation. And perhaps to start a new adventure with the partners?

DigiDemo Partner meeting, March 2021

On 8 March all DigiDemo partner met online to discuss achievements and future tasks under the presidency of project coordinator Esben Laursen from UCN.

The first phase is now successfully terminated. Two deliverables have been created:
(1) a “Mechatronics and IoT: Literature and study programme analysis” report
(2) a “Framework for Demonstrators”

The second phase started, and partners are now focussing on the development of the first demonstrators: connected chairs, connected automatic radiator valves and others. Coming more soon.

DigiDemo partner meeting, March 2021
DigiDemo participants during the March online partner meeting

Discover why and how the DigiDemo project started!

Esben Skov Laursen, UCN

Interview with Esben Skov Laursen from Professionshøjskolen UCN, initiator and coordinator of the DigiDemo project.


What was the initial trigger to start the DigiDemo project?

DigiDemo was formed based on two global trends, digitalisation and environmental sustainability. Digitalisation and sustainability are affecting almost all parts of our today’s life, and accordingly also the industry. As an educational institution we need to adapt to this development in the world around us to ensure that our graduates are fit for the future.

What is the objective of the DigiDemo project?

The overall objective of DigiDemo is to ensure that our educational programmes/graduates stay relevant and valuable to our stakeholders. In DigiDemo we focus at strengthening students’ knowledge and competences within digitalisation and sustainability through the development and use of ‘intelligent’ demonstrators. The project aims at strengthening educational programmes, especially the partners’ ones, both within the fields of mechanics and IT. The focus on educational programmes within these fields has been chosen because students and engineers from both programmes will need to cooperate even closer together in the future. And interconnecting their academic programmes strengthens their capacities in designing and developing connected and digitised products.

How did you build the consortium?

Finding the right partners for the project is one of the most important tasks when preparing a project. Therefore we formulated a list of “criteria” before starting the search. One of the main criteria was to preferentially look for small (or smaller) educational institutions as project partners. We wanted small institutional partners because we wanted a close personal contact, hopefully building long-lasting relations for future collaboration. But a smaller project like DigiDemo (compared to, e.g., a Horizon Europe project) is most likely also more attractive to smaller partners, perhaps not used or not able to participate in bigger international projects.

What is your role in the project?

I have multiple roles in the project. I am both the overall coordinator of the project, as well as the coordinator at UCN. However, I have a great team both internally at UCN and among the partners, contribution to the project and supporting me. So being the coordinator has been very easy and fun.

The DigiDemo project aims at developing demonstrators. How do you define “demonstrator”?

Defining the term ‘demonstrator’ has actually been an ongoing discussion in the project, as the term is very open and can have multiple meninges. However, I do not think that we need a rigid definition. We need understanding of the term to stay a bit open in order for the partners to be able to adapt it to their individual settings. We have therefore not come up with an actual definition, but one task of the project is the development of a framework for demonstrators with a set of characteristics that shall or can be addressed and that will be used by the partners to describe the demonstrators, thus ensuring also their potential use for other Higher Education Institutions in the future.

Happy New Year 2021

May this upcoming year allow mastering the pandemic and bringing health and calm to every body. May it also be a great year for all your projects, as it will be for the DigiDemo project with the creation of the first pedagogic demonstrators of connected products.