Engaging electronics projects for design students through open design approaches

MacLachlan, Ross John Robert; Kovacevic, Ahmed and Ion, William and McMahon, Chris and Buck, Lyndon and Hogarth, Peter, eds. (2011) Engaging electronics projects for design students through open design approaches. In: DS 69. Design Society, GBR, pp. 466-471. ISBN 9781904670339 (https://www.designsociety.org/publication/30928/en...)

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Product design students typically undertake multidisciplinary curricular studying components of both mechanical and electrical engineering to complement studio and project-based learning of design practice. Where electrical concepts are less likely to be integrated with design classes, it is understandable that many design students view stand-alone electrical modules as a secondary concern, often adopting a strategic or surface learning approach. Furthermore, where these classes are taught outside of the design department, it can be difficult to relate fundamental concepts to the rest of the product design curriculum. Electrical concepts represent major enabling technologies, and therefore there is a need to deliver the subject in a way that provides students with an opportunity to adopt a deep learning approach to fundamental concepts, and to connect the relevance of these concepts to product design. This paper presents an 'open design' project approach to engage first year product design students with electrical concepts. The project required student teams to build and test a wireless audio loudspeaker product. Student teams were supported to develop three product modules (FM transmitter, audio amplifier and loudspeaker) concurrently, and then integrate these into a singular product. each module comprises a circuit where fundamental electrical components form the central functionality of the product. The practical experience of designing circuit layouts, constructing the circuits, 'hacking', researching electrical concepts and working as a team to produce a cohesive product are valuable and transferable learning experiences.