Scaffolding Project-based Learning (PjBL) at scale with Model-based Design (MBD) & Systems Engineering (MBSE)

Ciriello, Francesco; (2022) Scaffolding Project-based Learning (PjBL) at scale with Model-based Design (MBD) & Systems Engineering (MBSE). In: Proceedings of the 8th International Symposium for Engineering Education. University of Strathclyde, GBR. ISBN 9781914241208

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Here we share our reflections on delivering a new design course at King's College London (KCL) in our General Engineering program. The theme for the course was that of marine restoration. Student teams designed, built, and tested a remote-control ship that collected floating debris in a water tank. The course ran as a ten-week module with 200+ students and was an ambitious implementation of interdisciplinary project-based learning (PjBL) at scale. Our intent was to encourage learners to practice end-to-end model-based design workflows and connect theory across disciplines. Each theme was complemented by a lecture and an instructor-led workshop, which included dives into solid and fluid dynamics, control system design, mechatronics & embedded programming, and wireless communication systems. In the first phase, students focused on the design and testing of a ship simulation. Students started by developing a 3D simulation of ship dynamics, including 1D electromechanical models of DC motors and propeller drivetrains. They then designed an autonomous control system to manoeuvre the ship in simulation and practiced with closed-loop and logic-driven control implementations. Next, students practiced deploying algorithms on a microcontroller to test controllers using hardware-in-the-loop simulation. In the second phase, students built a physical ship in our makerspace and tested their control schemes. The project culminated in a final showcase, in which students competed for best performing ship collection systems in a water tank. We will share the strategies that we adopted for scaffolding learning on the project and reflect on lessons learnt in running it for the first time.