One Laptop Per Child Basis for International Engineering Design Project

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Students from the University of Texas and a college in India collaborate on e-learning for third world countries.

This project taught me how to deal with an international team. Dealing with the cultural, lingual, and time differences made me more confident and improved my communication skills. We got to know the people in India and became a wonderful team with great spirit and enthusiasm.

The 2007-2008 academic year marked a first for The University of Texas at Austin Department of Electrical & Computer Engineering (UT-ECE). Seniors at UT worked with undergraduates in India on a common project--a practice that working engineers face daily in today's global economy.

In the two-semester UT-ECE senior design sequence, teams of students acquire real-world development experience. Each team must identify stakeholder needs, write specifications, develop a design, divide the work, carry out quality assurance at each stage, and produce a working prototype. Students gain experience in presenting their work to stakeholders, both during design reviews and a major presentation at the end of the sequence.

The senior design sequence is designed to help ensure that students graduating with an ECE degree are adequately prepared to enter an international workforce and become part of teams working on complex projects. This two-semester sequence teaches students skills such as risk and project management and allows them to explore professional-grade tools for capturing their designs and supporting the collaboration. In addition to the multi-institutional option, senior design projects can also be multi-disciplinary, leading, for example, to teams that blend EE and mechanical engineering students.

During the pilot offering of the multi-institutional senior design option, five students at UT and five students at Amrita University in southwest India divided into two cross-institutional teams. Both teams targeted the One Laptop Per Child platform (laptop.org/), an initiative to make rugged, low-cost computers available to children in third world countries. One team developed the prototype for a solar charger with power management software. The other team developed the prototype of a low-bandwidth e-learning system designed to deliver lectures to remote locations in third-world countries. A new multi-institutional team will continue work on the e-learning system during the 2008-2009 academic year. A participant in the pilot offering reports, "This project taught me how to deal with an international team. Dealing with the cultural, lingual, and time differences made me more confident and improved my communication skills. We got to know the people in India and became a wonderful team with great spirit and enthusiasm."

The Department of Electrical & Computer Engineering at The University of Texas at Austin is a top-10 program devoted to producing high-quality engineers and research.
The University of Texas at Austin Electrical & Computer Engineering

If you'd like more information about this topic or to schedule an interview with Departmental Chairman Tony Ambler or the Collaborative Projects Coordinator, Dr. Vicki Almstrum, please call Stephanie Peco at 512.328.2967 or email Stephanie at speco @ mail.utexas.edu.

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