I took FSE 100 – Intro to Engineering Session A, Fall of 2015. FSE 100 is a 2 unit course, but don’t let the two units fool you. This course required a lot of time and collaboration with team members!
Over 7.5 weeks the course exposed students to general engineering. A plethora of topics were covered, but not a huge amount of time was spent on any one area. The weeks were broken down into the following topics:
- Week 1 – Working in Teams & The Engineering Design Process
- Week 2 – Models, Measurements and Acoustics
- Week 3 – MATLAB and Creativity
- Week 4 – Project Management and Technical Communication
- Week 5 – Project Proposal & Construction, Electrical Fundamentals and Analog and Digital Filtering
- Week 6 – Project Construction, Engineering Applications – Grand Challenges and Mars Rover
- Week 7 – Project Construction, Engineering Applications – Solar Energy & Wrap Up
The first part of the class had the most material to learn, while the last half of the class focused on the group project. By far, I spent the most time on the group project.
A huge portion of the grade for this class was the group project. Students were put into teams of 3-4 students with others students who had similar schedules and groups were tasked with coming up with a solution for a fictitious band. The “band” needed unique instruments that could play 1 of 3 songs and fit into a string, wind and percussion classification. Songs included ASU’s Alma Mater, Fight Song or Ode to Joy.
Throughout the course, the group needed to deliver various engineering documents such as a problem definition and requirements, project proposal, project plan, project updates and engineering drawings using examples and skills learned during the first part of the class.
The final deliverables were video presentations, working instruments and a final written report. There were a few quizzes and weekly questions to answer through the course, but the group project was the primary focus.
ASU provides each student with Google accounts that include email, Google Docs, Sheets, etc. Google Drive and Google’s IM and Video Conference product helped my group collaborate in real time. This class was my first exposure to Google’s tools and I was impressed with how well the group was able to use them in real time to piece together all the deliverables for the course.
One the group project – I ended up building two instruments. Initially I took on a pan pipe wind instrument that was designed to play the high notes and then build a thumb piano after the group ran into problems with a xylophone.
During the first part of the class we were given instruction on MATLAB and acoustics that we used to determine string lengths, pipe lengths, etc needed to build the instruments needed to play the songs. Another perk of being enrolled at ASU is the university gives you access to the software needed. We were able to get access to a student edition of MATLAB for use and I was able to setup a MATLAB script that would calculate the pipe and bar lengths needed for the two instrument types I built. We were shown how to graph results for inclusion in the final report. We barely scratched the surface of what can be done in MATLAB and I am looking forward to working more in MATLAB.
The pan pipes were made out of PVC pipe with a wooden frame to hold them together. On the thumb piano, I sacrificed a garden rake for the tines and then used wood and steel to complete the assembly. Send me a note if you’re looking for more specifics on the construction! The instruments were tuned to play specific notes and a spectrum analysis was done to make sure that the notes played were close to the notes required for ASU Alma Mater.
During week 5 we took a look at electrical fundamentals and the audio recording software Audacity. Audacity was used to piece together the groups instrument samples for the Alma Mater demo we submitted. I built a simple RC filter on a breadboard and measured voltage as different frequencies were generated through Audacity for one of the assignments. As an electrical engineering student, I really enjoyed this unit’s material although definitely left me wanting more! Here are a photo of the simple circuit that was built.
We also used a voltmeter to measure current, voltage and resistance. Very basic activities, but good to know! We did have to buy a $25.00 electronics part kit and only used a couple of the components, but I’m hoping the other parts will get put to use in upcoming EE courses.
My least favorite portion of the course was having to record a video presentation and demonstration. I try to shy away from public speaking, but I can certainly understand why it’s important. This part of the assignment got me outside of my comfort zone. It took me a couple of tries to get a decent recording that fit into the time constraints. Definitely don’t wait until the last minute on this part of the assignment! One of my group members did the final editing and pieced together the various recordings to make one final video for submission. If you’d like to check out the final video, let me know and I’ll send you a link.
Overall, I enjoyed this course and the nice variety of topics covered. It was challenging working with a long distance team, but great preparation for what one could face later in one’s career. Collaboration tools definitely have come a long ways and keep getting better. Instructors grading comments were helpful and timely and overall I was very happy with my grade.