Demonstrations of the group projects of level two students of the Electronic & Telecommunication Engineering Department were successfully completed on the 12th August, 2015. This was conducted under the module EN2092 “Laboratory Practice 2” which is a mandatory module for semester 3. Students were first divided into groups of four members and the teams were assigned with one of the following five projects
- Mixed Color Analyzer
- System to Separate Black Grains in Dhal
- Optical Transceiver
- Solar Tracking System
- Analog Line Following Robot
The specialty of these projects which was also the challenge to the students, was the fact that all of the projects were pure analog automated systems. The students were not allowed to use any means of digital systems or programmable micro-controllers or any other pre-implemented modules. This time students had to come up with the design and implementation of pure analog circuitry and logic which was quite difficult to achieve but also gave the students an opportunity to brighten their skills and knowledge.
For each project, a project instructor was appointed. Their duty was to guide the students to achieve their goals and also to evaluate their progress and the final outcome as well. Instructors encouraged the students to concentrate on their projects from the beginning so that the students were able to complete their projects within the time allowed. Also the students were encouraged to work as a team, manage finance and other aspects and also to face the difficulties on their own and come up with the solutions. These were achieved by the meetings and discussions, Progress reports which were required to submit during the project and progress evaluations.
Almost every group had completed their projects and was able to meet the requirements specified. The demonstrations were evaluated by a panel consisting of senior lecturers and lecturers. The teams were evaluated based on the accuracy of the results, finish of the project, the extent to which the final outcome met the required specifications, team work, and individual contribution.
Dr. Jayathu Samarawickrama, a senior lecturer in the department of Electronic & Telecommunication was the module coordinator. Here are his thoughts:
Q: What is your opinion on having project bases evaluations as a part of the academic work? What is the importance of making the projects fully analog?
A: Most of the time our students try to use digital solutions. Therefore, our main aim is to improve their confidence in the analog electronic circuits and components, as most of the systems are equipped with analog front end circuits. Usually most of these project can be done with a simple microcontroller, which is very common these days. This encourages the students to learn analog electronics. We expect that students would explore how to select devices and components to solve real world problems, for example, opams, sensors, based on their specifications.
Q: We saw that you spent at least 15 minutes with each group (even more sometimes) to evaluate. Among the evaluators you were the one who took the longest time to evaluate students. Also, we saw that you evaluated the individual contribution thoroughly. What aspects did you take into account in your evaluations? How did you evaluate them?
A: In order to have the projects improve year by year, we need thorough evaluations. The people who worked hard must be rewarded. That is why I spent more time with the students. I wanted to find who had worked hard and who hadn't. Moreover, I wanted to know whether they know their electronics. The projects' main aim is to give electronics exposure. However, in a project there is a mechanical part and an electronics part. I wanted to know who did what part and give more marks for the students who directly engaged with the electronic design. This, I hope, will make students in electronics department confident in electronics. If a student had actually participated in the electronic design and had an idea about what is happening in the electronics design, I gave more marks. They should know what components were used and how they were selected etc. Group work is another aspect of the project. If the project is functioning according to the specifications they, also got more marks.
Q: Are you satisfied with the overall achievement of the students?
A: Yes, I am satisfied. Most of the projects were excellent. Generally no circuit work at the first time. Many students learnt troubleshooting methods for the first time. That is what I expect from an electronic engineer. Overall they have done a good job and learnt a lot.
Q: What are the suggestions for improvements?
A: Comparing alternative approaches and selecting the optimum, making good PCBs, improving the final look-and-feel, have room for improvement. They are still semester 3 students. I am confident that they will improve themselves year by year.
Q: What is your final message to the students and as well as to anyone who would read this?
A: Keep it up. This is just the starting point. You have to open your eyes and see the world and find out problems for which you can give an electronic solution. Sri Lanka has a lot of problems that we can solve ourselves. However, we do not see them. If you can keep up the good work, you can become successful entrepreneurs finally. You can sell your solutions here in Sri Lanka or internationally. I want all the students to have some interest to do practical projects and be entrepreneurs at the end of this course.
Dr. Jayathu Samarawickrama while evaluating projects
Dhanuja Wanniarachchi, a student who engaged in the projects also shared his experience with us.
Q: What is your project? Can you give a brief introduction?
A: Ours was the analog line following robot. We had to implement a line following robot. You might think that what is so special in building a line follower. Specialty is that this is a pure analog robot. We were not allowed to use any micro-controllers or modules. With those, we would have made the robot within one day.
Q: What was your preparation? How did you manage yourselves as a team?
A: We didn't have any idea at the beginning. But we had experience in building digital line followers. Also from what we learnt under the electronics module, basically about Opamps, we thought that we would be able to go for our goal. We got together and had a lot of discussion. We planned the project stage by stage. First of all, we designed the main circuit and later we had to add some other parts also. We divided the work among us, prepared a time line and always tried to stick to the plan. Finally we succeeded.
Q: What are the challenges you faced? How did you manage to overcome them successfully?
A: We had to balance the project work with our academic work. Dividing the work among us helped a lot.
We struggled with the implementing certain parts of the robot. The experience we had by doing projects last semester helped us a lot in that case. The biggest challenge we faced was that our robot wasn't functioning properly at the beginning. We had to do a lot of troubleshooting in order to make the project functioning properly. Instructors helped us in achieving these objectives.
Q: What did you learn? Was this effective for you?
A: Of course this was effective. We could learn a lot and obtain experience about so many things, how to design analog circuits, how to use electronic components practically, dealing with relevant tools and equipment, about accuracy and deviations of results, and troubleshooting. Also we experienced the advantage of team work and learnt a lot about how to work as a team, managing difficulties and about how to take a professional approach to a design and implementation problem.
Q: What do you have to say finally to your colleagues?
A: Although it was quite a challenge to implement analog systems there were so many things to learn. I felt that this is real electronic engineering, dealing with basic circuitry rather than going for easier steps such as the use of micro-controllers. I would like to make this as an opportunity to give a message to all the undergraduates that it will be much better if you can get involved in more projects like this, so that you would be able to graduate as real electronic engineers and as persons who can give simple solutions for real world problems. Finally, I would like to thank the lecturers and instructors for giving us this chance to improve ourselves.