Initial Publication Date: September 18, 2020

Giving Students an Introduction to Model-based Design in a Distance-Learning Environment

Michael Thorburn, , California State University-Los Angeles

The College of Engineering, Computer Science and Technology at Cal State LA requires each of its graduates to complete a year-long capstone senior-design course. The idea is for this to be a project-based learning experience to help reinforce all of the theoretical material they have been learning throughout their undergraduate programs. Over the past several years the university has made a significant investment in time and money to refurbish some space to become a modern Maker Space. It is well equipped with a variety of modern manufacturing and design tools intended to provide students with an excellent place to design, construct and test high-quality engineering prototypes.
Unfortunately access to our Maker Space has become extremely limited at this moment due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

As we consider how to make the best of the situation, it was determined that, while our prototyping facilities and equipment had become quite good, the student's capabilities in computer-aided design and system simulation were not as high as they could be. Even without the pandemic, it would have been worthwhile for us to strive to improve this, using workshops and exercises. With the need to socially distance ourselves, it seems obvious that this is precisely what we should be doing now.

In 2020-2021, we have retuned out capstone senior design program to emphasize computer-aided design and simulation. We want to capture as much as we can in regards to the industrial approach of model-based design. We are in the midst of developing online materials and webinars to foster improved skills in design and the advanced skills required for meaningful MBD work. We want to retain the project-based learning emphasis, so most of what develop needs to be self-paced. While not limited to MathWorks products, we envision MATLAB and Simulink to be cornerstones in this program.

Like for everyone else, the abrupt change has forced us to move faster than we might otherwise have chosen, but it could be a good thing in the end. I am bullish on MBD and believe it will serve our students well to learn it. We are simply trying to stay a few steps ahead of them at this point, but our spirits are good and our motivation is high.
Today is August 13. Classes start in two weeks. With luck, I will have something to report at our October MATLAB meeting.

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