Virtual Academy Spotlight Osnabrück University of Applied Sciences: Pitching projects for the Internet of Things
Students from several engineering and computer science programs at Osnabrück University of Applied Sciences and at University at Albany conduct experiments on artificial intelligence and develop their own products for the Internet of Things. They exchange ideas in transatlantic teams and give each other feedback on their project ideas.
Professor Clemens Westerkamp (Osnabrück University of Applied Sciences) and Professor Hany Elgala (University at Albany) established contact through the IVAC project and soon developed exciting ideas on a joint virtual project. Their teaming up so quickly and successfully might also have to do with the fact that they share the same background: Both spent extended periods of time in each other's countries as visiting scholars and speak both languages fluently.
What do a fitness smart watch, road conditions and houseplants have in common?
As experts in the „Internet of Things (IoT)“, they quickly found a concept for a joint course, consisting of synchronous lectures with both groups of students as well as asynchronous tutorials on practical experiments and student projects. The students were given the same technical equipment of microcontrollers and sensors, with which they carry out various experiments in teams on site, such as programming a fitness smart watch, road condition monitoring or smart home devices for an automatic watering of houseplants. The results are presented and discussed in joint sessions.
Through the experiments, students learn the necessary programming techniques as well as how to use the hardware they subsequently need for their own projects. Nicolas Lampe and Marco Schaarschmidt, two of Prof. Westerkamp’s PhD students, closely supervise the students, holding lectures and supporting their project work. Nicolas Lampe highly values the intercultural experience:
Through the collaboration in this joint lecture, I gained a very interesting insight into the American university's perspective on the topic of IoT. In addition, I was able to improve my English skills and gained experience on presenting and planning practical experiments for foreign students. It was also interesting to see how culture influences teaching, e.g. in experiment planning. For the road condition monitoring experiment, we originally thought of an application for bicycles so that the students could test it themselves. However, almost none of the American students ride bicycles. They're much more likely to use public transportation or cars.
The semester is now in its final phase: on April 27, the Osnabrück students presented their projects to the panel of American students and received feedback on its potential suitability for the US market.
Assuming the roles of developers, investors and clients in a realistic product pitch
One project was a system to be used in an imaginary large carrot farm production: An intelligent system that links weather reports and real-time local air humidity data, removingthe need for multiple sensors. The "audience" played the role of jurors at a farm competition, potential investors or clients who may want adjustments made to the product.
Another team was inspired by the current situation in the pandemic lockdown: They presented a digital archery game that can be played indoors without taking up space or causing damage. It can be built at home with a piece of paper, a camera and 3D printed handles and played on the wall.
Until May 11, the students of the University at Albany have time to work on their projects for presentation to their fellow students from Osnabrück.
Both, students and professors are happy about the cooperation and the lively exchange. "The joint course diversifies our daily study routine, especially in times of the pandemic. In addition, learning other ways of working prepares us for our later professional lives, where we will certainly work in international teams," says Patrick Strunk, one of the Osnabrück participants.