Rensselaer’s Academy of Electronic Media is developing a
first-of-its-kind “mobile studio” for engineering students.
Using wireless technology, the studio will allow combined
lecture and lab work anywhere on or off campus.
“With the latest mobile technologies, our students will be
able to, at any time and anywhere, explore engineering
principles, devices, and systems that have historically been
restricted to specific laboratories or classrooms,” says Don
Millard ’91, Academy director. “The idea is to take the
untethered world of technology and apply it to engineering
education so that we no longer have to be dedicated to a
particular facility to provide engaging, interactive
The new teaching model will be developed utilizing support
from a Hewlett Packard (HP) Technology for Teaching grant of
$65,819 in computing equipment and funding. The equipment
includes 20 high-performance Tablet PCs, which have ultralight
portable touch screen computing pads that allow users to draw,
type, and access the Internet, and serve as personal digital
assistants. A wireless network, digital camera, printer, and
specially designed cart for the tablets also is part of the HP
The mobile studio, being tested this fall, will serve as a
pilot program for a circuits course designed for sophomores and
Millard also will use the grant to develop hardware and
software that integrates a scope, multimeter (a device that
measures electrical currents and resistance), and function
generator (a device that produces electrical signals)—turning
the Tablet PC into a mobile laboratory instrumentation suite.
“Using the PC to provide similar functionality to that of
typical engineering equipment will no longer require us to
dedicate bench space that we currently use for housing the many
individual units,” Millard says.
“Our objective is to expand the studio model so that
students can use technology to learn in physical environments
that offer greater flexibility for student learning,” Millard
says. “Those environments may include residence halls, library
conferencing areas, the Union, and other non-classroom
environments that are no longer restricted by locations with
wired network access or specialized equipment.
Originally published in
Rensselaer Magazine, Winter 2004
Photo by Mark McCarty