This semester, electrical engineering senior students from the USC Viterbi School of Engineering and electrical engineering senior students from Jackson State University, a Historically Black College and University in Mississippi, shared a classroom.
While other capstone courses at USC Viterbi had previously involved students at different schools at USC (such as a course with students from the Marshall School of Business and the Roski School of Art and Design), this is the first capstone course that leveraged the iPodia program for inter-university collaboration with a university across the United States. It was also the first time USC Viterbi has partnered with an HBCU for a joint project using this format.
The students in the two universities in different parts of the country developed prototypes for navigation and search systems for people to locate others in their party when wilderness areas lack cellular or wireless service. For the challenge, students were required to take into account various factors such as how a user would be able to operate the device in a wide variety of environmental conditions. The final presentations included JSU students and their instructor, Professor Kamal S. Ali of JSU’s Computer Engineering Department, along with USC students and their instructor, Dr. Allan Weber of the USC Ming Hsieh Department of Electrical Engineering. The presentations were enabled via USC Viterbi’s Distance Education Network platform. Students presented solutions that included individual devices and another solution that included a central hub with an LCD display.
The collaboration between USC and HBCU Jackson State, was conceived by Dean Yannis C. Yortsos, Dean of the USC Viterbi School of Engineering and Richard A. Aló, Dean of the College of Science, Engineering & Technology at Jackson State University.
“Working with teams in distant locations is important for today’s engineers, so we are experimenting with models where students from different locations work together,” said Allan Weber, the computer systems engineer at USC Viterbi who supervised the USC – JSU collaboration from USC’s end.
The USC iPodia program — a borderless classroom— established in 2009 was created for just such an effort. While this is the first iPodia foray into a hardware project and it is the first iPodia collaboration with students across the United States, engineering students at USC have connected and collaborated with students throughout the world in locations such as Israel, China, Korea, Germany and India to enhance global engineering education.
Najm Meshkati, professor of Civil Engineering and Industrial and Systems Engineering, current director of the USC Viterbi iPodia program, spoke about the collaboration with JSU: “This has been a worthwhile pilot between these two universities. It was another realization of “Learning Together for a Better World,” the unique mission of iPodia that transcends campus boundaries and national borders by providing a new forum for massive, interactive engineering education. It gave us a sense of what works in this format and what we can improve. It also established a strong rapport between our two universities that will be instrumental for the future.”