Project Based Learning - Abroad!



As you've probably gathered, Olin is all about project-based
learning.  It is one of my favorite
things about Olin.  One of the reasons I originally didn't want to study
abroad was a fear of missing out on projects. 
Group T, the engineering school in Belgium where I'm studying for the
semester, has a similar philosophy to Olin on the idea of project-based
learning.  I had a pretty cool project
this semester, Pixter, in my class called Engineering Experience 3: Computer
Based Control.

Meg and BotMyself and our LabVIEW controlled "Pixter".  This project may have
just been an opportunity for me to make silly faces at the camera.



I worked with 5 other students (4 Flemish and 1 Chinese)
on Pixter, a photobooth for taking facebook photos and the like.  The idea behind the project was to use
LabVIEW to control a webcam and motors that move around the webcam.  I really wanted to learn how to work with
LabVIEW (now first year students learn it in their second semester, but that was after my time), so I ended up responsible for a good majority of the LabVIEW
coding.

The perks of the project definitely came from the team's diversity.  I really liked that our team
was an such an international group.  I can't exactly pin down what the differences were, but it was very different than an Olin
team.  I think learning how to work with
other cultures is definitely valuable to me. 
 In addition to being from
different countries, we all have different academic backgrounds.  We had BioChem Engineering majors, Electrical
Engineering Majors, Electromechanical, a few undecided, and myself (MechE).   With our different education backgrounds (we
went to 3 different schools the previous semester), we each offered a unique
set of skills.  That meant we were able
to delegate tasks really easily and successfully integrate them in the end.

PixterGroup.jpg
A shot taken from Pixter's webcam.  It nearly fits the whole team,
but why am I the only one with a silly face?

What I was longing for while working on the project was the
Olin machine shop.  We built our robot
from a Fischertechnik kit.   There wasn't
really an opportunity to CAD something specific to the project and then build
it ourselves.  It was required that we use the kit,
which I understand is cheaper and easier at a bigger school.  Unfortunately, I felt that it limited
creativity and aesthetics a bit, but I guess I'm a bit spoiled at Olin.  Looking
forward to get back into the shop next semester!

One other cool thing: I could practice Dutch phrases with
the Flemish team members.  After we
walked into the room for our design review), I said "dank je" (thank you) to a
team member for something.  One of the
guest professors says, "You know you have to present in English, right?"  My professor said, "Yeah, she's an American."  Then the first professor says to my Flemish
friend Katrijne, "Oh, you're an American! Alright, no problem then."  Haha. 
We cleared up the confusion, but apparently I am doing a good job blending in.

Happy holidays everyone! 
I actually have class on the morning of Christmas eve and classes/exams after the Christmas holiday, so I won't be
back in the States until January.  Have a
great American Christmas for me!

-Meghan

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