UTILISING HACKATHONS TO ENHANCE THE DESIGN PROCESS FOR ELECTRONICS & PROGRAMMING LEARNING WITHIN PRODUCT DESIGN EDUCATION
Editor: Buck, Lyndon; Grierson, Hilary; Bohemia, Erik
Author: Siena, Francesco Luke; Naik, Kevin; Watts, Paul
Institution: Nottingham Trent University, United Kingdom
Section: Established, alternative and emerging educational paradigms to equip engineers and designers for future challenges
DOI number: 10.35199/EPDE.2023.50
The demand for enhanced technical competencies in graduates of product design and design engineering courses continues to grow year on year, with industry now requiring students to not only have an appreciation of design and manufacturing, but also a practical understanding of electronics and programming. However, traditional electronics and programming education, especially in product design courses, is often received negatively by students, especially by students that are solely driven by the creative aspects of the industry. At Nottingham Trent University (NTU), we identified that students saw a disconnect between their design education and their electronics and programming teaching and learning, yet there was a desire to understand more about how products function. Within the BSc Product Design course at NTU, there was the desire by the academic team to explore different pedagogies that would have a positive impact on electronics and programming learning, whilst also helping students see a more direct connection with this topic in relation to their future employment. As such, we sought to leverage the use of hackathons to provide an intense practical delivery approach for electronics and programming learning, whilst combining this with a focussed design activity. A hackathon is an event where teams are constructed to collaboratively engage in an engineering/design challenge that must be completed within a limited period of time, this is usually between twenty-four to forty-eight-hours. The hackathon methodology often focusses on specific design challenges linked to software or hardware development with the aim of realising a new functional outcome. At NTU, we integrated our first single day hackathon into the BSc Product Design course at the end of the 2020/21 academic year. This hackathon was received positively by students allowing them to apply/connect their electronics and programming learning from their taught sessions via a focussed design challenge. Subsequently, in 2021/22 academic year a two-day hackathon was implemented where student groups compete against each other and are set the challenge to design, manufacture, and programme a remote-control car (RC Car). The developed range of RC Cars were then judged on their aesthetic design, quality of manufacturing and programming before being ranked based upon their ability to navigate a predetermined time trial obstacle course. In summary, this paper explores the process of developing an electronics and programming curriculum that encourages students to explore the realms of the subject but within a product design context. The implementation of the Hackathon methodology will be detailed with insights shared on the successes and challenges encountered. Finally, student feedback will be presented from the two-day hackathon completed during the 2021/22 academic year with feedback highlighting an overall positive learning experience, with many students showing a desire to take part in future hackathons as well as identifying the relevance of the subject in relation to their degree and future career/professional practice.