Ecology: Pollution

Reading Between the Lines

As we near the end of the JMU Drones Challenge, it’s important to take a step back and analyze the interdisciplinary thinking among group amAIRica throughout the project.

To begin, engineers design and build various structures––in this case, drones. They often work hand in hand with computer science experts to code particular hardware (like the Arduino used in this class). In our group, Dan the engineer and Brandon the programmer worked to code our drone and complete the behind-the-scenes actions that will make it fly.

Similar to engineering, industrial design includes the production, development, and manufacturing of objects. Both Andrea and Mindy worked together to build our prototype and design the platform that will hold our drone on presentation day.

For those with creative minds who work to put innovative ideas into action but lack the expertise to physically build something like a drone, industrial design is a field that benefits everyday life by providing solutions to these problems. It’s the perfect blend of an artist, an engineer, and a marketer.

The sole biologist on the team, Solomon, studies organisms and their relationship to the environment. With knowledge in air pollution, Solomon helped our group with the drone sensor while identifying ways to make our project more efficient.

Last, but certainly not least, the writers documented the entire journey. Lantz and I have worked on the timeline, created multimedia, and published the blog posts since day one. Documenting the process of building our drone was crucial to making sure we didn’t overlook aspects necessary for presentation day.

Working in the X-Labs was a new experience for many team members, myself included. At times it was challenging to understand the process of building our design and the technologies necessary to power our drone, but my group was on a level playing field. If one team member didn’t understand something, the other members would chime in to make sure the question was answered.

For this reason, the fact that the groups worked on tables rather than individual desks was helpful to the creative, collaborative process. The makerspace had equipment and tools on hand each day, so it was much easier than working in a typical classroom.

To build our design in the X-Labs, we used Arduino Unos for electronics and coding, soldering iron, and basic supplies like electrical tape, wire strippers, shrink-wrap, and a heat gun.

As for the multiscreens present in the front of the room, they were often distracting. Students were constantly scanning each screen, expecting something to change on one of them. For this reason, a lot of us missed the typical classroom setting where one projector was used to view all things.

When working with NOVALab telepresence robots, at first it was hard to act seriously, and I still occasionally dart away when I see one coming. It seems odd that robots are now incorporated into our lives, and soon enough these telepresence professors will permanently enter the academic sphere.

My favorite part of the class was the availability of multiple professors. I felt comfortable discussing things with each professor regardless of his/her discipline.

Finally, the class was unique as it was unlike any GenEd or beginner class where students were unsure of their skills. At this point in our college careers, we all know what we’re capable of completing and where our strengths and weaknesses lie.

Working in the makerspace was a valuable experience, and I hope that next semester I’ll engage in more interactive projects to prepare me for professional success.

By Taylor Kahny