A Do-It-Yourself (DIY) Light-Wave Sensing and Communication Project: Low-Cost, Portable, Effective, and Fun

20 Jul 2020  ·  Sabit Ekin, John F. O'Hara, Emrah Turgut, Nicole Colston, Jeffrey L. Young ·

A do-it-yourself (DIY) light-wave sensing (LWS) and communication project was developed to generate interest and clarify basic electromagnetic (EM) and wireless communication concepts among students at different education levels from middle school to undergraduate. This paper demonstrates the nature of the project and its preliminary effectiveness. Wireless sensing/communication concepts are generally considered hard to comprehend being underpinned only by theoretical coursework and occasional simulations. Further, K-12 schools and small academic institutions may not have the resources necessary to produce tangible demonstrations for clarification. The consequent lack of affordable hands-on experiences fails to motivate and engage students. The DIY-LWS is intended to make wireless concepts more understandable and less esoteric by linking fundamental concepts with familiar technologies such as solar cells, visible lights, and smartphones. It is also intended to pique student interest by allowing them to personally assemble, operate, and explore a light-based wireless communication system. A preliminary assessment is used to determine the student base knowledge level and enthusiasm for wireless and related core topics. Students are instructed to assemble and test their own DIY-LWS hardware to provide a hands-on experience and stimulate further exploration. Short lectures are given to link conceptual ideas to the real-world phenomena. Finally, students are re-assessed to quantify any change in conceptual understanding. The DIY-LWS kits have been used in multiple events with students at different levels from secondary to high schools to college. Pre- and post-assessments revealed pronounced improvements (the number of correct answers doubled) in student understanding of EM concepts. Instructors observed tremendous interest and excitement among the students during and after the experiments.

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