HELP – Home Electronics Laboratory Platform

The HELP project offers students the chance to have a portable laboratory kit at home where they can experience hands-on activities using the equipment encountered in professional settings, that allows them to set up experiments and to observe, understand and manipulate a wide range of electronic circuits. Also, students take more control over managing their learning process as the laboratory activity is no longer time-limited. Moreover, students have the means to experiment on personal projects.

Although the HELP project focuses on students engaged in Bachelor-level electronic courses, its target group can be extended to high-school and vocational schools, as well.

The HELP (Home Electronics Laboratory Platform) project delivers an innovative response to the challenges of COVID19 for the operation of STEM labs. In the longer term, providing authentic lab experiences in the pandemic era has created an opportunity to rethink how students can best acquire practical competences and build their understanding of STEM subject. HELP is driven by research results that show active teaching methods promote effective teaching and learning and increase students’ satisfaction. HELP supports active learning with students having practical, constructive, industry-relevant learning experiences undertaking laboratory work off-campus using low-cost equipment which gives the same interface as a laboratory-based experience. Using the HELP approach, future STEM programme delivery could be revised to blend at-home, virtual and on-campus lab sessions to the mutual benefit of students, faculty and the institute management. This will also improve access to STEM programmes.

The HELP platform offers the chance to students to have a portable laboratory kit at home where they can experience hands-on activities using the equipment encountered in professional settings to observe, manipulate, and understand complex physical processes. Also, students take more control over managing their learning process, laboratory activity is not time limited and the students have the chance to experiment personal projects.

The HELP platform integrates three core elements:

  1. Two generations of HELP KITs – a portable laboratory KIT for electronic instrumentation and measurements which helps students to undertake blend at-home, virtual and on-campus laboratory sessions
  2. HELP COURSES for at least 8 courses to maximise the learning opportunity of the HELP kits
  3. An online platform (HELP ONLINE) that creates a virtual community of practice for students and teachers to share experiences

Also, the project will deliver an assessment of the impact of HELP on the learning outcomes and engagement of 500+ students with recommendations for further development.

The HELP KIT consists of an electronic board and the Hantek 2D72 portable instrument. The latter is a compact, stand-alone handheld device that provides a 2 Channel Oscilloscope, an Arbitrary Waveform Generator with ±10V maximum amplitude and a Digital Multimeter.

The HELPKIT V1.1 electronic board developed by the Technical University of Cluj-Napoca comprises not only the usual breadboard and the required wires and cables, but also several functional blocks that greatly expand the range of experiments students can perform:  an  on-board Power Supply that takes in a USB-based 5V voltage and provides ±12V symmetrical supply lines, a TTL 5V Clock Generator with adjustable frequency,  a power amplifier that takes in the 2V signal generated by the Hantek instrument and gain it up to 10V; DC reference voltage generators with adjustable voltage within the  ±10V range, de-bounced switches, LED drivers, etc. The TUC-N team has designed the board, then implemented and tested 80 such boards, that were delivered to students of the four HELP partner Universities.

HELP Courses –  Flipped lab learning materials (HELP Courses) will be prepared and their impact evaluated in at least 8 courses in each academic year. The innovation in the courseware will take advantage of the flexibility of the home laboratory environment to engage and challenge students in the solution of authentic but achievable problems. The problem-based learning (PBL) approach, that requires significand laboratory time, will be adopted.

HELP ONLINE is an inclusive learning platform, dedicated to sharing and disseminating knowledge and resources for using the education packs. It will offer guides, case studies and support resources for using the technology. It will include educational webinars, both live and recorded, designed to share knowledge and expertise for using the HELP KITs for various laboratory activities. Laboratory projects that are carried out on the HELP KITs will also be shared on the site as ‘Project Showcases’. A forum space will be available.

The participating EU universities are

  • Munster Technological University from Ireland as coordinator
  • Universitatea Tehnică din Cluj-Napoca from Romania
  • Universidad Nacional de Educacion a Distancia from Spain
  • Aalborg Universitet from Denmark

Members of the Technical University Of Cluj-Napoca team

  • Associate professor Marius Neag
  • Associate professor Albert Fazakas
  • Lecturer Oneț Raul
  • Istvan Kovacs
  • Paul Mireșan
  • Gabriel Petrașuc
  • Iulian Sularea
  • Alessandro Battigelli

For further information about the project, please contact Associate Professor Marius Neag:

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