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First-year students perform tremendously in the Electrical Engineering Workshop course and according to the course assistant a little sparky tuning is all for the best

Students working as course assistants play a vital role in one of the most important courses at the School of Electrical Engineering.
Aalto University / Electrical Engineering Workshop / photo: Linda Koskinen

This is Ville Hiltunen’s fourth time working as a course assistant in Electrical Engineering Workshop course where students can experiment with what they have learned in practice. The main part of the course consists of a course project that utilises micro controllers and is presented to an audience at the end of the course. A micro controller is a tiny computer, which provides an easy way to add “intelligence” or programmability to devices that are being built.

The course assistants play an important role in the teaching and development of the course. Their task is to help students with course projects and to lead electronic exercises and lectures.

‘When it comes to selecting course assistants I have tried to select students who expand my own expertise. Assistants have the best feel for practical problems or for avoiding coding or construction pitfalls,’ says Kimmo Silvonen, the teacher in charge of the course.

Hiltunen, who has a bachelor’s degree in Electronics and Electrical Engineering is studying for a master's degree at the Department of Signal Processing and Acoustics. Although he has already pocketed the bachelor’s degree, working as a course assistant has taught him many new things about electronics.

‘Students sometimes ask about things that I have never even heard of, so I have to go and do some research. In addition, by observing the best projects, you will learn to recognise the characteristics of a good project. In most cases, the first weeks’ work input determines the output of the overall project.’

The project had a genuine electrical workshop spirit, which meant a lot of sparky tuning when some ordered part did not work as intended.

Ville Hiltunen

According to Hiltunen, the highlights of the job are the students who are united in their desire to learn. Often, the assistant's help is only needed at the beginning of the course, after which the students get up to speed and work independently. Particularly memorable are the moments when students are able to turn the servo-controlled device for the first time.

‘This happens at the beginning of each course but it still seems somehow most important.’

The ‘coffee hand’ was one of the first projects Hiltunen worked on as an assistant. The objective of the project was to build a robot hand that would automatically pour coffee into the cup placed on the tray.

‘The team did great work and learned really fast, which broadened my perception of first-year students’ capabilities. The project had a spirit of a genuine electrical workshop, which meant a lot of sparky tuning when some ordered part did not work as intended.’ 

Students returning to be course assistants time after time is a sign of how rewarding the work is.

In addition to teaching, assistants have also participated in the development of the Electrical Workshop. For example, at the initiative of the assistants, 3D printing and laser cutting were  incorporated at an early stage into the Workshop.

 

The Electrical Engineering Workshop course is aimed mainly at first-year students of Electronics and Electrical Engineering but it is open to all Aalto students. Among the course participants there have been students of business and design. The course was first organised in 2013 and has since been completed by about 1,300 students.

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