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Intelligent learning lab at the Lakes

by Katrina Phelps

Brenton Dansie at the Mechatronics Lab.An intelligent learning lab that focuses on the use of smart, sensor-based technology to develop products and industrial systems that think for themselves is in the final stages of preparation for student use from next year at the Mawson Lakes campus.

The Mechatronics Lab will provide a hands-on working lab for about 150 third and fourth year students who are in the mechatronic engineering stream as part of either an electrical engineering or mechanical engineering degree.

Dean of Teaching and Learning and acting Pro Vice Chancellor in the Division of Information Technology, Engineering and the Environment, Associate Professor Brenton Dansie, says the lab is a highly collaborative and interactive space.

“It will provide a space for students to undertake collaborative, design-based work with sophisticated IT components,” he said.

“Mechatronic systems have the capacity to think for themselves and we wanted a lab that would mimic that.

“A lot of products have sensors in them, from the everyday kettle and toaster to highly complex systems such as modern cars and manufacturing systems, and this is part of what the lab work will focus on.

“These students will be undertaking practical work that they could put into practise in industry.

“The lab is an example of a learning environment that is very consistent with the University’s learning and teaching framework with its emphasis on practice-based approaches to learning.”

By the time the lab is open to students, it will include a factory automation system that will allow students to learn how to integrate various components together into the design of these systems.

It is also envisaged that the UniSA College’s high school outreach program will access the lab.

The Mechatronics Lab and the associated curriculum changes that have provided more opportunities for electrical and mechanical engineering students to study together, is an outcome from the STEP 2010 process.

STEP 2010 has provided many opportunities for staff at UniSA to improve the quality of student engagement by ensuring that students are more actively involved in their learning.

Progress on the M2 Building at the Mawson Lakes campus.Meanwhile, the M2 Building at the Mawson Lakes campus is continuing to progress, with work on track for an opening in 2012.

The M2 Building will be at the heart of the Materials and Minerals Science Learning and Research Hub. The $50m, purpose-built facility is designed to meet the expansion needs of the Ian Wark Research Institute and the Mawson Institute. It will also include integrated undergraduate teaching and industry interaction.

The Federal Government, through its Education Investment Fund, contributed $40m to the building with additional funding provided by the State Government and UniSA.