UW-Platteville students develop smart classroom in Neal Wilkins

Written by Ruth Wendlandt on Thu, 11/07/2019 - 11:01 |

With a click of a button, University of Wisconsin-Platteville Assistant Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering Dr. Xiaoguang Ma and his team of students are transforming a local elementary school classroom into a smart classroom with the latest wireless technologies.

Ma, senior faculty advisor Dr. Philip Sealy, professor of electrical and computer engineering and SRES and students, Christopher Kott, Elizabeth Bohlman, Nicholas Neuburg and Troy Januchowski, are collaborating with the Neal Wilkins Early Learning Center in Platteville, to apply smart home devices to Jennifer King’s 4K classroom. The yearlong endeavor is being sponsored through the UW-Platteville Student Research and Engagement Fund.

“This project can introduce new technology and help serve the community. It can strengthen the connection between us and the K12,” said Ma. “Technology can change your life. It can inspire more students to develop as engineers.”

Tammy Haag, principal of Neal Wilkins said she welcomes this opportunity to partner with UW-Platteville. “It provides us new ideas from professionals in the technology field that we may not have available in our own district,” she said. “The UW-Platteville students can use our facility to provide hands-on learning and work with staff outside of the college classroom to have an authentic experience.” 

This semester students are working with Haag and King to identify the classroom’s needs, present their research and proposals, purchase and implement the equipment, test their project and provide necessary training to the Neal Wilkins staff.

“The only thing we are held back by is our creativity,” said Neuburg, a senior electrical engineering major from Green Bay, Wisconsin. “The more creativity that we can incorporate into this the more there is. The more we look into this, there are so many more technologies out there that allow us to do a lot of different things that we didn’t think was possible.”

During the meetings with Haag and King the students have explained their research along with price point options of different devices including light bulbs, smart hue lights, smart outlets and an Amazon Echo Show.

King said she’s looking forward to all the technological changes. “The less harsh lighting for my kids to be exposed to all day – I am very excited for a smart speaker with the Echo Show,” she said. “Looking up answers in books is still a very important skill in life, but being only four prevents us from reading books. By having a device that can answer a question by easily accessing the information through the internet, those questions may spark an amazing conversation we could all share in as a group.”

According to Haag, students will learn to use light communications for some transitions instead of a teacher’s voice. “Students who have not yet learned to follow voice directions may benefit from the light technology as a step to improve this skill,” she said. “The light technologies will provide another avenue of learning the letters and numbers inside the classroom as an alternative to traditional strategies. “

Ma believes the project will create better skill sets, introduce smart technology to the area and provide research training for UW-Platteville students.

“We can create something very customized or adapt to Neal Wilkins’ needs, but in contrary the market may not have that type of product,” Ma said. “It will help us innovate our class and the feedback will help us make our teaching more meaningful.”

“I’m looking forward to applying what I’m learning and sharing it in the classroom with younger students,” said Neuburg. “I’m pretty excited to see where it goes and what it can do.”

Ma hopes to work with other area businesses to develop more smart home/smart office spaces.