Innovating the teaching of test techniques for automotive electronics: developing a unique practical session by building a vehicle in the loop (VIL) testbed at WMG
What did you achieve with this project?
Via the delivery of the new session one time (during ATT module in May 2018), we achieved 3 results:
- A more interactive environment for the students; in fact the students not only watched a video, produced in collaboration with the vehicle-in-the-loop team at JLR, but they also had the possibility to observe the modifications we made to our labcar in order to have the possibility to perform on a functioning vehicle testing as a part of the V&V development model they experienced during the module;
- Strengthening the link between material taught and research & development in an industrial context (the labcar modification as well as the video to give the rationale of the session were achieved own collaboration with JLR);
- Strengthening the collaboration of our teaching team and the JLR team working on verification and validation of automotive electronics and software.
Furthermore, we delivered the 'Automotive Electrical & Electronics (AEE) Workshop' 3 times, and the student were exposed to our new testbed, and the reasons for the modifications were briefly mentioned.
What has been the single biggest impact of the project?
During the ATT module, students walk along the V-model development cycle for automotive electronics. Our previous equipment limited the students to only test automotive electronics control units (ECUs) virtually (on laptops) or on small rigs (see attachment). The project allowed the students to experience the complete lifecycle of automotive ECU testing, including the issues and features of each level of the development cycle.
Even though the WMG testbed has been only partially completed, the students had the possibility to understand the new challenges introduced by testing the ECUs on a functioning vehicles, and they experienced what this testing means from an hardware perspective. Furthermore, thanks to the strong teaching collaboration I established with JLR vehicle in the loop team, they supported us to produce a video of their testbed with a vehicle under testing, to show to the students the final objective.
What were the biggest problems you encountered during the project?
In order to have the testbed running we needed to bring a big rig (~1mx1mx2m) from JLR site to WMG buildings. This step (and the related paperwork) required several months, and delayed the start of the project. Furthermore, our labcar will change its location soon, so we could not complete the final steps. In fact some hardware to connect the labcar to the rig need to be manufactured to fit exactly the new location of the labcar, that is currently under decision.
What student involvement was there on this project?
This session was built based on feedback from previous ATT module occurrences. In fact, students were always keen on gaining a better understanding of testing towards the end of the V&V cycle.
How many students do you estimate were impacted by this project and in what way:
About 80 students.
As mentioned, in particular the students from ATT module (20 students) had the possibility to observe and discuss the modifications we brought to the labcar, understanding their implications for a testing team, and the differences with the previous testing we conducted during the module. The students from AEE workshops (60 students) had the possibility to be exposed to the latest developments in automotive testing in an industrial context .
Could you see your project being replicated or built on elsewhere in the University?
I can see our team to further work on this project, first of all to improve the teaching session, secondly to produce a showcase session to be used in other automotive modules and programs or for engagement sessions during family data University of Warwick, etc.
Do you recognise in the outcomes of your project implications for the University and beyond?
In traditional taught activity very little emphasis is given to testing as a discipline, in spite of the fact this matter is becoming of remarkable relevance for all the engineering (and STEM in general) disciplines.
. In addition to this, the need for testing real electronic systems in real-time is even further away. This is often due to the lack of both expertise and facilities. By investing in the vehicle in the loop test bed, we are innovating the teaching of automotive testing, and we are creating a unique real-time test bed for testing a real vehicle’s complex electronic system. In an academic context we see no evidence of this existing in the UK.
Furthermore, practical experience is a key element of education initiatives targeting the STEM skills gap, and the proposed activity involves cooperative learning, problem-based learning, student engagement in a unique open-space learning, where the students will have the opportunity to use in groups the VIL testbed (a unique facility in UK) and to discuss their findings with their peers, with myself and with JLR experts, facilitating their learning.
What evaluation of your project did you carry out and what were the results?
During the ATT module, I have collected student feedback on the module and the session. The 93% of the students were satisfied by the session (the remaining 7% said that the content of the session was 'too deep'), and in the anonymous optional comments they added:
'Good with limitations of video presentation'
'Prob the best TAS module I have been on (5th TAS to date)'
Where will your project go from here?
We are going to wait to have the final location for the labcar, and then we plan to have the testbed running for future modules and student projects, therefore the students will experiment hands on the testing of ECUs on a functioning vehicle, facing some of the challenges they will face on their workplace.
Furthermore, the project has been very successful in fostering our collaboration to produce teaching material with JLR teams. We are now more aware of some of the challenges brought by the collaboration (e.g. delays, availability of the teaching and JLR teams, etc.) but also the strengths (e.g. producing unique teaching material that addresses the latest challenges for automotive companies).