IFS 2097, Exploring Emerging Technologies, was offered for the first time in Spring 2016 as an E-Series course in FSU’s Liberal Studies program, which looked to provide first year students with opportunities to work together in small groups on hands-on, project-based activities. The purpose of IFS 2097 was to engage students with emerging technologies available in the School of Information’s Goldstein Library, and was advertised to prospective students with the following description:
Are you interested in how new information technologies are changing the way we interact with the world around us? Are you fascinated by technological innovation and design, and eager to learn more about the latest developments? Would you like hands-on experience with emerging technologies such as Raspberry Pis, 3D Printers, and Oculus Rifts? If so, join Professor Marty in an exciting, project-based exploration of emerging technologies in Spring 2016! We’ll work individually and in teams to master a wide variety of innovative technologies, and then use them to create a dynamic project showcasing the latest trends in innovation, creativity, and entrepreneurship at FSU.
After discussing a variety of different project ideas (such as equipping cats with wifi sensors to map the campus network), we decided our class project would be to send a 3D printed copy of the FSU torches into space on a weather balloon, along with video cameras to capture the event, thereby merging 3D printing, virtual reality, and related technologies. In addition, given FSU’s capital campaign — “Raise the Torch” — this class would provide a unique opportunity for students to connect to that initiative. With the help of a weather balloon, the students in this class would raise the torch 20 miles into space!!
During the weeks leading up to the first class session, we carefully researched the challenges of sending a weather balloon into space. One of the reasons we chose this project was that it had been done many times before, and was therefore well-documented. Even so, we knew the devil would be in the details, and we were very grateful for the valuable guidance we received from such sites as Sent into Space, Project Icarus, and High Altitude Science. To help purchase the necessary equipment, we applied for and were generously awarded a $500 materials grant from the Grants for Engaged Learning (GEL) program at FSU.
We also wanted to make sure the students retained as much ownership as possible over the project — not just copying what others have done, but researching all the options available to them, and figuring out for themselves exactly what they wanted to design and how they would do it. The structure of the semester (beginning with five weeks of research and exploration, then moving through three phases of three weeks each for the students to design, deploy, and deliver on the project) was planned with an eye towards this goal.