Date of Award


Document Type

Master Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Engineering (Research)


Electronic Engineering

First Advisor

Dr. Tom O'Mahony


In an attempt to both place the student at the centre of the learning process and thus improve student engagement with the discipline, and to incorporate professional skills into the engineering curriculum at the module level, an enquiry based learning (EBL) component to enhance teamwork, problem solving skills and the student’s ability to learn independently was developed using current best practice in teaching and learning. As EBL is not widely used in engineering curricula in CIT, a pilot scale three week trial was performed during the academic year 2007-08 to evaluate the appropriateness of the pedagogy and student reactions to the change. The trial utilised a HP Inkjet Printer to provide an authentic, real world, problem, as the vehicle for enquiry and within this context student groups were asked to design and implement a control system for either the carriage or paper feed system.

The effectiveness of the intervention was initially evaluated through questionnaires and interviews. The results of the questionnaires and interviews indicated that students had very positive attitudes towards the intervention and were unanimous in their opinion that additional modules should adopt this approach. The student cohort perceived that their professional/transfcrable skills of teamwork, communication and information retrieval were especially enhanced by the EBL component. In general, students perceived that the printer apparatus was superior to traditional laboratory equipment as it was ‘real-world’ and closer to the discipline area. Upon completion of the module these students embarked on a six month work placement and were reinterviewed on return, to complete a cycle of skills development, industrial application and reflective evaluation. Again the main outcomes were that students believed that the selected skill set was relevant to an industrial setting and that the EBL component was effective in developing these skills.

In addition, this thesis presents a comprehensive evaluation of the Inkjet Printer apparatus as a vehicle for enquiry in control engineering. The evaluation may be viewed as a blueprint for designing an EBL control systems module, or alternatively decomposed to generate a series of laboratory sessions that range from the traditional build/test to higher order identify/design/evaluate experiences. The learning resources utilised which are aligned with international best practice are detailed, the equipment used is inexpensive and globally available, and thus can be easily replicated internationally and tailored to suit local contexts.

To further enhance the student experience, a website providing simulation and remote experimentation using the printer, was designed and implemented, using the existing resources available within the Department.

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