ECE News

College of Engineering announces alliance with Fujitsu and Microsoft

By Lynn Nystrom

Blacksburg, Va., May 30, 2006 -- The College of Engineering has announced an industry alliance with Fujitsu Computer Systems Corporation and Microsoft Corp. to support its new Tablet PC computing initiative for incoming freshmen.

The alliance between Fujitsu, Microsoft, and Virginia Tech will offer engineering students high levels of hardware and software purchasing power and support, and will also provide students, faculty, and staff with training and assistance throughout the development and implementation of new models of teaching and learning.

The Fujitsu LifeBook® T4000 Series convertible Tablet PC combines the convenience and familiarity of a notebook with the powerful and versatile functionality of a slate Tablet PC. In conventional notebook mode, the Tablet PC offers a keyboard for typing. By rotating and folding the screen it transforms into a tablet configuration. Using a stylus, students can make handwritten notes and drawings in a manner comparable to the way in which pen and paper are used. The LifeBook T4000 Series convertible Tablet PC offers a bright 12.1" display with greater than 160° viewing angles. It is the only convertible Tablet PC on the market with a built-in modular bay that supports an optical drive or second battery for those extra long school days.

“We selected the Fujitsu LifeBook T4000 Series convertible Tablet PC based on its reliability and flexibility, as well as the company’s ability to support learning experiences in or outside of the classroom,” said Glenda Scales, associate dean for computing and distance learning, College of Engineering at Virginia Tech. “In our deliberations, we also balanced price, weight, service, screen size and years of corporate experience with Tablet PCs. While several vendors met our minimum computer requirements and were strong in a particular area, by selecting Fujitsu hardware we were able to meet the majority of our educational requirements for a Tablet PC.”

“In the first year engineering courses, students will use their Tablet PC to literally sketch their designs on their computers instead of using a mouse that links to drop down menus. Additionally, students will create an electronic lab book where they will have the flexibility to include handwritten notes as well as collaborate with each other electronically,” said Tom Walker, professor of engineering education (EngE).

Faculty will use applications such as Microsoft Office OneNote, Classroom Presenter, and SketchUp in support of the first year curriculum changes.

Beyond the freshman year, students will use Tablet PCs to actively participate in classroom presentations and exercises by drawing responses to queries and sending them to the instructor for public display and further discussion. “The ability to receive a copy of the instructor’s notes, including in-class electronic ink annotations, and to add personal notes gives the student a very powerful tool for both classroom participation and after class study,” said Joe Tront, professor of electrical and computer engineering (ECE). For the past two years, Tront has been working with groups of 15 to 20 students who use Tablet PCs in his ECE classes.

This summer Virginia Tech will pilot faculty and student use of Tablet PCs in coordination with the College of Engineering’s student transition program. This National Science Foundation sponsored program provides students an opportunity to become familiar with the Virginia Tech university community prior to the start of their academic career.

“Our goal with this pilot is to help our students see the full capabilities of the machines, and we hope that the Tablet PCs will facilitate the collaborative efforts required of these students through their academic years and beyond,” said Jean Kampe, also a member of Virginia Tech’s Department of Engineering Education faculty.

Virginia Tech’s alliance with Fujitsu and Microsoft will enable Virginia Tech to provide specific training for faculty on the use of the Tablet PC technology in the classroom during the summer months. With Fujitsu and Microsoft’s assistance, Virginia Tech’s Faculty Development Institute (FDI) will develop models by which to train professors and graduate students on the technology and pedagogical techniques of using these new tools specifically in an engineering learning environment. These models can be disseminated to other schools as they implement Tablet PC technology locally.

“We will work with education researchers at Virginia Tech on the use of the Tablet PC in order to investigate the longer term pedagogical implications of using this technology,” Scales added. “We have a three-year implementation plan for this initiative. Beginning with Summer 2006, we will engage with Engineering Education faculty to develop exciting pedagogical models for their classrooms. We expect to offer this opportunity to additional faculty each summer as they begin to think about new ways Tablet PCs can help them facilitate learning.”

With this decision, Virginia Tech becomes the largest and first public college of engineering to require the Tablet PCs for the engineering freshmen. This announcement follows a number of firsts by Virginia Tech’s College of Engineering in the area of personal computing.

In 1984, the college was the first public institution in the U.S. to require its entering engineering freshmen to own a personal computer. In 2002, the college moved to a laptop requirement and many of its academic buildings were outfitted to offer wireless communication capabilities.

“With our decision to move to Tablet PCs, our College of Engineering continues to be a leader in technology for engineering education,” said Richard Benson, dean of the College of Engineering. “The overall engineering community will benefit from the scientific studies of the effectiveness of this program.”

Visit the College of Engineering website for more information on the computer requirements.

Visit one of the websites below for more information on the Tablet PC:
Microsoft
TabletPC

In the most recent (2004) survey of the Engineering Workforce Commission of the American Association of Engineering Societies, Inc., the Virginia Tech College of Engineering ranks eighth nationally for the number of undergraduate degrees awarded. “America's Best Colleges 2006” survey, released by U.S. News & World Report in August 2005, ranks Virginia Tech’s College of Engineering’s undergraduate program 14th in the nation among all accredited engineering schools that offer doctorates, and eighth at public universities.

The College of Engineering at Virginia Tech is internationally recognized for its excellence in 14 engineering disciplines and computer science. The college’s 5,500 undergraduates benefit from an innovative curriculum that provides a “hands-on, minds-on” approach to engineering education, complementing classroom instruction with two unique design-and-build facilities and a strong Cooperative Education Program. With more than 50 research centers and numerous laboratories, the college offers its 1,800 graduate students opportunities in advanced fields of study such as biomedical engineering, state-of-the-art microelectronics, and nanotechnology.

LifeBook is a trademark or registered trademark of Fujitsu Limited in the United States and other countries. The names of actual companies and products mentioned herein may be the trademarks of their respective owners.