St. Mike’s educators engineer new remote-learning approaches

Professor O'Donovan and MakerSpace's Eric Roy assemble and mail packages to electronics students for important projects.

April 9, 2020
Submitted story

When the abrupt pandemic transition took place in early March, many educators were confronted with the need to translate their lessons and plans to the “remote learning” landscape.


Professor Barbara O’Donovan works in the MakerSpace recently preparing packages to send to her now remote-learning electronics students.

Many realized that while learning objectives would remain the same, instructors would have to develop new approaches to the delivery of this content. That’s when Saint Michael’s College engineering Professor Barbara O’Donovan and Eric Roy from the College’s MakerSpace began collaborating on a creative solution for the Introduction to Electronics exercise that had been planned for O’Donovan’s students in EG 100 Introduction to Engineering.

Unsure if students would be returning this semester, they began planning a vision of the assignment that could be shipped out to students with the thought that by leveraging conferencing software, students could still collaborate in cohorts while following the augmented lesson plan.

On April 3, Professor O’Donovan met with Roy in the MakerSpace (observing a safe 6-foot distance and utilizing Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to inventory the materials and break them out into individualized packets that could be shipped to her students.

breadboards to mail

This photo shows some of the components that Professor O’Donovan and Eric Roy of the MakerSpace were sending out to students for a project recently.

A breadboard is a solderless device for temporary prototype with electronics and test circuit designs. Most electronic components in electronic circuits can be interconnected by inserting their leads or terminals into the holes and then making connections through wires where appropriate. The breadboards and other components for this Saint Michael’s assignment were donated by OnLogic several years ago, while additional supplies were purchased through the Saint Michael’s Mathematics & Statistics Department.

Roy took advantage of the new recycling collection taking place in the Saint Michael’s mailroom (Initiated by the campus Green-Up Club and spearheaded by Alexis Comeau ’20) to upcycle old mailers to pad the contents being mailed.  “Since we have a bunch of fragile components going out to each student, we needed a solution for ensuring that the contents got to their destination intact,” Roy said. “Having worked with Alexis on a number of her projects, I decided that this would be a perfect opportunity to up-cycle materials rather than create additional waste”.

Additionally, O’Donovan received support from the administrative assistants for the Mathematics and Statistics Department, the Vice President for Academic Affairs (VPAA) office, and the President’s office for label preparation and shipping supplies. The shipping costs were generously funded by the VPAA’s office.

Roy said he and O”Donovan hope that this project inspires other educators to explore creative solutions for translating the hands-on learning aspects of their classes. “While remote learning creates a new array of obstacles; with a little creative persistence and some novel approaches, a number of these hurdles can be navigated,” he said, adding how “It has been truly inspiring to see so many folks from different areas of campus come together (figuratively, not literally) in support of this endeavor. It is a great example of how collaboration facilitates solutions in the face of adversity.”

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