David Granger/Mike Delaune


AUBURN -- Professors from Auburn University, the University of Maryland and the University of Minnesota are using the Internet to teach engineering students how to enhance the performance of computers by keeping them cool.

This class for graduate and undergraduate students is the first live multi-campus Internet course taught at any of the three partner universities.

"We try to mimic the look and feel of an actual classroom as closely as possible, while using technology to enable a pooling of resources and areas of expertise," said Sushil Bhavnani, associate professor of mechanical engineering at Auburn.

Students at industrial locations such as Lockheed-Martin also participate in the course from their company sites.

The class is transmitted live over the Internet via the AU CUSeeMe video reflector each Thursday from 6 p.m. To 9 p.m. using digital cameras, two computers in each location --- one used to carry the digital video signal and one for the lecture notes --- and CUSeeMe video conferencing software.

Bhavnani said the idea for the class started two years ago at a meeting with his colleagues from Maryland and Minnesota. The three professors decided to use their combined expertise to develop the Internet course.

They sent a proposal to the National Science Foundation and the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers and received a $30,000 grant to help finance the effort.

"Because we didn't know how it would work, we chose to enroll a select group of electrical and mechanical engineering students for this pioneering project," said Bhavnani.

The class offers its students a real-time "virtual classroom" experience. Part of the lecture originates at Auburn and part at the other partner universities.

One of the courseware modules was developed at AU Telecom/ETV with the help of Sam Sipper, a senior in mechanical engineering, Chris Golden, a freshman in computer science, and Robert Dean, AU's senior multimedia technologist at Telecom/ETV. The module consists of a virtual laboratory tour through Auburn's microelectronics fabrication laboratory.

"This software interface for the project is of an award-winning mulitmedia design," said Dean. "It is the culmination of years of testing and refining graphic user interfaces for teaching and learning conducted by the Instructional Media Group here at ETV.

"This use of this technology has positioned AU at the forefront of educational multimedia delivery. These network resources and software tools are available to professors in every discipline to enrich the experience of Auburn University students."

The interplay between students and faculty from all sites is one of the most compelling features of this project. If students have a question, they can ask it during the lecture.

Homework statements and solutions are developed in the form of a presentation put together with PowerPoint software. They are then placed on the Internet course web site for the benefit of all class participants.

Bhavnani and his colleagues are at work on another proposal to extend the class to an international audience.

"It's interesting and exciting to participate in something like this," Sipper added. "It's always a kick."

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CONTACT: Bhavnani at 334/844-3303.