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Workforce Readiness

U West Georgia Adds Hands-on IoT to Business Curriculum

robotics programming at the University of West Georgia

Photo: Julia Mothersole/University of West Georgia

A business course at the University of West Georgia is teaching undergraduates about robotics programming, networking and plugging into the Internet of Things, to help them prepare for jobs that may not exist yet. "Networking Research and Certification," offered for the first time during the summer, was taught by Associate Professor Jean Pridmore, a member of the faculty in the Richards College of Business.

"I wanted to look to the future and try to figure out what could help position our students to take advantage of where the networking field is going, and that led me to IoT," said Pridmore, in a university article about the course. "Right now, there are about 35 million items attached to the internet. And in another five to 10 years, that number is expected to be about 50 billion."

The instructor, who holds degrees in chemical engineering, business administration, and management of IT and innovation, noted that companies are trying to figure out how to implement these new technologies. That's where the class comes in. "For these students, who are planning to graduate in a year or two, even by that time, the amount of jobs in IoT is going to have skyrocketed from what we're seeing now," Pridmore pointed out. "There's doesn't seem to be a stop in the growth market for IoT, either. So they need to know this stuff."

The cohort of 40 students worked with programmable robots powered by Raspberry Pi and produced by Dexter Industries. The goal was to connect to them wirelessly and then program them to perform self-driving operations on a floor track while avoiding obstacles (a garden gnome). "Because self-driving cars are coming, I felt like it would be an application students would be interested in, [that] they could relate to," said Pridmore.

robotics programming at the University of West Georgia

Photo: Julia Mothersole/University of West Georgia

The students were receptive. A video about the program shows one car doing what it's supposed to and a member of the student team clapping in response.

Terran North, a double major in management and MIS, said she'd like to work in human resource information systems after graduation, a field, she suggested, that requires a technical background. "It's been so interesting to get to learn how to program and making sure the information we're sending to the devices matches what's on our computers," North said. "It's a lot of detailed work, but it's cool work seeing how much companies have to do to make sure their systems stay secure."

Pridmore said she hopes to expand the number of students who have access to the new course. "It's engagement, it's experiential and [we're] hoping to open their eyes to see what the future is going to hold and what their place in it could be."

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.

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