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KTH Royal Institute of Technology’s CDIO Program Improves Retention Rates and Turns Students into Engineers

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KTH mechatronic engineering students participating in a capstone project competition
KTH mechatronic engineering students participating in a capstone project competition.

“MATLAB and Simulink have been instrumental in achieving the goals of our CDIO initiative, which include adopting a more student-centered approach to learning and enabling students to work on real problems with professional tools so that they are better prepared for careers in engineering.”

Mats Hanson, KTH Royal Institute of Technology

Many universities around the world struggle to attract and retain engineering students, but not KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm. CDIO, KTH’s new educational framework, turns students into engineers by engaging them in tasks centered on conceiving, designing, implementing, and operating real-world systems.

In the CDIO program, students use MATLAB® and Simulink® to complete lab assignments, capstone projects, and collaborative projects with industry partners. “Providing students with a good learning environment is essential to CDIO,” says Mats Hanson, professor of mechatronics, vice dean at the School of Education and Communication in Engineering Science, and former director of the KTH Learning Lab. “MATLAB and Simulink are a core part of that environment. Because our goal is to prepare students for careers as engineers, we want them to use professional tools from the start and throughout their education.”

Challenge

Recruiting new engineering students and retaining them once enrolled was a key goal of the CDIO initiative. Another was to provide a teaching framework that would enable the research-oriented KTH faculty to shift its focus from teaching to learning.

Hanson and his colleagues adopted a student-centered approach in which students complete projects related to real engineering problems and work with engineers and other stakeholders in industry. A fundamental requirement of this approach was to give students access to the tools used by engineers in industry to design and implement mechatronic solutions and other systems. In this way, KTH would fulfill its core mission of producing the next generation of engineers.

Solution

KTH integrated MATLAB and Simulink into the engineering curriculum to support the adoption of CDIO.

First-year mechanical engineering students learn MATLAB basics in their introductory engineering course. Working in MATLAB, they define a set of equations that describe an engineering problem, solve the equations, and interpret the results by generating plots and graphs.

In upper-level courses, students build upon the skills and techniques they’ve acquired, using MATLAB and Simulink to complete increasingly complex assignments.

In a mechatronics course, for example, students use Simulink and Stateflow® in the design phase to model and simulate a robot controller that controls multiple motors based on a variety of sensor inputs. In the implementation phase, the students generate code from their models using Embedded Coder® and deploy the code to an embedded target for hardware-in-the-loop simulations and real-time testing.

Students use MATLAB and Simulink to complete engineering capstone projects in which they apply what they have learned to design, build, and operate a production system.

Postgraduate students use MATLAB, Simulink, and physical modeling products such as SimMechanics™ as they collaborate with Swedish mobile telecommunications, electronics, and motor vehicle companies on developing commercial products.

Results

  • 94% employment rate for graduating engineers. “With MATLAB and Simulink, students in our CDIO program complete real projects with the tools engineers use in industry,” says Hanson. “As a result, our graduates have practical skills and knowledge that are in high demand. A recent survey found that 94% have a job in their desired field within one year after graduating.”
  • Applications increased; withdrawals in mechatronics virtually eliminated. “While schools are having difficulty attracting applicants, KTH has seen an increase in admissions,” says Hanson. “At the same time the dropout rate is high in many fields—but in mechatronics it is almost zero. CDIO with MATLAB and Simulink is a big part of that because the students are motivated and engaged in meaningful assignments.”
  • Hundreds of industry projects completed. “Our graduate students work with engineers at some of the largest companies in Sweden, using MATLAB and Simulink to design and implement hundreds of systems, including mobile phone antennas, mechatronic systems, and controls for a wide variety of industries,” says Hanson.

Challenge

Prepare undergraduate and postgraduate students for engineering careers while increasing admissions and retention rates

Solution

Adopt a CDIO teaching framework in which students use MATLAB and Simulink to design and implement real-world systems

Results

  • 94% employment rate for graduating engineers
  • Applications increased; withdrawals in mechatronics virtually eliminated
  • Hundreds of industry projects completed

Products Used

Learn more about KTH Royal Institute of Technology