Project-based Learning 2019-2020: New Projects and Global Tasks

Project-based learning, which was successfully launched in autumn of 2018, has become one of the main projects of our university in 2019. The new educational approach is rightfully considered as one of the best practices of the university, the experience which can now be translated to other educational institutions in our country. Project-based learning at the university is supervised by Vice-Rector for Academic Affairs, Doctor of Sciences (Engineering), Professor Andrey Radionov.

We talked about development of the new educational approach in the academic year of 2019 - 2020, about leading projects and the outlooks for them serving as a basis for global regional initiatives, about students’ interest to the new learning approach, about perspective industrial partners, and many other things with project-based learning managers: Aleksandr Shishkov and Elena Ponomareva.

Manager of project-based learning at SUSU, Candidate of Sciences (Engineering), Associate Professor Aleksandr Shishkov:

“In 2019, SUSU launched 73 projects within project-based learning: 45 of them are new projects of the university. Meanwhile, 28 projects intended for several years are successfully in progress.

One of the key moments in the development of project-based learning in 2019 is digitalization of projects: in 2018, at the beginning of project-based learning introduction, we used to store all documentation in paper format with signatures and stamps. In the new academic year, we are actively shifting away from the bureaucratic routine, and now all information about the projects is stored in a digital cloud. The whole system for submission of applications is computer-aided, so any administrative staff or student of the university, as well as any external customer, can submit their applications online. Project managers process online applications remotely, and after their approval, participants of project-based learning fill in digital passports of projects.

This is the key change for the entire system of project-based learning management. It is important that submitting applications via the project cloud is suitable for employer-customers. As of today, we have already got more than twenty applications submitted by enterprises for cooperation with the university in the frameworks of project-based learning.

Interdisciplinary projects can independently search for students via the digital cloud. Students can freely join any project that they see in the cloud. In a digital space of the cloud, potential employers can find students for their projects themselves.

One of the most outstanding examples of interaction between customers, administrative staff and students of the university within the cloud is the project of the School of Electronic Engineering and Computer Science entitled “Ensuring Information Security of Field Networks”. Development of this project was initiated by Chelyabinsk Pipe Rolling Plant: partnership with the university was arranged by the Head of ChelPipe Development Control Department; he proposed the topic of the project which the enterprise truly needs.

At SUSU, this project is supervised by a lecturer of the School of Electronic Engineering and Computer Science Andrey Barinov. The project is designated for the development of a system and methodology for detection of intrusions into the networks of automated production process control system by the example of ChelPipe Group.

The cross-disciplinary project also includes Master’s degree students majoring in Mechatronics and Robotics (Institute of Engineering and Technology, Department of Mechatronics and Automation) and Specialist degree students (of the 4th and the 5th years of study) majoring in Information Security of Computer-aided Systems.”

In 2019, many technical projects stepped up to a new level.

The Institute of Engineering and Technology’s Faculty of Aerospace Engineering started pursuing a principally new topic. It is a global project on engineering of a multi-purpose space platform. In the future, it is planned that this project will involve the entire SUSU Institute of Engineering and Technology and be able to grow into a federal global programme.

Director of the Institute of Engineering and Technology, Head of the Department of Aircraft Engines, Doctor of Sciences (Engineering), Professor Sergey Vaulin told us about the specifics of the new project, the project team and prospects of its development:

“Initially, we talked about constructing a spacecraft with a transport and energy module within the project-based learning. Today, the project tasks have transformed.

The new project of a multi-purpose space platform as part of a reusable launch vehicle includes development of a spacecraft for landing on asteroids. In this regard, projects of the institute of Engineering and Technology – the Youth Design Bureau and Project-based Learning – have been united; the same team of students is working in each of them. Among the participants of the new big-scale projects are Bachelor’s, Master’s and Specialist degree students from the Faculty of Aerospace Engineering at the SUSU Institute of Engineering and Technology.

The goal of the new project is to teach students to work in the conditions of real production tasks. In the frameworks of project-based learning, students will have to pass all stages of a technical object development: technical proposal, sketch design, and engineering design with all ground-level tests.

The project is successfully developing, drawing attention, and more and more students want to join it to get such an experience. In the new year, initiative third-year students joined the students who have already been taking part in project-based learning. It is planned that the project will involve second-year students, who are being trained in the elite education programme.

The first internal customer of the multi-purpose space platform will be the project of a spacecraft designated to land on asteroids (this is also a project of SUSU’s project-based learning; the project head is Vladimir Shiryayev). In the long run, the platform will be able to perform other tasks as well: Earth observation, communication, etc., which means that the platform is being engineered as a multi-purpose model capable of accepting orders for space services. It will have to put the spacecraft into the orbit and preset its necessary speed. Then the spacecraft has to move towards an asteroid and perform all tasks set by a customer, for example, take samples of soil, analyse its composition, and successfully return to the space platform in the end of the mission.

The new project is supposed to be a cross-disciplinary one. It is planned to involve specialists from the School of Electronic Engineering and Computer Science. This is related to the fact that the tasks of onboard control circuit are principally similar for both the spacecraft designated to land on asteroids and for the multi-purpose space platform. Project of students from the Department of Automated Control Systems of the SUSU School of Electronic Engineering and Computer Science entitled “Designing the Exterior of the Onboard Control Circuit (OCC) of a Space Vehicle for Flying to Asteroids – 2019” (project leader is Head of the Department of Automated Control Systems, Doctor of Sciences (Engineering), Professor Vladimir Shiryayev) is dedicated to development of a spacecraft control system.

Cooperation within the project also involves the School of Economics and Management. Specialists of the School will be responsible for interaction with suppliers of the space service market. In the future, we will need mathematical description of data, analysis of an asteroid’s composition, and of the chemical processes occurring in the fuel of rocket engines, as well as analysis of physical principles and phenomena. In this regard, we are planning on attracting physicists, chemists and mathematicians of the university to work on the project.”

The project of the multi-purpose space platform has a great future. If its success and necessity are proven, it has every chance to become one of the global SUSU projects and obtain state financing.

This precise project might lay the basis for a concept of the new Interregional Research and Education Centre (REC), bringing together the scientific and research potential of Chelyabinsk, Sverdlovsk and Kurgan regions. The rocket-and-space research field of the REC is planned to be developed at South Ural State University and Ural Federal University.

The project is being currently elaborated, and the issues of its financing are being specified. The decision will be made at the level of Presidential Plenipotentiary for the Ural Federal District.

Future of Project-based Learning

Project-based Learning Manager, D.Sc. (Philology) Elena Ponomareva:

“Today, project-based learning is one of the main projects at our university, and it combines science and the initiatives of our key industrial partners in the process of training. In the nearest future, project-based learning at our university will only be expanding and growing.

All the main programmes, especially those related to engineering, will most likely be developing namely within the frameworks of the project-based learning. Students should gain professional competences in the process of solving real-life problems. Thanks to the development of the project-based learning, the well-known stereotype that employers keep repeating ‘Forget all you’ve been taught at the university’ will very soon become irrelevant.

Projects like the one on Engineering of a Multi-purpose Space Platform have all chances of becoming global world-class projects.

The main achievement of the project-based learning over the first year of its fulfilment is that the projects’ support has been completely transferred to a digital platform. This result should strengthen in the future and be translated to all other practices of our university.

Today, the project-based learning offers a lot of cross-disciplinary projects. This means that each projects needs designers, programmers, linguists, journalists, PR specialists, and economists.

We would like to provide the members of the academic staff with a possibility to place their requests via a Projects Cloud: in their requests, project heads can specify their needs for this or that specialist, and students can write in on their own and are free to participate in the projects, bypassing all the bureaucratic stages. Students can also take the initiative and place information in the digital cloud that they have competences in certain fields, and heads of any projects can forward invitations to such students to join their teams.

Such “university labour exchange” will be able to function on the basis of the cloud platform. Students and project heads can meet in the cloud and agree on the details of their collaboration. The combination of the resources of the programmes of elite training and project-based education, the focus on digital technologies and on the achievements of high science, along with simulation of professional activities in the context of the realities of tomorrow – all of that constitutes the complex approach, thanks to which our university traditionally maintains the high level of the quality of the educational process.”

Read more about the projects within the SUSU Project-based Learning in the Projects Cloud, or on the special page of the SUSU web-site on the Projects of the Project-based Learning.

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