Internet of Things

The Internet of Things (IoT) and ubiquitous computing are at the core of some of the most disruptive ideas and products today. IoT enables innovative solutions for anything from smart homes and self-driving cars to drones, robotics, biomedical research, disaster relief, and environmental protection.

In this project-based class, students explore underlying technologies and work in cross-disciplinary teams to develop minimum viable products that address complex open-ended problems for industry partners. Through the problem-solving process, teams build requisite skill sets in electrical engineering, Arduino microcontrollers, sensor and motor integration, firmware development, CAD, 3D printing and laser cutting. Students also advance their understanding of systems thinking and design thinking, and gain skills in communicating with industry clients, gathering requirements, and prototyping. In addition, students apply the Scrum framework to manage their projects, which prepares them to work in agile system development environments in the industry and to pass Scrum certifications.

This course also naturally feeds our spring “Robots for Humanity” (PHYS 388) class where the technical skills are applied to deal with real-world problems faced by our clients. In the past, we have prototyped quadcopters to search and destroy landmines, deliver medical supplies, and aid in search and rescue. We’ve also addressed concerns of animal welfare by developing robots that can monitor animal populations, manage human wildlife interactions and improve natural environments.

Bearly There Presentation

Fall 2020 Class

Northrop Grumman logo
Bearly There

Students collaborated with Northrop Grumman to find ways to effectively monitor bears in their natural habitat. The team developed a collar with sensors that measure temperature, location and motion with an ESP32 as the microprocessor base for retrieving sensor data, and they are researching how to monitor the health and condition of the bears as well. However, they discovered that there are significant problems measuring bio-indicators using a collar-mounted sensor. Searching for options, they discovered small devices that can be implanted under the skin and prospects for this approach are under study.

They also explored and prototyped LoRa network data links that would push the data to an intermediate device on a UAV that would then upload data to a server with web services, databases and tools to build an information portal. AWS cloud-based services are one option which would provide the toolkit to create the portal.

Fall 2019 Class




  1. Red Cross Drone
    The Red Cross needs a custom drone that can take off and land vertically (VTOL) and get better flight times than traditional quad copters. The system needs some way of collecting information, such as damage assessment and geolocation, that would then be passed along for data processing, analysis and distribution.
  2. Red Cross/Amazon Web Services
    Many agencies are involved in emergency response, such as Civil Air Patrol, FEMA, Red Cross, Coast Guard, civilians, etc., but they need an effective way to collect, analyze and distribute data. This team will work to define what information is important, what analytics can be performed and create a structure that allows the data to be processed and distributed among the many agencies.
  3. Tracking Collar
    OpenCollar and the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (DGIF) are looking to create the next generation animal tracking collar for terrestrial mammals, such as bears and elephants. Traditionally a tracking collar can only record the location using GPS and then transmit this over satellite, but knowing what an animal is doing while in that location is far more valuable. The JMU team will investigate strategies for monitoring animal behavior and correlate habitat to behavior. The data will be transmitted remotely where it can be processed by a researcher. The core challenges are building on existing hardware designs, integrating new sensors, distributing this data and building something that is suitable to be mounted on an animal in the wild.
  4. Beyond Plastics
    This team will be looking into the prevalence of plastics in our society and how plastic waste makes its way into the oceans. This waste is in the form of cigarette filters, plastic bottles, etc. The waves break these plastics down into micro plastics which are then consumed by fish which we then consume. The effects of this are not well understood for either fish or humans. This team will look into how the plastic enters our waterways, identify the scale of the problems, and the ways it impacts our environment and then develop strategies to mitigate the problem.

Spring 2023

PHYS 388 | W 5:30-8:30pm | Lakeview Hall 1150

Email Dr. Kevin Giovanetti at [email protected] for more information on registration

Interested in this class?

Email Dr. Kevin Giovanetti at [email protected]

Fill out the class interest form for more information on all Spring 2023 class offerings

Become a
Client Partner

  • Does your organization face local or global challenges in healthcare, education or security?
  • Are you aware of a technology that could transform your industry but you don’t have time to explore it?
  • Does your organization have long–range design problems that you don’t have the resources to solve yourself?
  • What if you could hire graduates who are ready to start working on your top needs from Day One?

Learn how to become a client partner

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