MME Professor Carol Hulls Wins National Teaching Award

Bryan Mailloux - 2B Mechatronics
Posted on: May 22, 2016

Carol Hulls, a professor in the Mechanical and Mechatronics Engineering department here at UWaterloo, has recently won the 2016 Society for Teaching and Learning in Higher Education (STLHE)’s Brightspace Innovation Award in Teaching and Learning. This award, with its rather long and intimidating name, is awarded to instructors who develop “innovative approaches that promote student-centred teaching and learning.”

Innovative approaches are certainly Professor Hulls’ specialty. For one, she is one of the founders of the Engineering IDEAs Clinic, an initiative that aims to have undergraduate engineering students learn about real-life engineering applications. This is done through hands-on activities, such as an engine dissection (something I did in first year that I have fond memories of), which allows students to see how the concepts they are learning in the classroom are applied to real engineering problems. Professor Hulls is also an advocate for experiential learning in the classroom, integrating open-ended projects into 1A course deliverables to have students thinking like engineers, starting from their first term on campus.

While Professor Hulls certainly deserves this award, I think it’s also important to highlight how amazing she is at teaching. I’ve had the privilege of having Professor Hulls teach two of my courses: GENE 121 (which should be titled “Programming for people who may or may not have programmed before”), and this term, MTE 203 (Advanced Calculus). For both courses, she has always expressed a desire to really see her students understand the material that is presented in lectures, and I feel like the projects she assigns her students are great ways to reinforce that in-class learning. For instance, in GENE 121 for Mechatronics students, students are required to choose a task and to build a Lego robot to perform this task; I remember that after every lab, she was always happy to stay for a while afterwards to address each group’s robot problems, or just to discuss robots or programming in general.

Each recipient of the Brightspace Innovation Award receives $2,200 for registration and travel to attend the Brightspace FUSION and STLHE annual conferences, and a two year membership to STLHE. Professor Hulls’ contributions to student-centred learning, as well as her research in real-time sensor fusion, make her a valuable member of the Engineering faculty. She is an especially great mentor to much of the undergraduate community. I know many of my peers are very thankful to have had her introduce them to programming in 1A, and we all wish her the best of luck with her research in experiential learning (even if we are the guinea pigs!)