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The grandfather of the ARDUINO; a personal laboratory dedicated to the personal exploration of real world, using a Personal Computer. Personal Laboratory & Personal Computer = a smart environment useful for the understanding the Nature Complexity.
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   1 CONNECTUS : A new phase in the involvement of the young generation in ‘delocalized’ scientific research   CONNECTUS is an assembly of both hardware and software products and services targeted at developing the personal experience and involvement with various scientific and technical topics. The whole CONNECTUS ensemble has been formulated and fabricated according to top international requirements, especially bearing in mind the necessity of helping to educate people for an informational & Knowledge-based society. CONNECTUS represents an intelligent mode of probing and learning by enabling a different novel way of finding, gathering and understanding information about natural phenomena in the world surrounding us. It can be considered as a new interface to the underlying scientific principles that animate our world, an interface that allows the user to perceive Nature and to grasp the utility and the role of the PC in a new manner and using a different approach: a combination of playing, teaching, learning and (self-) discovery. CONNECTUS is an invitation to interactivity, communication, and collaboration within teams structured ‘ ad-hoc  ’ that would approach problems of maximal difficulty. The teams can be ‘de - localized’, i.e. not necessarily placed together physically under the same roof, because PC-based Internet connections can allow communication and information transfer. As such, the CONNECTUS kit and the PC on which it is installed can be placed anywhere: in the school, at home, in the summer camp, etc. More over, this interconnectivity allows for a temporal ‘de - localization’ as well: the problem can be dealt with or analyzed whenever the participant has the time, or feels like doing into it, without the constraint of a fixed and un-flexible schedule.   Fig.1: The CONNECTUS package -the standard version which includes: a vibration sensor , a  pletismograph for studying peripheral blood circulation, a signal generator, a software package for visualizing and processing the acquired data, an introductory course in data acquisition and numerical  processing, a set of proposed experiments, a web-connector with links to authorized information sources. The CONNECTUS package is fully exploiting modern hardware as well as virtual instrumentation and allows information transfer/exchange via the Internet. Made in 2001 As owner of the AsTech Solution ldt Romania   2 The “expedition” version of th e CONNECTUS kit. The CONNECTUS platform was thought and conceived in a modular format that enables to set-up the infrastructural and informational base necessary to explore interactively the topic(s) of interest. These topics are initially selected and structured by the CSC specialists, and they also aid in coaching the teenager participants who could be working for his project in the comfort of their home. These topics and projects are structured by CSC in multimedia packages configured as an integrated Personal Laboratory (PL) which works when annexed to and installed unto a PC. Among these topics we mention here only a few: “The heart: is it a chaotic oscillator?”,   “Can stress be diagnosed by monitoring the neuro -muscular electric activity”? “Are plants biological sensors?”, “Technical diagnosis and the ‘noise’ ”, “The meteo- sensitivity and the neuronal calculator”  . These (and other) topics are not easy and may even seem pretentiously difficult and they do require a learning curve to be climbed by the participant. However, we must highlight that the CONNECTUS package has been designed and hierarchically structured in such a way that it eases the understanding of the problem by presenting it on levels corresponding to the degree of difficulty associated with the respective participant and with his/her skills and her/his background (e.g. primary school pupil, or secondary school student, or University student, or even M.Sc./Ph.D level). This structuring of the approach to the problem and the access to information motivate working in a team. The participants’ complementary abilities and knowledge is a crucial factor in effectively ‘glueing’ the team together and buildin g their team-spirit by self-assigning the responsibilities and tasks that cannot be done by other members and unto which the progress of the entire team may depend. These structured multi-level research teams can easily be formed: -  In the organized framework of educational institutions, e.g. high-schools, or scientific/’hobby’ clubs dedicated to exploring a common passion or topic of interest. This can allow interaction at even a hierarchically superior level, e.g. connecting various students of a high-school with students from other high-schools in city-wide projects in which the participants may not necessarily know each other directly or study together in the same institution.; -   “Ad - hoc”, by joining together participants which have the same basic interes ts or are passioned by a certain topic, and who may, e.g., be mobilized in a team by responding to an Internet-placed problem/advertisement related to the desired project; -  Single users of the PL. In this way, the CONNECTUS user acquires knowledge and capabilities in a pleasant and useful manner, without having the constraint or the impression that he is “forced” to learn something, or to accumulate useless knowledge. Moreover, the team work definitely would develop the sense of responsibility and strongly stimulate the self-learning desire of the   3 participants who would be interested in developing the know-how and the skills required to solve their task and advance their project. “Live” image of a high school participant in the experiment “Plants as biological sensors” carried out in the NEXUS-T program. This particular project motivated the participants in understanding and deepening their knowledge in botanics, physics (diffusion phenomena, periodic and non-periodic oscillations, concentration piles, the rmoelectricity, „noise”), mathematics (numerical methods and their application in signal analysis, functions, graphic representations, basic elements in fractal geometry, fundaments of biomathematics), electronics (preamplifiers, operational and instrumentation amplifiers), informatics and software programming (Matlab, LabView, Excel, Word, Photoshop, TP, C++). Consequently, the information initially provided by the lectures at School, or by books, Internet or long-distance courses can now be practically applied with experimental verifications. PL orients the human attention towards Nature and its phenomena while encouraging human interaction and practical experiences, avoiding the well known ‘engulfing’ or isolational-addictive and yet not always fully satisfying character of the purely virtual experiences. As such, it helps to train and develop the young mind by closing a crucial feedback loop: from pure theoretical knowledge towards practical proof, through experimentation and understanding of the valid and applicable alternatives. Therefore, using the CONNECTUS package enhances the education and formation of the teenagers and encourages them to continually explore and apply this circle of know-how building in any other aspects of their life or in other projects they may encounter later. The PL extends the capabilities of a simple PC with the following facilities: -  An ADC/DAC board; -  A series of sensors, some of which are specifically dedicated to certain topics of study and a signal conditioning module which processes the signals collected from the sensors; -  A proprietary software package that enables to visualize and analyze the collected data and extract useful features; -  At request, the package may also provide mechanical and/or electronic DIY kits necessary to perform certain set-ups for various projects. The fabrication of each CONNECTUS package can be fully personalized for each team member according to the chosen topic, as well as to his special requests and/or the needs that were discussed and agreed upon by the entire team working for that specific project. In conclusion, CONNECTUS is a true stimulant of the teenagers’ innate discovery and creativity, acting thus as a ‘motor’ for their own work on the path of self  -discovery and   4 application of their ideas. It allows them to observe, ask themselves and among themselves, to collaborate interdisciplinary, to emulate the true spirit of responsibility and of teamwork. All these ultimately educate them in a new manner and also make them understand (by intrinsic participation) what means the new paradigm of Complexity and how one can contribute in structuring a Knowledge -based Society. Florin_i_munteanu@yahoo.com www.florinmunteanu.ro  CONNECTUS ®  
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