C. Alex Simpkins Jr., PhD

A little about my teaching background

I have been involved in teaching in various forms for over 30 years - through much of my childhood, as a teenager, academically as an undergraduate, graduate, postdoctoral researcher as well as a faculty, and I have taught as a Martial Artist. I've taught workshops, academic classes at a few universities, been a teaching assistant in a variety of departments (ranging from Psychology to Mechanical Engineering), and taught as a Sensei (a word for teacher/mentor) in Tae Chun Do. Over the years I have devoted significant time to learning how to learn, and how to teach both intellectually and experientially, and I apply these methods each day. I spent several years as part of the UCSD temporal dynamics of learning center (and was part of the writing of the initial grant and several projects). It is a fascinating world, and understanding education as we evolve perspectives on learning will improve education and the human condition. It will also allow us to create more intelligent and useful robots and other automation to contribute to society. Teaching is a way to help others, as you can guide them toward a better future.


A little about this page

Here you will find information on some of the courses I have been involved in. You will also find some of my comments about each course, tips for Teaching Assistants, and suggestions for anyone else teaching these courses. I also over time will add information for individuals interested in the related course subject matter.







  • CogSci 109: Modelling and Data Analysis (Associate - teaching a course)


  • mae 156A: Senior Mechanical Engineering Design I (Senior Teaching Assistant - 'TA')
    • UCSD MAE Department
    • Winter 2001, Fall 2001, Winter 2002, Fall 2002, Fall 2004, Winter 2005, Fall 2005, Winter 2006
    • observations/tips/information
    • Responsibilities included machine shop and general tool practice, laserCAMM rapid prototyping instruction, Basic Stamp II microprocessor instruction lectures, programming, troubleshooting, mechanism tutorials, team management and planning.  I also contributed to integrating basic stamps into the course, culminating in a robotics contest each quarter.  I designed and implemented intelligent contest boards each quarter using a basic stamp to control the various elements of challenge to student robots.  It was my duty to design and implement the web site as well. Developed a novel motor driver from scratch for use in the course.  Designed and built microprocessor-based motor driver speed control hardware capable of controlling several motors, solenoids and other devices, for interfacing with logic level microprocessors (coded in C).

  • mae 152: Computer Graphics for Engineers and Scientists (TA)
    • UCSD MAE Department Fall 2001, Fall 2003
    • Website for Fall 2003
    • obervations/tips/information
    • Responsibilities included running discussions, lab hours, tutoring students, creating and solving homework programs, and web pages.  Instruction in C/C++ language using windows GDI framework and OpenGL.  I was heavily involved with the course design organization, lecture development and presentations, and homework program designs.

  • mae 3: Intro to Graphics and Design (Senior TA)
    • UCSD MAE Department, Spring 2005
    • Website for Spring 2005
    • Responsibilities included web development, giving lectures on modeling systems with excel, instruction in CAD programs such as AutoCAD and Inventor, guiding student development of robots, preparing and assisting with a design contest, and running two lab sections in the design studio of the MAE department, UCSD.  Instructed students in rapid prototyping, machine design, use of tools, etc.

  • mae 171A: Experimental Design I (TA)
    • UCSD MAE Department, Winter 2004
    • Responsibilities included tutoring students in running wind tunnel experiments, use of LabView, paper writing and team management.

  • mae 171B: Experimental Design II (Project Advisor)
    • UCSD MAE Department, Spring 2005, Spring 2006, Spring 2007
    • Assisted first student group in design, development, experimentation and analysis of an active EEG apparatus and a motor adaptation experiment.  Analysis and comparison of commercial EEG system was performed using Matlab’s Wavelet Analysis toolbox. Helped students develop a presentation of completed work in the form of a poster and scientific paper.   
    • Assisted second student group with development of friction compensation experiments and controller for a hybrid DC stepper motor system.  Instructed students in Matlab, Simulink, Realtime Workshop, modeling, analysis and controller implementation.   Results were presented in a similar manner as above.
    • One student team helped with design and development of a novel tripedal robot for locomotion and manipulation experiments. This involved concept to prototype stages. I helped the groups construct the robot using rapid prototyping, Hierarchical control via low level microprocessors and high level labview-based computer control.
    • A final team worked with me to develop a novel haptic robot based on brushless linear motors. The final design had constant inertia, low mass for moving parts, and high bandwidth. The level of backdrivability is high as well.

  • Psych 60: Statistics for Psychologists (Senior TA)
    • UCSD Psych Department, Spring 2004
    • Responsibilities included weekly problem sessions, occasional lectures, grading, designing and proctoring tests, holding office hours, and running help sessions. 

  • COSMOS: Kinetic Sculptures, JSOE (Cluster Assistant)
    • UCSD Jacobs School of Engineering, MAE
    • Summer 2005
    • Summer 2006
    • Summer 2007
    • Responsibilities included course development, microprocessor-based hardware and software development, web development and documentation, giving lectures to students concerning AutoCAD, rapid prototyping and more.  Oversaw and developed student lab activities.  Walked students between classes and other campus locations, monitored students during outings.  Assisted student projects.