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A First Year Engineering Experience In Wireless Sensor Networks For Electrical/Computer Engineering And Computer Science Students

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2008 Annual Conference & Exposition


Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Publication Date

June 22, 2008

Start Date

June 22, 2008

End Date

June 25, 2008



Conference Session

New Trends in ECE Education I

Tagged Division

Electrical and Computer

Page Count


Page Numbers

13.37.1 - 13.37.10

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Paper Authors

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Sanjay Raman Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

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Da Silva Luiz Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

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Masoud Agah Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

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Allen MacKenzie Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

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Christopher Maxey Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

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Amy Bell Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

A First-Year Engineering Experience in Wireless Sensor Networks For Electrical/Computer Engineering and Computer Science Students

I. Introduction:

A newly restructured first-year Engineering Education course EngE 1104 “Discovering Electrical and Computer Systems” is in its first year of deployment at Virginia Tech. Currently, undergraduate engineering students at Virginia Tech generally share a common first year experience. However, in the second semester of the freshman year, students choose amongst two different tracks—one more focused on mechanical engineering and related majors, and the other more focused on electrical and computer engineering related majors. EngE 1104 is the second semester course for first-year engineering students interested in pursuing majors in Electrical Engineering, Computer Engineering, and Computer Science. Three-hundred and fifty to four hundred (350-400) students typically enroll in this course on an annual basis.

The innovative aspect of the new version of this course is its focus on real-world problems that benefit society; a major objective of this course revision is to increase student motivation, satisfaction, and retention in the electrical/electronics and computer related majors, including a significant impact on the underrepresentation of women and minorities in these majors at Virginia Tech. The importance of hands-on, team-based projects and societal impact has been well documented through service-learning-based programs at Colorado and Purdue [1][2].

An additional goal is to provide integrated, just-in-time teaching on a selection of fundamental topics in Electrical and Computer Engineering and Computer Science, including programming and problem solving with Matlab, signal and image processing, basic circuit analysis, and the basics of wireless communications systems. The intent is not to teach this material at a detailed, first-principles depth, but rather to provide introductory-level conceptual understanding of, and motivate and spark interest in, these topics in order to enhance student success in subsequent core courses.

The new 1104 course is organized into a number of short (few-week) lecture/laboratory modules delivered by faculty subject matter experts from the relevant field. Each module consists of an introductory lecture, including active learning opportunities, a hands-on laboratory experience, and a summary/wrap-up lecture. The lectures are delivered to the students in a single classroom, large lecture format; the labs are conducted in smaller sections of the overall course. The lab/lecture materials are carefully developed to be tractable for first-year engineering students from a wide range of backgrounds. Examples include: arrhythmia detection algorithms for implantable cardiac defibrillators (Signal Processing); blackout prevention (Electrical Power Systems); and detecting tumors using tomographic image reconstruction (Biomedical Imaging).

This paper will discuss the implementation of a particular four-part lecture/laboratory module in the area of Sensors and Wireless Sensor Networks. The development of large, distributed networks of wireless sensor nodes to gather critical information about the vast, physical world and communicate conditions back to decision makers, who may be remotely located, is an area of tremendous interest in academia, industry, and government [3]. Large sensor networks have a wide range of important applications in society, including: monitoring of

Raman, S., & Luiz, D. S., & Agah, M., & MacKenzie, A., & Maxey, C., & Bell, A. (2008, June), A First Year Engineering Experience In Wireless Sensor Networks For Electrical/Computer Engineering And Computer Science Students Paper presented at 2008 Annual Conference & Exposition, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2008 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015