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A Freshman Advising Seminar On Digital Electronics And Chip Design

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2002 Annual Conference


Montreal, Canada

Publication Date

June 16, 2002

Start Date

June 16, 2002

End Date

June 19, 2002



Conference Session

Freshman Design

Page Count


Page Numbers

7.48.1 - 7.48.6



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Paper Authors

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David Harris

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

Main Menu Session 1353

A Freshman Advising Seminar on Digital Electronics and Chip Design

David Harris

Harvey Mudd College


This paper describes a novel freshman advising seminar on digital electronics and chip design that has been taught at Harvey Mudd College for three semesters. The seminar seeks to combine the freshman advising process with a hands-on opportunity for freshmen to see what engineers “really do.” In this seminar, the advisor, six to eight freshman advisees, and a student associate advisor / lab assistant meet one evening a week. In the first five weeks, students learn to solder together a utility board and breadboard a series of combinational and sequential digital electronics projects. Once they are comfortable with the design of digital circuits, they learn about building logic gates from Complementary Metal Oxide Semiconductor (CMOS) CMOS transistors and laying out CMOS transistors. They use the Electric CAD tool to design schematics, layout their circuits, simulate, and verify the chip as a team before sending it to the MOSIS service for fabrication. The chips have been used as components in industry sponsored research projects carried out by senior engineering students. Very Large Scale Integration (VLSI) design historically has been offered at the graduate or senior level, but has been simplified to the point that freshmen can develop working chips in the time available. This paper presents the structure of the seminar and assesses its benefits, including closer contact between advisor and advisees and the tremendous enthusiasm it generates among the freshmen. Based on success of the pilot project, a number of other freshman seminars have been developed and taught at Harvey Mudd College.


Despite the best of intentions on the part of both faculty and students, freshman advising is often a bureaucratic process rather than a source of meaningful mentoring. Faculty and students are always busy and in the press of teaching and research and assignments, it is difficult to make time to meet beyond the obligatory signing of registration forms. Freshman advising seminars are a mechanism to regularly engage faculty and freshmen in an area of mutual interest; this regular meeting gives advisors a chance to get to know their advisees and offer support at a formative time in the student’s career. This paper describes an experiment offering a freshman advising seminar on digital electronics and chip design at Harvey Mudd College during the fall semesters of 1999, 2000, and 2001.

The author has found that the topic is particularly well suited to a freshman advising seminar. Freshmen arrive curious about what major to pursue and wonder “what do engineers really do?”

Proceedings of the 2002 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright Ó 2002, American Society for Engineering Education

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Harris, D. (2002, June), A Freshman Advising Seminar On Digital Electronics And Chip Design Paper presented at 2002 Annual Conference, Montreal, Canada. 10.18260/1-2--11048

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