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A Hands-on Course in Data Communications for Technologists

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2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


San Antonio, Texas

Publication Date

June 10, 2012

Start Date

June 10, 2012

End Date

June 13, 2012



Conference Session

ETD Design I

Tagged Division

Engineering Technology

Page Count


Page Numbers

25.56.1 - 25.56.17



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Paper Authors


Aurenice Menezes Oliveira Michigan Technological University

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Aurenice Oliveira is an Assistant Professor in the Electrical Engineering Technology program at Michigan Technological University. She received the Ph.D. degree in electrical engineering from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, USA, in 2005. Her current research interests include communication systems, digital signal processing, optical fiber systems, and engineering education. Oliveira is the Michigan Tech Project Director of the U.S.-Brazil Engineering Education Consortium funded by FIPSE-U.S. Department of Education. Oliveira has also been contributing to STEM K-12 outreach initiatives, minority and diversity programs, and to the NSF-ADVANCE initiative at Michigan Tech. Oliveira is a member of the IEEE Photonics Society, the IEEE Women in Engineering Society, and the American Society of Engineering Education (ASEE).

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A HANDS-ON COURSE IN DATA COMMUNICATIONS FOR TECNOLOGISTSAbstractNowadays, modern technologies are interdisciplinary and often require knowledge ofseveral fields. For instance, students graduating from technology majors such ascomputer network and system administration, electrical engineering technology (EET),computer engineering technology, and audio production must have at least a basicunderstanding of modern communications principles, since they will be working withelectronic/computer systems and devices in their careers. Traditional undergraduatecommunication courses have focused on analog transmission systems, which can becoupled with a fairly simple laboratory component. The emergency of moderntechnologies to support new services in cellular telephony, Internet, and data networks ingeneral, has changed the focus from analog to digital systems, making datacommunications an essential area of study to any of the previously mentioned majors.It is a common understanding that the laboratory must serve as a learning resource centerin which the students not only perform formal lab assignments, but also have theopportunity to use the equipment and computers to strengthen their understanding of theconcepts presented in the lecture section. In Fall 2009, the electrical engineeringtechnology program at ________ revised the course in data communications, previouslyoffered as a lecture-only course, to include a weekly two-hour laboratory. However, dueto the complexity and cost of equipment that can emulate digital concepts, offering anundergraduate course in data communication with a supplemental hardware laboratory isnot as straightforward as in the analog case. Simulation only based laboratory is analternative solution but are not a substitute for hands-on experiments with circuithardware and real signals. In a traditional undergraduate digital communicationlaboratory, students are exposed to communication circuit hardware and systems byperforming measurements using relatively complex instruments and techniques. Theoperation of these instruments can be intimidating, especially for non-majors (not EETmajors) required to take a data communication class. A reasonable solution for thisdilemma is to offer a data communication laboratory component with a mixed ofcomputer-aided techniques, traditional communication circuitry and basic instruments,Emona Telecoms-Trainer ETT 101 communications modules, and an end of semesterpractical application project. This hybrid solution allows for a relatively low-cost andflexible data communications laboratory experience.This paper presents an overview of the experiments that have been developed for thiscourse, and discusses the main challenges and teaching methods that the author has usedto encourage active learning and engagement among the students, especially non-EETmajor students. Assessments of the course taught following the author’s guidelines wereperformed to evaluate the overall students’ experience, and they indicate that the hybridlaboratory solution have helped students to better understand the data communicationsconcepts covered in the course.

Oliveira, A. M. (2012, June), A Hands-on Course in Data Communications for Technologists Paper presented at 2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, San Antonio, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--20816

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