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A "Hands On" Module To Introduce Freshmen To Electrical Engineering

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2005 Annual Conference


Portland, Oregon

Publication Date

June 12, 2005

Start Date

June 12, 2005

End Date

June 15, 2005



Conference Session

Innovative & Computer-Assisted Lab Study

Page Count


Page Numbers

10.10.1 - 10.10.12



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Paper Authors

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Robert Voigt

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Nathan Shenck

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Delores Etter

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Thomas Salem

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Samara Firebaugh

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

Session 1426

A “Hands-On” Module to Introduce Freshmen to Electrical Engineering

Samara Firebaugh, Thomas Salem, Delores Etter, Nathan Shenck, and Robert Voigt United States Naval Academy


Freshman engineering courses are being widely implemented so that students can make an informed decision about their major. Module-based approaches that trade depth for the sake of breadth are often used to present each of the varied disciplines separately. Electrical engineering, an abstract and mathematically intense discipline, is particularly challenging to distill into a few hours. This paper describes a four-hour electrical engineering module that examines the role of electrical engineering in the manipulation of audio signals, developed for a new introductory engineering course at the United States Naval Academy.

In the first hour, students were given a short presentation on biometrics (signals that can be used to identify a person) and participated in demonstrations of iris, face, and fingerprint recognition systems. They then completed a laboratory experiment in which they analyzed plots of speech (audio) signals, measured pitch frequencies, and identified male and female voices using that information. During the following hour, after a brief overview of A/D and D/A conversion, the students captured their own voices and viewed the quantized voice signals as oscilloscope images. They used a Matlab script to manipulate the sampling rate and quantization and to play back the modified signals, illustrating aurally the effects of changing these parameters.

The last two hours of the module were spent on a small electronics project involving a “light organ.” This discrete circuit consists of a microphone, an amplifier, and a series of band pass filters tuned to different frequency ranges. The filters drive LEDs that flash with an audio signal. Circuit boards were prefabricated with all components except for the band pass filter resistors in place. The students engaged in the design process by first identifying the desired frequency ranges for their filters using function generators and speakers, and then choosing resistor values using an Excel spreadsheet programmed with the filter’s design equations. Finally, the students soldered their resistors into place and tested their circuits.

Thus, within four hours, the students were exposed to digital systems, digital signal processing, electronics, frequency response and communications—all tied around the central and concrete theme of audio signals.


The United States Naval Academy is unique in many ways. For one, we hire all of our graduates. While they may choose different areas of the service upon graduation, they are all Navy or

Proceedings of the 2005 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright ©2005, American Society of Engineering Education

Voigt, R., & Shenck, N., & Etter, D., & Salem, T., & Firebaugh, S. (2005, June), A "Hands On" Module To Introduce Freshmen To Electrical Engineering Paper presented at 2005 Annual Conference, Portland, Oregon. 10.18260/1-2--14197

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