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A Modular Pedagogy For Teaching Undergraduate Electromagnetic Field Theory

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2006 Annual Conference & Exposition


Chicago, Illinois

Publication Date

June 18, 2006

Start Date

June 18, 2006

End Date

June 21, 2006



Conference Session

Innovations in Teaching Upper-Level Physics

Tagged Division

Engineering Physics & Physics

Page Count


Page Numbers

11.72.1 - 11.72.11



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Paper Authors


Greg Mowry University of St. Thomas-St. Paul

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Greg Mowry received his B.S. and M.S. degree in metallurgical engineering from Iowa State University in 1976 and 1978 respectively. He attended Stanford University from 1979 to 1981 for a non-thesis M.S.E.E. program. He received his Ph.D. in electrical engineering from the University of Minnesota in 1995. He joined the School of Engineering at the University of St. Thomas in 2003 with 24 years of industrial and entrepreneurial experience. His research interests include alternative energy research, thin-films, MEMs, optics and laser optics, and the pedagogy of teaching engineering.

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

A Modular Approach for Teaching Applied Undergraduate Electromagnetic Field Theory


Electrical engineering and physics students are required to take a full-year electromagnetic field theory (E&M) sequence at the University of St. Thomas (UST). The E&M sequence is jointly taught by both departments. This enables students the opportunity of learning E&M from the perspective of both disciplines. A traditional lecture format was originally used by both departments for teaching this sequence. Unfortunately E&M taught with a lecture format fails to develop applied E&M skills. Since the mission of the UST School of Engineering (SOE) is to “… provide an applied … learning experience …” and since there were no labs associated with the original approach, this presented an ‘applied’ problem. In addition to this, a majority of the UST engineering and physics graduates begin their professional job careers immediately after graduating. Of the remaining graduates that do pursue an advanced degree, few continue with their study of E&M. Since a substantial amount of time is dedicated to E&M and since undergraduate credit hours are precious, the challenge was to develop an E&M pedagogy that imparted an applied E&M learning experience without significantly increasing the number of contact hours. An eighteen month investigation was conducted to address this challenge. Based on the results of this study a modular pedagogy was developed that satisfied the ‘applied’ mission objectives without significantly increasing the number of contact hours. The new modular pedagogy combines state-of-the art laboratory metrology and analysis practices with enough theory to enable the students to understand the significance of their measurements. About three weeks are required to complete each module. Based on inputs from multiple professional sources, applied modules were developed for the following topics: Mathematical foundation of field theory, E&M dynamics, transmission lines, antennas, and the use of finite element software such as ANSYS® and FEMLAB® for solving practical E&M problems. Preliminary results from using this pedagogy will be presented along with implementation attractors and detractors.


The motivation for offering an integrated, inter-departmental applied undergraduate physics- engineering curriculum at UST is shaped by the goal of providing graduates with a practical skill set that is attractive and useful to prospective employers. Experience has shown that excellence in mastering E&M theory does not directly translate into competence with E&M metrology or laboratory practices. Since a majority of the UST engineering and physics students that graduate go directly into the work force, these observations motivate several questions. For example, when undergraduates enter the work force, what constitutes an optimal technical skill set (to the extent that such an ‘optimal skill set’ exists)? For the SOE, inputs from many sources (such as the Industrial Advisory Board (IAB), other corporations, general faculty, other schools, and so

Mowry, G. (2006, June), A Modular Pedagogy For Teaching Undergraduate Electromagnetic Field Theory Paper presented at 2006 Annual Conference & Exposition, Chicago, Illinois. 10.18260/1-2--64

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