June 24, 2017
June 24, 2017
June 28, 2017
Electrical and Computer
Teaching circuits to non-electrical engineering students has always been a challenging task since many of these students find the circuit theory difficult, abstract and unrewarding. This can be partly associated with the fact that oftentimes the first circuits course that is offered to non-electrical engineering students (Circuits I), is the same as the one offered to electrical engineering students. While in Circuits I students learn about the basic circuit theory, many of them may find the specific arrangement of the circuits elements in most of the circuits that they study, random and arbitrary. Consequently, they do not appreciate the importance and applications of the theory which is taught to them and thus lose their interest in circuits.
A good opportunity to win back students’ interest in learning circuits, is the second circuits course which for non-electrical engineering students can be an introduction to electronic circuits and systems. In this research experiment, we have designed a new application-oriented course which provides students with insight in the application and role of circuits in larger systems. Considering that most of the non-electrical engineering students need to learn how to build circuits for instrumentation applications, the course is structured to be about different building blocks of a practical measurement system. In the lectures, the instructor starts with different types of sensors followed by sensor circuits, analog (op-amp) amplifiers, analog signal processing circuits and filters, basics of analog-to-digital conversion (ADC), digital signals and digital logic circuits with an emphasis in their applications in an instrumentation system. In the laboratory, students work on individual building blocks of a light meter and at the end, they connect the different building blocks together to build a system that can show the light intensity on scale of 0 to 9 on a 7-segment display. The availability of Arduino-based boards such Teensy 3.2 which are extremely easy to work with, provides the opportunity to have the students work on the full chain of blocks in a sensor system and build a circuit that completes a meaningful task. Moreover, the adoption of National Instruments VirtualBench, facilitates a more efficient measurement experience in the laboratory. Based on the early feedback results, students have shown to be more interested in learning circuits and are more motivated in the lectures and lab sessions. A student survey will be conducted at the end to provide preliminary results on the effectiveness of the proposed approach.
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