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A New Application-Oriented Electronic Circuits Course for non-Electrical Engineering Students Using Arduino and NI VirtualBench

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2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Columbus, Ohio

Publication Date

June 24, 2017

Start Date

June 24, 2017

End Date

June 28, 2017

Conference Session

Electrical and Computer Division Technical Session 6

Tagged Division

Electrical and Computer

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Paper Authors


Hooman Rashtian University of California, Davis

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Hooman Rashtian received the Ph.D. degree in Electrical and Computer Engineering from the University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC, Canada in 2013 and the M.Sc. and B.Sc. degrees in Electrical Engineering from Isfahan University of Technology, Isfahan, Iran, in 2008, and 2006, respectively. He was a Postdoctoral Scholar at Davis MM-Wave Research Center (DMRC) at University of California, Davis from 2014 to 2016. Since July 2016, he has joined the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at University of California, Davis as a Lecturer with Potential Security of Employment (Teaching Professor). His teaching interests include circuit theory as well as analog, digital and RF electronic circuits and systems. His educational research interests include applying technology to design modern circuits courses and laboratories.

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Jun Ouyang University of California, Davis

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Jun Ouyang received two bachelor degrees in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science from University of California, Davis, CA, United States. He worked as an IT professional prior to his college years. He is currently a Master's student at University of California, Davis and works on designing analog integrated circuits. As a development teaching assistant, he works on designing modern laboratory materials for undergraduate electrical engineering students. In his spare time, he enjoys working on automating solutions for physical problems using different programming languages.

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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.

Rashtian, H., & Ouyang, J. (2017, June), A New Application-Oriented Electronic Circuits Course for non-Electrical Engineering Students Using Arduino and NI VirtualBench Paper presented at 2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Columbus, Ohio. 10.18260/1-2--27490

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