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A New Curriculum to Teach System-Level Understanding to Sophomore Electrical Engineering Students using a Music-Following Robot

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2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Tampa, Florida

Publication Date

June 15, 2019

Start Date

June 15, 2019

End Date

October 19, 2019

Conference Session

New Developments in ECE

Tagged Division

Electrical and Computer

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Paper Authors


Son Nguyen University of California, Davis

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Son Nguyen received his Bachelor of Engineering degree in electrical and electronics engineering from Ho Chi Minh City University of Technology, Vietnam, in 2012, and his M.S. degree in micro and nano systems technology from University of South-Eastern Norway, in 2014. He is currently a Ph.D. candidate in the Micropower Circuits and Systems Group in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the University of California, Davis. He has interned and worked part time for Redpine Signals, Verily, and Google in power management integrated circuits, embedded systems, and wireless power transfer for wearable and implantable devices since 2016. His research interests include power management ICs, low-power mixed signal circuits, embedded systems, and wireless power transfer.

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Andre Knoesen (DUPE) University of California, Davis

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Andre Knoesen received his Ph.D. degree from the Georgia Institute of Technology,
Atlanta, in 1987. He is currently a Professor in the Department of Electrical Engineering, University
of California, Davis. He performs research in sensors and nonlinear optical devices and their applications. Dr. Knoesen is a fellow of the Optical Society of America.

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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. He was a Postdoctoral Scholar at Davis Millimeter-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 for Security of Employment (LPSOE). His educational research interests include curriculum innovation for teaching circuits, electronics and control systems, project-based learning, and the use of technology in teaching and learning.

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Electrical Engineering students usually have to wait a long time before acquiring the mathematics and physics prerequisites required to take their first technical courses and even when taking courses such as circuits, electromagnetics and digital logic, they are not given an opportunity to develop a system-level understanding and the interrelation of the topics that they study in their courses. In fact in many electrical engineering programs, students have to wait until their senior year before they can work on real-life projects which require system-level understanding and interrelation of multiple different fields such as analog circuits, digital systems, signal processing, etc. This long wait time causes some students to lose their interest in electrical engineering and decide to switch majors. To address this retention problem, we have come up with the idea of designing a 4-unit project-based class for sophomore students. In this class, students are introduced to different topics that will be covered in detail in their upcoming junior and senior years. At the same time, they design a complete system as the course project that involves applying this introductory knowledge of different branches of electrical engineering into an actual engineering project.

The course project is a music following robot implemented using Texas Instruments Robotic System Learning Kit (TI RSLK) which locates the direction of a music being played in a room and moves toward it until it reaches to the speakers playing the music. The important feature of this project is that it includes various components which cover a broad range of topics in electrical engineering curriculum and their interrelation. For example, students work with two right and left microphones as their sensors to detect sound signals, they work with analog op-amp amplifiers to amplify the sound signals, they send the amplified signals to the TI MSP432 microcontroller to convert them to digital signals and finally they process this feedback signal in digital domain to control the direction of movement of the RSLK robot. On the microcontroller programming side, students work with Code Composer Studio to write their codes and to assist them with the coding, templates are provided to them which they are required to complete using their own algorithm. Some of the microcontrollers topics that students are exposed to include working with general-purpose input/outputs (GPIOs), analog-to-digital converters (ADCs), timers, periodic interrupts and Pulse-Width Modulation (PWM).

Nguyen, S., & Knoesen (DUPE), A., & Rashtian, H. (2019, June), A New Curriculum to Teach System-Level Understanding to Sophomore Electrical Engineering Students using a Music-Following Robot Paper presented at 2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Tampa, Florida. 10.18260/1-2--31979

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