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A Project Based Laboratory For A Common First Year Engineering Course

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2009 Annual Conference & Exposition


Austin, Texas

Publication Date

June 14, 2009

Start Date

June 14, 2009

End Date

June 17, 2009



Conference Session

Laboratory Development in ECE Education

Tagged Division

Electrical and Computer

Page Count


Page Numbers

14.90.1 - 14.90.16



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Paper Authors


Zorica Nedic University of South Australia

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Zorica Nedic received her MESc degree in electrical engineering, specializing in electronics, from the University of Belgrade, former Yugoslavia. She obtained her ME in electrical engineering (control) in 1997 from the University of South Australia (UniSA), Adelaide, Australia. She worked for six years as a design engineer at the Institute Mihajlo Pupin in Belgrade. Since 1991, she has been working as a lecturer in electrical engineering at the UniSA. She is currently studying for her PhD degree at the UniSA in the field of modeling biological vision.

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Andrew Nafalski University of South Australia

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Ozdemir Gol University of South Australia

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Jan Machotka University of South Australia

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

Project Based Laboratory for a Common 1st Year Engineering Course


Engineering disciplines at the University of South Australia have a reputation of offering programs with a strong emphasis on developing hands-on skills highly valued by the engineering profession. These skills are developed gradually over four years of engineering programs. Traditionally all technical courses include laboratory component in the form of a number of set experiments where each experiment aims to verify one or more theoretical concepts. Through these sessions students also learn how to wire circuits, use instruments, interpret measurement results and develop appreciation for errors and imperfections present in real measurement data.

However, our experience shows that students are not very motivated by this type of experiments often resulting in missed learning opportunities. Final year projects have proved to be much more motivating and thus a more effective way of learning. Yet, the majority of first year students have very limited practical skills and technical knowledge which makes this type of design projects very difficult to run, particularly for large classes. They demand extensive resources especially extra academic staff time to help students to successfully complete the projects.

In 2006 a traditional set of five independent laboratory experiments was replaced by a project- based laboratory in a 1st year electrical engineering course. During six 2-hour sessions students build a fully functional pre-designed power supply, which they keep and use in follow-up courses. This development was supported by a University of South Australia Teaching and Learning grant and was very well received by students.

In this paper we present how the power supply project is successfully complemented by two additional projects that are more suitable for civil and mechanical engineering students, when the electrical engineering course became common for all engineering disciplines in 2008. The approach is likely to be suitable for engineering programs elsewhere.


Practical skills are highly valued in engineering graduates by professional engineering accreditation body as well as by industry employers. At the University of South Australia (UniSA) the development of these skills starts from the very beginning of all engineering programs and is closely monitored, gradually developed and nurtured throughout the duration of each program. Over the years this approach has earned Unisa a reputation of being a university which offers programs with a strong emphasis on developing hands-on skills.

Over the past decades the interest in studying engineering disciplines among local students has been rapidly decreasing. On the other hand the competition among universities to attract students has increased. Consequently, the senior management team made a strategic decision to capitalize on the reputation of being a hands-on university by further advancing the practical

Nedic, Z., & Nafalski, A., & Gol, O., & Machotka, J. (2009, June), A Project Based Laboratory For A Common First Year Engineering Course Paper presented at 2009 Annual Conference & Exposition, Austin, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--4990

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