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A Proven Different Approach To Teaching Linear Circuits

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2004 Annual Conference


Salt Lake City, Utah

Publication Date

June 20, 2004

Start Date

June 20, 2004

End Date

June 23, 2004



Conference Session

ECE Education and Engineering Mathematics

Page Count


Page Numbers

9.91.1 - 9.91.7



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Paper Authors

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Roland Thomas

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Albert Rosa

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

Session 3632

A Proven Different Approach to Teaching Linear Circuits

Albert J. Rosa, Roland E. Thomas

University of Denver/USAF Academy


At the University of Denver we have taught circuits for eighteen years to electrical (EE), mechanical (ME) and computer engineering (CpE) sophomores using a considerably different approach. Our course covers most of the traditional topics but with different emphasis and organization. We introduce design and evaluation right from the beginning with students designing circuits to meet constraints within the first several lessons. We introduce the operational amplifier as another linear circuit element early and fully integrate it throughout the course. DC circuits are designed using voltage and current dividers to deliver specified currents, voltages or power; interface circuits are designed when neither the source circuit nor the load circuit is alterable; and instrumentation systems are created to interface transducers to a particular output device. A major departure from most circuits courses occurs in our approach to dynamic circuits. We begin by introducing a separate block on signal waveforms including singularity functions, exponentials, sinusoids and their combinations. This better prepares the student for finding solutions of first- and second-order circuits using the classical differential equation approach. The most significant departure from tradition occurs when Laplace transforms are introduced immediately after the classical treatment of circuit differential equations. This arrangement allows the concepts of sinusoidal steady-state response, network functions, frequency responses, impulse response, step responses, and convolution to be treated within a common framework. We have found that beginning students achieve a real understanding of transient and steady-state responses more rapidly by this method than the classical phasor-first approach. The Laplace transform early approach actually saves classroom time because students quickly master classical phasor analysis when it is presented as a logical outgrowth of an overall theme. We spend a block of time on mastering how to design circuits to achieve a desired transfer function. Since there are often several competing solutions, learning how to choose between the various solutions depending on different constraints is another key feature of our course. Finally, we spend a block of time designing both active and passive filters (Butterworth, Chebyshev, First-order Cascade) – real applications. Students learn how to select the best filter type based on various real scenarios. Computer simulations and an accompanying lab add additional realism to the course. In sum students become highly motivated because they know how to actually design circuits. The emphasis on design and Laplace transforms prepares them well for Electronics, Signals and Systems, Controls and Instrumentation courses. This approach has been successfully applied to the circuits courses taught at the USAF Academy.

Proceedings of the 2004 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright © 2004, American Society for Engineering Education

Thomas, R., & Rosa, A. (2004, June), A Proven Different Approach To Teaching Linear Circuits Paper presented at 2004 Annual Conference, Salt Lake City, Utah. 10.18260/1-2--14050

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