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Active Learning Exercises in Computer Organization and Architecture

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2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Vancouver, BC

Publication Date

June 26, 2011

Start Date

June 26, 2011

End Date

June 29, 2011



Conference Session

Computer Science Applications

Tagged Division

Computers in Education

Page Count


Page Numbers

22.136.1 - 22.136.6



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Paper Authors


Jeffrey A. Jalkio University of Saint Thomas

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Jeff Jalkio received his Ph.D in Electrical Engineering from the University of Minnesota and worked for thirteen years in industry in the fields of optical sensor design and process control. In 1984, he co-founded CyberOptics Corporation, where he led engineering efforts as Vice President of Research. In 1997 he returned to academia, joining the engineering faculty of the University of St. Thomas where he teaches courses in digital electronics, computing, electromagnetic fields, controls, and design.

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Dan R. Schupp

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Dan Schupp is finishing his bachelors in Electrical Engineering and Physics at the University of St. Thomas. He has worked with students as a TA for nearly two years, covering topics ranging from introductory engineering courses to design with microprocessors. He is currently employed at Xollai LLC, a robotic vision company.

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Active Learning Exercises in Computer Organization and ArchitectureAbstractCurrent computer science and computer engineering students have grown up using computers ona regular basis. However, they often enter college with no knowledge of how a computerfunctions and frequently with substantial misconceptions regarding their functioning. The earlierthese misconceptions can be replaced by a more accurate model of the computer’s operation, themore readily the student will be able to integrate computer science concepts into their workingknowledge of the world.Research in education has long shown that active learning techniques are particularly effective inhelping students to overcome pre-existing misconceptions. In this paper we present an activityfor exploring basic concepts of computer architecture and organization. In this activity, studentsplay the role of various computer components such as program counter, instruction register, andact out the process of fetching, decoding, and executing instructions. Through this game-likeactivity, students are also introduced to the idea of constructing algorithms from simpleinstructions. Because this activity does not assume prior knowledge of computing or electricalengineering it can be used with a wide variety of audiences. It has been used successfully withengineering, education and liberal arts majors, as well as high school students who haveexpressed an interest in computer engineering.

Jalkio, J. A., & Schupp, D. R. (2011, June), Active Learning Exercises in Computer Organization and Architecture Paper presented at 2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Vancouver, BC. 10.18260/1-2--17417

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