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Application of active learning in microwave circuit design courses

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2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Atlanta, Georgia

Publication Date

June 23, 2013

Start Date

June 23, 2013

End Date

June 26, 2013



Conference Session

Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) Poster Session

Tagged Division

Electrical and Computer

Page Count


Page Numbers

23.198.1 - 23.198.10

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Paper Authors


Branimir Pejcinovic Portland State University

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Branimir Pejcinovic received his Ph.D. and M.S. degrees from University of Massachusetts, Amherst and B.S. degree from University of Zagreb. He is a Professor at Portland State University, Electrical and Computer Engineering department. In his former role as Associate Chair for Undergraduate Education he has led department-wide changes in curriculum with emphasis on project- and lab-based instruction and learning. His research interests are in the areas of engineering education, semiconductor device characterization, design and simulation, signal integrity and THz sensors. He is a member of IEEE and ASEE.

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Application of active learning in microwave circuit design coursesWe have recently expanded our undergraduate labs to include four 20 GHz VNA-s and fourhigh-speed TDR oscilloscopes. They were obtained initially for junior electromagnetics labs butthis opens up obvious opportunities for more hands-on approaches to teaching and learningmicrowave circuit design. We have redesigned our two quarter, senior-level sequence with thesegoals in mind: a) Emphasize complete design cycle, from “paper” development, to simulation, to prototype development and testing, followed by more advanced prototyping, testing and redesign. b) De-emphasize face-to-face lecture and emphasize in-class activities and peer interaction c) Provide students with as much immediate or early feedback as possible by utilizing a new classroom interaction system developed by Learning Catalytics. d) Reinforce student learning by having “lab” and “lecture” merge into one so that concepts can be immediately put to practice instead of waiting for assigned lab time. This means that as many designs from item a) should be attempted during class time so that instructor can provide immediate feedback.Work by R. Caverly at U. of Villanova has provided the initial impetus and work by K.C. Guptaon “conceptual mapping” is providing the framework.We will report on the details of lecture and course design, and lessons learned from the initialoffering. Significant emphasis was placed on writing and presentation skills but mixed resultswere obtained. In the future we will provide more opportunity for students to re-write the reportson their activities instead of expecting that they will incorporate feedback into subsequent reports.We have also discovered some significant gaps or misconceptions in how students think aboutcircuits. For example, they do not fully grasp the concept of admittance vs. impedance and whyone may prefer to use one over the other. Similarly, basic concepts of impedance transformationtook a long time to develop.We attempted to rank order the effectiveness of various components of the course, as judged bythe students. Building and testing circuits and their simulations were perceived as most useful bystudents, as shown in the figure below. Examples of various class activities will be described,some assessment data provided, and plans for future improvements discussed. Activities supporting student learning, p.1121086 Build & Test Sims4 In-class2 Homework0 Project

Pejcinovic, B. (2013, June), Application of active learning in microwave circuit design courses Paper presented at 2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Atlanta, Georgia.

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