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Benefits Of A Hands On Introduction To Electrical And Computer Engineering

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2003 Annual Conference


Nashville, Tennessee

Publication Date

June 22, 2003

Start Date

June 22, 2003

End Date

June 25, 2003



Conference Session

NSF Grantees Poster Session

Page Count


Page Numbers

8.264.1 - 8.264.10



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Paper Authors

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Maria Suchowski

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Frank Severance

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Damon Miller

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

Session 1526

Benefits of a Hands-On Introduction to Electrical and Computer Engineering

Frank L. Severance, Maria Suchowski, and Damon A. Miller Western Michigan University


This paper presents qualitative and quantitative assessment and evaluation results for an introduction to electrical and computer engineering (ECE) course sponsored by the National Science Foundation (NSF)1. This class is centered on construction of a walking robot 2. Initial results suggest that the following course goals are being met: (1) improving student design and problem solving skills; (2) motivating students and fostering confidence; (3) instilling an appreciation for the importance of prerequisite courses; (4) developing effective team players; (5) improving basic instrumentation and construction skills needed for the practice of ECE; (6) developing a physical intuition for electrical and mechanical systems; (7) clarifying career choices by learning if ECE is a good fit; (8) making students feel like part of the ECE department; and (9) forming long-lasting peer support structures. Assessment results also reinforce the benefits of close instructor involvement, hands-on learning, and project-based courses. Additional details of the course are provided.


This paper is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. 00881581. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.


The Problems

As discussed in [1,2], our experience is that many students entering electrical and computer engineering (ECE) undergraduate programs lack basic skills and knowledge that were once taken for granted by instructors, e.g. how to use hand tools, how to solder, and the use and function of basic electronic components. Indeed, it seems that the number of students attracted to the ECE discipline by working on radios, automobiles, electronic kits, etc. before entering college is steadily decreasing. Now, many students have never even built the simplest electronic circuit and yet they have chosen to pursue an ECE degree. Thus ECE programs are expected to prepare students from the ground up. The result is that many students often have no passion for ECE and thus lack the motivation needed to complete the difficult pre-engineering curriculum. Indeed, some students discover much too late that engineering is not a good fit for them and still attempt

Proceedings of the 2003 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright © 2003, American Society for Engineering Education

Suchowski, M., & Severance, F., & Miller, D. (2003, June), Benefits Of A Hands On Introduction To Electrical And Computer Engineering Paper presented at 2003 Annual Conference, Nashville, Tennessee. 10.18260/1-2--12647

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