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Board # 50 : A Hands-on First-year Electrical Engineering Introduction Course

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2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Columbus, Ohio

Publication Date

June 24, 2017

Start Date

June 24, 2017

End Date

June 28, 2017

Conference Session

Electrical and Computer Division Poster Session

Tagged Division

Electrical and Computer

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Paper Authors


Ying Lin Western Washington University

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Ying Lin has been with the faculty of Engineering and Design Department at Western Washington University since September 2010 after she taught for two years at SUNY, New Platz. She received her MS in Applied Statistics and Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering from Syracuse University, NY, respectively. Her teaching interests include first-year Intro to Electrical Engineering, and upper-division communication systems and digital Signal Processing courses. Her research areas focus on statistical signal processing for wireless sensor network applications and secure communications in wireless networks.

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John Andrew Lund Western Washington University

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Dr. Lund's research involves the development of novel control systems, sensing and measurement tools for unique environments. His previous and ongoing research efforts include the development of a high-resolution wireless instrumented mouthguard for the assessment of severity of head impacts, development of an ultra-long lifespan wireless sensor devices designed to form robust data networks in remote areas lacking infrastructure, and the development of of an electron-tunneling spectroscopy based microscope control system for molecular analysis.

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Todd D. Morton Western Washington University

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Todd Morton has been teaching the upper level embedded systems and senior project courses for Western Washington University's Electronics Engineering Technology(EET) program for 25 years. He has been the EET program coordinator since 2005 and also served as department chair from 2008-2012. He is the author of the text ’Embedded Microcontrollers’, which covers assembly and C programming in small real-time embedded systems and has worked as a design engineer at Physio Control Corporation and at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory as an ASEE-NASA Summer Faculty Fellow. He has a BSEE and MSEE from the University of Washington.

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A Hands-on First-year Electrical Engineering Introduction Course

In this paper, we present successful endeavors in establishing a new first-year introduction to Electrical Engineering (Intro to EE) course curriculum. This course embraces a unique combination of seminar-style lectures in conjunction with hands-on laboratory exercises. Recently, our EE program was transformed from an Engineering Technology program. The Intro to EE course was the first EE course that the pre-majors take in their freshman year (winter quarter). This course was developed to achieve a number of goals: providing an overview of the EE profession, careers, and the filed in general; introducing the pre-major students about the EE curricula and have an understanding of various course sequences in the EE program; exposing students with essential EE lab instruments and common software tools; and inspiring students to study the EE major.

To achieve the aforementioned goals, we designed the course to have a 50-min lecture session and a two-hour hands-on laboratory session each week for a ten-week span. During each lecture a guest speaker from local industry and/or professional societies gives a talk on subjects related to their EE profession. Each weekly laboratory session is composed of fun hands-on exercises. In total there are five labs and one course project. These lab topics focus on a variety of aspects including software, circuitry, and microcontroller programming through real-life examples. For example, students simulated a digital piano using MatLab. They built a simple op-amp based alarm circuit and learned how to read datasheet and circuit diagrams. For the three-week long course project, each team of two or three students worked together to design, built, and tested an autonomous track-tracing Arduino-based robot car. Through these hands-on experience, we have strived toward making this introduction class a fun and engaging experience and keeping students engaged while taking other general subjects such as math, chemistry, and physics courses. The team-experience gained through their course project also helps students develop essential teamwork skills.

In the final paper, we will provide details of the course including the scopes of guest lectures, the hands-on lab coursework and project, and student feedback. As shown from students’ survey results from students who took this class in winter 2015 and 2016, this course has been well received and has been effective to achieve the multiple established objectives.

This curriculum may be adapted to other EE programs that have similar needs. Some of the hands-on laboratory exercises can also be adopted for outreach activities to inspire k-12 students to pursue STEM majors.

Lin, Y., & Lund, J. A., & Morton, T. D. (2017, June), Board # 50 : A Hands-on First-year Electrical Engineering Introduction Course Paper presented at 2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Columbus, Ohio.

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2017 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015