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Board 73 : Work in Progress: Reinforcement of Engineering Education with Hands-on Learning of Technical Skills

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2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Salt Lake City, Utah

Publication Date

June 23, 2018

Start Date

June 23, 2018

End Date

July 27, 2018

Conference Session

Electrical and Computer Division Poster Session

Tagged Division

Electrical and Computer

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Paper Authors


Thomas Vernon Cook University of Pittsburgh

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I am a Electrical Engineering Masters student in the Electric Power program at the University of Pittsburgh. I spent the last year helping to develop a hands on learning environment and curriculum for engineering students of all disciplines. My current research is in power electronic conversion for telecommunications and military use.

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James Arthur Lyle University of Pittsburgh


Robert J. Kerestes University of Pittsburgh

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Robert Kerestes, PhD, is an assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering at the University of Pittsburgh's Swanson School of Engineering. Robert was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He got his B.S. (2010), his M.S (2012). and his PhD (2014) from the University of Pittsburgh, all with a concentration in electric power systems. Robert’s academic focus is in education as it applies to engineering at the collegiate level. His areas of interest are in electric power systems, in particular, electric machinery and electromagnetics. Robert has worked as a mathematical modeler for Emerson Process Management, working on electric power applications for Emerson’s Ovation Embedded Simulator. Robert also served in the United States Navy as an interior communications electrician from 1998-2002 on active duty and from 2002-2006 in the US Naval Reserves.

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This work describes the enormous benefit of providing hands on learning to students for building engineering instincts and expertise. Fundamentally, engineering education strives to provide students with the theoretical background to begin working in a research or industrial role. In electrical engineering, intuition and technical skill sometimes takes years to develop and is often not heavily focused on in undergraduate education. By giving students early access to specialized pieces of equipment and technical hands on training early in their education, it allows them to develop innovative ideas that utilize this equipment for their capstone projects. It also allows students to quickly become comfortable and have an intuitive understanding about the tools that electrical engineering depends on, instead of having to develop their proficiency in the first five years of being in the workforce or graduate school. A Student Electronic Resource Center (SERC) provides hands-on learning that complements the theoretical understanding that is being developed in the classroom, and students are able to develop their intuition at a rapid pace. As part of the ABET continuous improvement criteria, SERC can provide high quality instruction in a variety of classes with one-on-one guidance by a highly skilled technican. Classes can consist of training on various pieces of laboratory equipment, soldering skills, microcontroller implementations, practical electronic components, PCB design, and much more. Once a student has gone through training on the equipment, they are able to use it for their projects or coursework.The classes build on each other to provide a continuous learning environment that can rapidly build student confidence in being able to tackle engineering problems. Students are actively engaged with material that interests them and they are more willing to learn and apply their knowledge both inside and outside the classroom. By integrating the practical and technical side of engineering with the theoretical in a much more open environment than a traditional lab course, SERC allows students to be very creative while still providing solid instruction. A SERC has been described in this study and its effectiveness is backed up with student testimonials on how it impacted their education and career. SERC has supported numerous faculty members, graduate students, and undergraduates with research and capstone projects by providing the practical and technical training for projects. SERC is multidisciplinary in electrical, chemical, mechanical, and biomedical engineering fields and encourages students to collaborate on projects and share ideas with each other.

Preferred: Poster session

Cook, T. V., & Lyle, J. A., & Kerestes, R. J. (2018, June), Board 73 : Work in Progress: Reinforcement of Engineering Education with Hands-on Learning of Technical Skills Paper presented at 2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Salt Lake City, Utah. 10.18260/1-2--30097

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