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Board 76 : Work in Progress: Reinventing the Undergraduate Electrical Engineering Curriculum to Address Tomorrow’s Cross-Disciplinary Global Challenges

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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

Tagged Topic


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Paper Authors


Jamie Phillips University of Michigan Orcid 16x16

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Jamie Phillips is an Arthur F. Thurnau Professor in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at the University of Michigan. He received the B.S., M.S., and Ph.D. degrees in electrical engineering from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI, USA, in 1994, 1996, and 1998, respectively. He was with Sandia National Laboratories, Albuquerque, NM, USA, and the Rockwell Science Center, Thousand Oaks, CA, USA, before returning to the University of Michigan in 2002. His current research interests and contributions are in optoelectronic devices and engineering education.

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Cynthia J. Finelli University of Michigan Orcid 16x16

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Dr. Cynthia Finelli is Associate Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, Associate Professor of Education, and Director and Graduate Chair for Engineering Education Research Programs at University of Michigan (U-M). Dr. Finelli is a fellow in the American Society of Engineering Education, a Deputy Editor of the Journal for Engineering Education, an Associate Editor of the IEEE Transactions on Education, and past chair of the Educational Research and Methods Division of ASEE. She founded the Center for Research on Learning and Teaching in Engineering at U-M in 2003 and served as its Director for 12 years. Prior to joining U-M, Dr. Finelli was the Richard L. Terrell Professor of Excellence in Teaching, founding director of the Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning, and associate professor of electrical engineering at Kettering University.

Dr. Finelli's current research interests include student resistance to active learning, faculty adoption of evidence-based teaching practices, the use of technology and innovative pedagogies on student learning and success, and the impact of a flexible classroom space on faculty teaching and student learning. She also led a project to develop a taxonomy for the field of engineering education research, and she was part of a team that studied ethical decision-making in engineering students.

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Khalil Najafi University of Michigan

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Khalil Najafi is the Schlumberger Professor of Engineering, and Peter and Evelyn Fuss Chair of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the University of Michigan since September 2008. He received the B.S., M.S., and the Ph.D. degrees in 1980, 1981, and 1986 respectively, all in Electrical Engineering from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. His research interests include: micromachining technologies, micromachined sensors, actuators, and MEMS; analog integrated circuits; implantable biomedical microsystems; hermetic and vacuum packaging; and low-power wireless sensing/actuating systems; inertial sensing systems.
Dr. Najafi has been active in the field of solid-state sensors and actuators for thirty years. He has been involved in several conferences and workshops dealing with micro sensors, actuators, and microsystems, including the International Conference on Solid-State Sensors, Actuators, and Microsystems, the Int. IEEE Micro-Electro-Mechanical Systems (MEMS) Conference, and the Hilton-Head Solid-State Sensors, Actuators and Microsystems Workshop. He has served as associate editor or editor of several journals, including IEEE Trans. Electron Devices, IEEE J. Solid-State Circuits, IEEE J. Micro-Electro-Mechanical-Systems (JMEMS), IEEE Trans. On Biomedical Engineering, IOP J. Micromechanics and Microengineering, Sensors and Materials, and Biomedical Microdevices. He currently serves on the editorial board of the IEEE Proceedings. He received the IEEE Daniel E. Noble Technical Field Award in 2015 and the IEEE Sensors Council Technical Achievement Award in 2013 for “For leadership in microsystem technologies and seminal contributions to inertial sensors and hermetic wafer-level packaging.” He is a Fellow of the IEEE and the AIBME.

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Lisa R. Lattuca University of Michigan

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Lisa Lattuca, Professor of Higher Education at the University of Michigan, studies curriculum, teaching, and learning in college and university settings. She examines processes of curriculum development and revision at the course, program, and institutional levels, including how faculty attitudes, beliefs, and cultures influence curricular and instructional practices and how these in affect student learning. Her studies have been funded by ABET, the National Science Foundation and the Helmsley Foundation.

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The rapid technological advancements over the past century that enabled the computer and information age have fueled the passion of electrical engineering (EE). Today, technologies created by EE’s have become so pervasive that they are often taken for granted as engineers develop new technologies with global impact. While advancements continue in specific EE areas, high-impact solutions to grand challenges in areas such as healthcare, education, and transportation are increasingly cross-disciplinary in nature, requiring collaboration across EE areas and other disciplines. EE has traditionally comprised of fixed sub-disciplines working in isolation, and lacking in diversity of knowledge and background. The EE discipline is likely at a turning point, where success of EE’s can no longer rely exclusively on advances with the technical discipline (e.g., the integrated circuit, personal computer, smartphone), but also the ability to interface technological advances across highly complex systems and across broad application areas. There is a clear need to reinvent curricula in EE, including a major emphasis to support student diversity and to prepare tomorrow’s engineers to be competitive in a global world. In this Work In Progress, a vision to reinvent the undergraduate EE curriculum at a large, research-intensive institution will be presented, along with current progress in implementation. The original curriculum is traditional in providing a rigorous education grounded in the fundamentals of the discipline and then providing depth in sub-disciplines of the field, and has not been successful in attracting and retaining a diverse student body, and in preparing students with the cross-disciplinary skillset to meet modern day challenges. Exploratory studies at our institution through focus groups with undergraduate engineering students and analysis of student transcripts, as well as a review of curriculum innovations implemented at other institutions, have been completed. These suggest the importance of both (1) providing students with an early integrative foundation to allow them to make informed decisions in choosing an engineering discipline and to effectively navigate through their degree program and (2) offering more complex, hands-on experiences that are aligned with solving high-impact problems. The new curriculum seeks to provide this early integrative foundation by interweaving the diversity of technical areas in EE at an early stage. This requires the restructuring of foundation courses and the development of dedicated project-based integrative lab and design coursework at the sophomore and junior level. The new curriculum also aims to prepare students to tackle high-impact problems by introducing a formal requirement for an immersive learning experience that addresses a high-impact engineering, scientific, or societal challenge of the student’s choosing, allowing students to acquire rich, hands-on experience with complex, real-world societal problems. These two approaches to reinvent the EE curriculum – an early integrative foundation and an immersive learning experience – are expected to foster a sense of community, sustain passion in the discipline, and deepen students’ abilities and motivations to participate in impactful activities that will change the world. As a result, the new curriculum will attract and retain a more diverse student body and prepare student with the broad EE skillset required to address cross-disciplinary global challenges.

Phillips, J., & Finelli, C. J., & Najafi, K., & Lattuca, L. R. (2018, June), Board 76 : Work in Progress: Reinventing the Undergraduate Electrical Engineering Curriculum to Address Tomorrow’s Cross-Disciplinary Global Challenges Paper presented at 2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Salt Lake City, Utah. 10.18260/1-2--30102

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