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Board # 99 : An Intelligent Software Tutor for Scaffolding Solving DC-DC Converter Circuits

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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

NSF Grantees Poster Session

Tagged Topic

NSF Grantees Poster Session

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Paper Authors


Ali Mehrizi-Sani Washington State University Orcid 16x16

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Ali Mehrizi-Sani received the B.Sc. degrees in electrical engineering and petroleum engineering from Sharif University of Technology, Tehran, Iran, both in 2005. He received the M.Sc. degree from the University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, MB, Canada, and the Ph.D. degree from the University of Toronto, Toronto, ON, Canada, both in electrical engineering, in 2007 and 2011. He is currently an Assistant Professor at Washington State University, Pullman, WA, USA. He was a Visiting Professor at Graz University of Technology, Graz, Austria, in Nov. 2014, Jan. 2016, and Nov.-Dec. 2016. His areas of interest include power system applications of power electronics and integration of renewable energy resources. Dr. Mehrizi-Sani is an editor of IEEE Transactions on Power Systems, IEEE Transactions on Power Delivery, IEEE Transactions on Energy Conversion, and IEEE Power Engineering Letters. He is also an editor of Wiley International Transactions on Electrical Energy Systems. He is the Chair of IEEE Task Force on Dynamic System Equivalents and the Secretary of the CIGRE Working Group C4.34 on Application of PMUs for Monitoring Power System Dynamic Performance. He was a recipient of the WSU VCEA Reid Miller Excellence in Teaching Award in 2016, the NSERC Postdoctoral Fellowship in 2011, and the Dennis Woodford prize for his M.Sc. thesis in 2007. He was a Connaught Scholar at the University of Toronto.

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Robert G. Olsen Washington State University

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Prof. Olsen received the BS degree in electrical engineering from Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ in 1968 and the MS and Ph.D. degrees in electrical engineering from the University of Colorado, Boulder, CO in 1970 and 1974 respectively. While in Boulder, he worked for Westinghouse Georesearch Laboratory. He has been a member of the electrical engineering faculty at Washington State University since 1973 and holds the rank of professor. Between 2003 and 2013, he served as the Associate Dean for Undergraduate Programs and Student Services at Washington State University. He has been an NSF Faculty Fellow at GTE Laboratories in Waltham, MA, a visiting scientist at ABB Corporate Research in Västerås, Sweden and at the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) in Palo Alto, CA and a Visiting Professor at the Technical University of Denmark.
His research interests span all aspects of electromagnetics issues in power transmission and has resulted in approximately 85 publications in refereed journals and approximately 150 conference publications/presentations. He is also one of the authors of the AC Transmission Line Reference Book – 200 kV and Above which is published by the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) and the author of the recently published two volume book, High Voltage Overhead Transmission Line Electromagnetics. He is a Fellow of the IEEE and an Honorary Life member of the IEEE Electromagnetic Compatibility Society

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Power electronics is an enabling technology for the smart power grid. However, students often struggle in the Power Electronics course because it requires mastery and simultaneous application of concepts from several earlier courses. Existing tools, e.g., industry-grade simulators, do not provide formative feedback, may overwhelm students, and do the steps necessary to analyze a circuit behind the scene. To address this educational challenge, based on this NSF-supported project, we have designed and developed a software tutor to help students in this course by providing a scaffold to translate visual information (circuit diagrams) to written information (equations) and analyze a power electronic converter circuit.

In our work, the following approach is used to address this problem:

1. Scaffolding: The web-based software tool developed in this project uses scaffolding as an interactive well-established pedagogical approach to improve student learning and problem solving skills. Our specific research question is “to what extent will scaffolding via a software tool improve students’ understanding of and interest in power electronics?”

2. Dynamic Feedback: Scaffolding provides students with a template and dynamic feedback to assist them in their early stages of learning. In our case, the developed software tutor assists students by scaffolding the following aspects: (i) creating circuit diagrams and providing formative feedback, (ii) translating circuit diagrams into equations, and (iii) solving the resulting equations. The feedback messages provide the answer to three major questions: “where am I going?” (feed up), “how am I going?” (feed back), and “where to next?” (feed forward). A feedback message describes (i) the issue, (ii) the cause of the issue, and (iii) the suggested solution.

3. Validation: When the topology of the circuit is validated by the tutor, the student can start writing the circuit equations. After correct equations are produced, the tutor shows the circuit voltage and current waveforms obtained from these equations side-by-side with the exact circuit solution. Comparison of the approximate and exact solutions is performed to demonstrate the results are very close.

In line with scaffolding theory, we maintain a balance in creating this tool: we want to assist students to master problem solving, but we do not want them to be so dependent on the scaffold that they cannot transition to independent problem solving. The design and development of this software tool is finished, and it will be tested in Power Electronics courses at four universities. Testing at WSU has already begun in spring 2017.

Mehrizi-Sani , A., & Olsen, R. G. (2017, June), Board # 99 : An Intelligent Software Tutor for Scaffolding Solving DC-DC Converter Circuits Paper presented at 2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Columbus, Ohio. 10.18260/1-2--27969

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