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Bottlenecks and Muddiest Points in a Freshman Circuits Course

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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 Technical Session 1

Tagged Division

Electrical and Computer

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Paper Authors


Cynthia Furse University of Utah Orcid 16x16

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Dr. Cynthia Furse (PhD ’94) is the Associate Vice President for Research at the University of Utah and a Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering. Dr. Furse teaches / has taught electromagnetics, wireless communication, computational electromagnetics, microwave engineering, circuits, and antenna design. She is a leader and early developer of the flipped classroom, and began flipping her classes in 2007. She is now regularly engaged helping other faculty flip their classes (see Dr. Furse’s research has led to the development of a system to locate intermittent electrical wiring faults, and she is a founder of LiveWire Innovation. Her research also includes development of antennas to communicate with medical implants, and methods to predict statistical variability in bioelectromagnetic applications. Dr. Furse is a Fellow of the IEEE and the National Academy of Inventors. She has received numerous teaching and research awards including the Harriett B. Rigas Medal for Excellence in Teaching.

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Neil E. Cotter University of Utah

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Neil Cotter is an Associate Professor (Lecturer) at the University of Utah. He received his Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering from Stanford in 1986 and began teaching at the University of Utah later that year. He has taught one or more classes at the university every year since that time, including seven years he spent working in industry. Since 2000, he has primarily taught introductory circuits courses. His research interests, which have recently been revived, focus on spiking neural networks.

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Angela Rasmussen University of Utah

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Dr. Angela Rasmussen is the Director of Mentoring and Advising, Director of Electrical Engineering Senior Projects, and Associate Professor in the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department at the University of Utah. Dr. Rasmussen graduated with a B.S. in Computer Engineer(1996), summa cum laude and top student in her graduating class. She completed her doctorate in Electrical Engineering with a minor in Mechanical Engineering, George Washington University (2002). She teaches a number of core electrical and computer engineering courses along with supervising all senior Electrical Engineering projects. She has received both an outstanding Teaching Award and an outstanding Service Award during her work at the University of Utah. Previous to joining the University of Utah she was an Assistant Professor at San Diego State University where she received an outstanding teaching award in 2002. Dr. Rasmussen’s interests lie in improving engineering education with an emphasis in recruiting and retaining women and minorities.

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This paper describes the bottlenecks and "muddiest points" found in a freshman circuits course and methods developed at the University of Utah to address them. The 4-credit semester-long course is a typical first circuits course with lab, including coverage of op amps and sensors. The final lab project is an invention of the student’s choosing -- a resistive or capacitive sensor circuit that utilizes the course concepts as well as open-ended design and system concepts.

Determination of bottlenecks and muddiest points was done through weekly muddiest point assessements, exams, quizzes or self-assesments, and online feedback. Solutions to address the bottlenecks included providing applications and real-world examples, providing step-by-step cookbooks, color coding circuit nodes, organizing the circuit design equations into a circuit analysis toolbox, using a deck of cards representing the functional design of a system, and creating a library of in class demos. These improvements, along with the use of a flipped classroom and incorporation of a National Instruments myDAQ device, resulted in an increase in the pass rate of the class.

Poster Presentation Preference

Furse, C., & Cotter, N. E., & Rasmussen, A. (2018, June), Bottlenecks and Muddiest Points in a Freshman Circuits Course Paper presented at 2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Salt Lake City, Utah. 10.18260/1-2--30153

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