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Circuit Elements Are People Too—Using Personification In Circuit Analysis Lectures To Improve Comprehension

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2008 Annual Conference & Exposition


Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Publication Date

June 22, 2008

Start Date

June 22, 2008

End Date

June 25, 2008



Conference Session

ECE Poster Session

Tagged Division

Electrical and Computer

Page Count


Page Numbers

13.293.1 - 13.293.9



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Paper Authors


L. Brent Jenkins

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Brent Jenkins is an Associate Professor in the Electrical and Computer Engineering Technology department at Southern Polytechnic State University. He has taught circuit analysis (and other topics) for over 13 years.

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Circuit Elements are People Too—Using Personification in Circuit Analysis Lectures to Improve Comprehension


An intuitive knowledge of circuit analysis is critical to the success of students in the electrical field. It is regrettable that the typical sophomore becomes so overwhelmed by the abstract aspects of the subject that he/she loses sight of its intuitive nature.

A lecture technique is available that employs the personification of circuit elements to describe their behavior and interaction. Not only does this technique help to retain student interest, it also improves comprehension. A related technique is available to help reduce the occurrence of sign errors when performing mesh analysis. This paper describes the application of these techniques in an introductory circuit analysis course. "The voltage across my terminals Source Behavior 12 V must be 12V."

Ideal sources, whether theoretical entities or models for actual components, are selfish devices (a) that leave no provision for compromise. The ideal voltage source in Figure 1a “insists” that the voltage across its terminals is 12 V. More specifically, this source insists that the voltage at "The current in its positive terminal is 12 V higher than the my branch must be voltage at its negative terminal. Likewise, the m 10 mA." ideal current source in Figure 1b insists that the current in its branch is 10 mA. Such perspectives provide useful intuition about circuit behavior in general, but they are especially useful when (b) discussing source combination or source neutralization. Figure 1: Ideal Source Behavior

Source Combination

The selfish nature of ideal sources provides a memorable explanation about why it is m impossible to combine non-identical ideal 2V 3V voltage sources in parallel or non-identical ideal current sources in series. In Figure 2a, the left m source insists that the terminal voltage of the "We refuse to circuit is 2V, while the right source insists that compromise." the same voltage is 3V. In Figure 2b, the upper (a) (b) source insists that the branch current is 10 mA, while the lower source insists that the same Figure 2: Impossible Source Combinations

Jenkins, L. B. (2008, June), Circuit Elements Are People Too—Using Personification In Circuit Analysis Lectures To Improve Comprehension Paper presented at 2008 Annual Conference & Exposition, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. 10.18260/1-2--4331

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