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Closing the Design Cycle: Integration of Analysis, Simulation, and Measurements Results to Guide Students on Evaluation of Design

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2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Atlanta, Georgia

Publication Date

June 23, 2013

Start Date

June 23, 2013

End Date

June 26, 2013



Conference Session

Laboratory Experiences in Electronics and Circuits

Tagged Division

Division Experimentation & Lab-Oriented Studies

Page Count


Page Numbers

23.290.1 - 23.290.11



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Paper Authors

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Avik Dayal Virginia Tech


Kathleen Meehan Virginia Tech

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Kathleen Meehan is presently an Associate Professor in the Bradley Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Virginia Tech. Her previous academic positions were at at the University of Denver and West Virginia University. Prior to moving in academia, she was employed at Lytel, Inc., Polaroid Corporation, and Biocontrol Technology. She received her B.S.E.E. from Manhattan College and her M.S. and Ph.D. from the University of Illinois - Urbana/Champaign under the direction of Prof. Nick Holonyak, Jr. Her areas of research include design of optoelectronic materials, devices, and systems; optical spectroscopy; high heat load packaging; and electrical engineering pedagogy.

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A. A. (Louis) Beex Virginia Tech

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A. A. (Louis) Beex received the “Ingenieur” degree from Technical University Eindhoven, Eindhoven, the Netherlands, in 1974, and the Ph.D. degree from Colorado State University, Fort Collins CO, in 1979; both in Electrical Engineering.
His research interests lie in stochastic, digital, and adaptive signal processing, including algorithm analysis and design for applications involving acoustic, wireless, speech, and radio communications.
From 1976 to 1978 he was at Starkey Labs. Inc., Minneapolis MN, as a Staff Research Engineer, working on applications of digital signal processing for the design of advanced hearing instruments, and for their automated evaluation. Since 1979 he has been on the faculty at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Blacksburg VA, currently as Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering and Director of the Digital Signal Processing Research Laboratory (DSPRL).

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Closing the Design Cycle: Integration of Analysis, Simulation, and Measurements Results to Guide Students on Evaluation of DesignThe circuits laboratory courses in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering haveundergone continuous improvement durng the past decade as faculty and staff have developedexperiments that have moved from a ‘cookbook’ approach to one in which students are presentedseveral open-ended design projects during the semester. The motivation to alter the pedagogicalapproach used in the labs was to attract and retain students in the BSEE program, particularlyunderrepresented minorities, by increasing student self-confidence, providing opportunities toinstill self-reliance, developing deeper understanding of fundamental concepts through visuallydemonstrations, and supporting students as they strive to achieve technical goals. Other desiredoutcomes for all students, identified as the project evolved, were to develop better experimentalskills, to understand that there may be many paths to address a technical challenge encounteredand no single solution may exist, and to stimulate greater proficiency in design. The pedagogicalapproach adopted was also dictated by limitations in equipment, space, and staff.The solution chosen was nontraditional laboratories where students perform experiments outsideof a lab classroom with parts supplied by the department and student-owned equipment - adigital multimeter, USB oscilloscope with function generator, and breadboard. In the initial set ofexperiments developed, each experiment was designed to reinforce student learning of one-to-two fundamental concepts or to demonstrate a complex theorem, which were also taught in thecompanion lecture course. All students analyzed, simulated, and constructed the same circuit ineach experiment. The schedule was planned so that students build upon their experiences incircuit analysis, circuit simulation, and measurement techniques. Over the years, other elementswere included, for example, programming in MATLAB and component selection based upondevice parameters that are provided in datasheets.As the course were refined, open-ended design projects were introduced to allow students toselect and apply an appropriate set of concepts to create a circuit that met specifications. In ourreview of the assignments and their mapping to the design cycle, one area that was consistentlyweak was evaluation, specifically an objective evaluation of the final design with respect to thedegree to which the circuit met the design specifications and the correlation between predictedand measured performance. Cursory answers were given by students to questions such as ‘Didthe design meet specification?’ and ‘How did the measurements compared to the expected resultsfrom your analysis and/or simulations?’. Students rarely made the connection between analysisand simulation of the circuits designed and the measurements and, thus, infrequently commentedupon the aspects of their designs that limited the overall performance of the circuits.As a result of a collaboration with MathWorks and Digilent, we have developed an approach thathas been incorporated into the latest lab course revision. Using application programminginterfaces (APIs) in the oscilloscope software, students import measurement data directly intoMATLAB. They analyze the measured data using the built-in functions in MATLAB, cannedprograms supplied by the instructor, or students write their own scripts. Results are then overlaidon graphs of the predicted results calculated during the pre-lab assignment. Students readilyobserve points of operation where the expected and measured results deviate and they develop adeeper understanding of the concepts that determine the operation of the physical circuit.

Dayal, A., & Meehan, K., & Beex, A. A. L. (2013, June), Closing the Design Cycle: Integration of Analysis, Simulation, and Measurements Results to Guide Students on Evaluation of Design Paper presented at 2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Atlanta, Georgia. 10.18260/1-2--19304

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