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Collaborative Project Based Learning To Enhance Freshman Design Experience In Digital Engineering

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2009 Annual Conference & Exposition


Austin, Texas

Publication Date

June 14, 2009

Start Date

June 14, 2009

End Date

June 17, 2009



Conference Session

NSF Grantees Poster Session

Page Count


Page Numbers

14.337.1 - 14.337.11



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Paper Authors

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Jianyu Dong California State University, Los Angeles

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Nancy Warter-Perez California State University, Los Angeles

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

Collaborative Project-based Learning to Enhance Freshman Design Experience in Digital Engineering


One great challenge for engineering education is to increase the retention rate for freshman and sophomore students. In 2008, CSULA received an NSF CCLI grant to redesign the Introduction to Digital Engineering course to enhance students’ interest in engineering by exposing them to fun hands-on in class projects. The proposed course redesign employs the Tablet PC-based Collaborative Project-Based Learning model (CPBL) that has been proven to be effective in our upper division computer engineering courses. This paper presents our current progress on the CCLI project. To study the impact of the CPBL model in freshman/sophomore level courses, a series of interactive in-class projects was developed that: 1) stimulate students’ learning and make them more engaged in the classroom; 2) tie the theory taught in class to real-world design experience; and 3) provide a clearer insight into possible engineering careers. So far five in-class projects using Verilog HDL design, simulation, and synthesis with Xilinx FPGA boards have been developed in our course redesign effort. In this paper, we will share our practice on how to incorporate the projects into the classroom instruction to deepen the students’ understanding of number systems, logic function simplification, and combinational/sequential logic design. In addition to focusing on a fundamental concept in digital design, each project progressively introduces different aspects of the design process. Preliminary assessment results are presented to show the impact of the in-class design project on student learning outcomes.


In recent years, engineering design activities at the freshman level have become a common practice in many institutions across the U.S. It has been widely recognized by engineering educators that the capstone design experience itself is not sufficient for students to develop a thorough understanding of the engineering design process [1-3]. There have been numerous successful efforts in exploring efficient methods to integrate engineering design education into the first year curriculum in undergraduate programs [4-7]. According to Sheri Sheppard and Rollie Jenison’s study [8], one of the most important reasons for an increase in design practice at the freshman level is the “Recognition of Freshman Attrition.” A U.S. Department of Education (DOE) longitudinal study of undergraduate engineering programs pointed out that the retention rate during the freshman and sophomore years in an engineering program is much lower than that during the junior and senior years [9]. Although there are various reasons that lead to the high dropout rate during the first two years’ of engineering programs, a common one is that many students become so frustrated with the lengthy mathematics and physics sequence that they choose to give up even before taking the first engineering course. In this case, a fun and inspiring engineering design course at the freshman level not only contributes to the development of the students’ design skills from the early stage, but also helps stimulate the students’ interest in engineering fields to increase the retention rate.

Although the importance of freshman design experience has been well recognized, how to effectively embed it into the first year curriculum still remains a challenging task. A common


Dong, J., & Warter-Perez, N. (2009, June), Collaborative Project Based Learning To Enhance Freshman Design Experience In Digital Engineering Paper presented at 2009 Annual Conference & Exposition, Austin, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--5693

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