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Completing a Lab in 50 Minutes: Optimizing Student Attention Span

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2018 FYEE Conference


Glassboro, New Jersey

Publication Date

July 24, 2018

Start Date

July 24, 2018

End Date

July 26, 2018

Conference Session

Technical Session IV

Tagged Topic

FYEE Conference Sessions

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Paper Authors


Jennifer Felder Marley Valparaiso University Orcid 16x16

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Jennifer Marley is an assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering at Valparaiso University. She received the B.S. degree in electrical engineering from North Carolina State University and M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in electrical engineering: systems from the University of Michigan. Her research interests include power system optimization and the integration of storage devices and renewable generation.

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Doug Tougaw Valparaiso University

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Doug Tougaw is a professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Valparaiso University. His scientific research is in the area of nanotechnology. His pedagogical research interests include working with first-year students, design, ethics, and computer programming.

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Accommodating students’ relatively short attention spans is a significant challenge when designing a first-year engineering course. It is increasingly difficult for first-year students to maintain their focus throughout a 150-minute laboratory session. An alternative is to create laboratory experiences that provide students with self-contained hands-on experiences that can be completed within a traditional 50-minute window. In electrical and computer engineering, this is challenging, since so many of the laboratories require extensive wiring and, possibly, programming.

We describe a set of 24 hands-on laboratories in which students perform a significant experiment within a 50-minute period. The labs are written to explore analog circuits, digital circuits, and programming embedded microcontrollers. Completing these experiments in 50 minutes is made possible by making just a few adjustments to the lab exercises and by providing a few key supporting structures for students.

These one-period labs were taught for the first time last academic year, and they are currently being used for a second time with a few small revisions. Assessment results are presented that demonstrate these labs are beneficial to students’ achievement of course learning objectives.

Marley, J. F., & Tougaw, D. (2018, July), Completing a Lab in 50 Minutes: Optimizing Student Attention Span Paper presented at 2018 FYEE Conference, Glassboro, New Jersey.

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