June 24, 2007
June 24, 2007
June 27, 2007
Electrical and Computer
12.409.1 - 12.409.9
Cooperative University/Industry Development of a Freshman ‘Introduction to ECE Design’ Course
Faculty members from Georgia Tech’s School of Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) have worked jointly with engineers from National Instruments (NI) to develop a new freshman engineering course. This course is entitled ‘Introduction to ECE Design’ and is constructed around the use of the LEGO MINDSTORMS NXT robotics system. NI partnered with LEGO to jointly develop the programming software for the MINDSTORMS NXT, and their engineers are uniquely positioned to provide insight into the use and functionality of these kits. NI engineers have not only provided technical support but have also conceived and designed most of the laboratories for the course.
This course addresses the diverse objectives of providing students with a systems-level design experience at the beginning of their academic programs and introducing them to a broad range of ECE disciplines. A primary goal is to enable students to make better-informed decisions when choosing whether or not to major in electrical engineering or computer engineering.
Georgia Tech’s School of Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) has not offered an introductory freshman-level course for a couple of decades. In recent years there has been concern expressed by both internal and external constituencies that freshmen were choosing whether or not to major in ECE without ever taking a course in the field. Additionally, Georgia Tech’s early ECE courses, such as circuits, digital logic design, electromagnetics, etc., while providing thorough, in-depth coverage of their subject areas, do little to provide students a broader ‘big picture’ perspective on our discipline. Thus, our goal was to design an entry-level course that would be informative, engaging, and challenging.
After examining a variety of freshman courses taught across the country, we chose to build ours around LEGO robotics. Because of their versatility, over the past 10 to 15 years LEGO robots have appeared in courses from elementary school through college. The engineering education literature describes many freshman-level engineering courses that have chosen to use LEGO robots.1,4-6 Additionally, they have also been used in programming courses,6 advanced robotics classes,3 and for multi-disciplinary senior design projects.2,5 In our background investigation we identified 23 universities and colleges using LEGO robotics, from both the US and the rest of the world, with 11 of them offering freshmen-level courses.
Thus, in choosing to base our course on LEGO robotics, we had several examples from which to draw. However, at least two facets of our course are unique. First, we chose to use the new LEGO MINDSTORMS NXT system, the newest generation of LEGO robotics. Second, Georgia Tech faculty members received significant help in developing this course from engineers who helped to design the NXT kit and its LabVIEW-based graphical programming environment.
Williams, D., & Butera, R., & Uluagac, S., & Clark, M., & Deck, A., & Torba, M., & Trahan, S. (2007, June), Cooperative University/Industry Development Of A Freshman ‘Introduction To Ece Design’ Course Paper presented at 2007 Annual Conference & Exposition, Honolulu, Hawaii. 10.18260/1-2--2470
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