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Design Tools: The Sophomore Course in a Four-year Design Sequence

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2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


San Antonio, Texas

Publication Date

June 10, 2012

Start Date

June 10, 2012

End Date

June 13, 2012



Conference Session

New Trends in ECE Education II

Tagged Division

Electrical and Computer

Page Count


Page Numbers

25.403.1 - 25.403.6



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Paper Authors


Jeffrey L. Schiano Pennsylvania State University, University Park

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Jeffrey L. Schiano is an Associate Professor of electrical engineering at the Pennsylvania State University. He earned a bachelor's of science degree in electrical and biomedical engineering (with university honors) from Carnegie Mellon University in 1983, and the master's of science and doctorate of philosophy degrees from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) in 1985 and 1991, respectively. His expertise is in the areas of feedback control systems and magnetic resonance engineering.

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Design Tools: The Sophomore Course in a Four-Year Design SequenceFollowing a critical review and discussion of the design component of our curriculum, theundergraduate committee identified three areas for improvement: (1) coupling the undergraduateand graduate programs by engaging undergraduates in faculty research projects, (2) diversifyingthe spectrum and depth of capstone design projects, and (3) increasing the number of credit hoursfor engineering design tools and professional topics. The committee aims to meet theseobjectives by introducing a vertically integrated design sequence that starts with an existing firstyear design course followed by new sophomore and junior level courses that focus on designtools and processes respectively, and a revised senior capstone design course. The new designsequence is a requirement for all electrical engineering students starting with the class of 2016.This paper describes the second, sophomore level course in the new design sequence. Theobjectives of this course are threefold. First, equip students with a set of design tools requiredfor the junior level design process course where students complete two mini-projects that providehands-on experience with the phases of the design process and the activities appropriate to each.Second, provide students with a set of tools that will attract the interest of corporations hiringsummer interns. Third, reinforce and build upon material in earlier courses, in particular thefreshman level design course, and the sophomore level courses in circuit analysis and digitallogic design, so that in addition to understanding and appreciating the concepts in these earliercourses, students also become fluent in applying them to engineering problems.The design tools course builds directly upon material covered in the sophomore level digitaldesign course. Following a review of finite state machines, during the first half of the coursestudents complete a series of laboratory exercises where they implement a finite state machineusing four different technologies, discrete logic, a programmable logic device, an embeddedmicroprocessor, and a data acquisition module controlled by a graphical dataflow programminglanguage, LabVIEW. For each of the four design approaches, students first evaluate their designusing appropriate software tools before implementing them using a solderless breadboard(protoboard). In addition, for each design students generate a printed circuit board layout usingan industry standard software tool, and generate the files required for a commercial company torealize the design. Students compare the tradeoffs among the four implementation techniques,including cost, hardware realization demands, and the ability of a given implementation tosupport future design changes.The second half of the course provides an in-depth introduction to the graphical programminglanguage LabVIEW using a software engineering approach that stresses good design practicesand coding standards. Students learn to realize designs using a data acquisition module andperform automated test and measurements using standard laboratory instrumentation. As ameans of introducing LabVIEW into the curriculum, students purchase a myDAQ, a USBconnected data acquisition module that includes a copy of LabVIEW, for their sophomore coursein circuits. In this course, students use the myDAQ to explore circuit concepts using a graphicaluser interface (GUI) provided with the system. In the sophomore design tools course, studentslearn how to write their own GUIs for the myDAQ. Subsequent courses, including the linearsystems and control courses, require students to complete laboratory exercises using the myDAQand their knowledge of the LabVIEW programming language.

Schiano, J. L. (2012, June), Design Tools: The Sophomore Course in a Four-year Design Sequence Paper presented at 2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, San Antonio, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--21161

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