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Designing Effective Electrical Engineering Laboratories Using Challenge Based Instruction That Reflect Engineering Process

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2005 Annual Conference


Portland, Oregon

Publication Date

June 12, 2005

Start Date

June 12, 2005

End Date

June 15, 2005



Conference Session

Emerging Trends in Engineering Education Poster Session

Page Count


Page Numbers

10.424.1 - 10.424.21



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Paper Authors

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Lason Watai

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Arthur Brodersen

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Sean Brophy

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

Designing Effective Electrical Engineering Laboratories Using Challenge- based instruction that Reflect Engineering Process

Lason L. Watai, Arthur J. Brodersen, Sean P. Brophy

Vanderbilt University School of Engineering, Nashville, TN

I. Introduction

In electrical engineering, physical lab courses should provide a multi-facet environment that enables students to apply concepts and principles to design, synthesize and analyze electrical circuits and systems, and gain practical “hands-on” experience, knowledge, and skills and give students “a feel” for problem solving. However, students are often ill prepared to perform the labs and few resources are available for students to learn how to perform necessary lab procedures. This can lead to an over dependence on the instructor for information, which can result in frustration for both students and instructor. A lot of lab time is often spent waiting for instructor assistance, which can result in student loss of interest, motivation, and focus on the lab and its objectives. Also, students may have little or no understanding of how and where the lab concepts and principles can be applied in real world problems. Therefore, an alternative approach to physical lab instruction is desirable. Innovations in technology provide several ways to improve lab instruction. For example, students could prepare for labs through on-line pre-lab tutorials and quizzes that explore the lab principles and test instruments to be used. Web-based tutorials and resources can be made available during the lab itself, helping students to sustain their own inquiry without much assistance from the lab instructor. Anchoring lab experiments to realistic challenges can enable students to understand the practical applications of concepts and principles covered in different labs. Carrying out studies to explore these possibilities for improved instruction can lead to more effective laboratory learning in electrical engineering education.

A study at Vanderbilt University has been exploring the potential of organizing the content of electrical engineering labs around realistic challenges. The challenges provide a context for performing lab experiment, which should help students apply the concepts from the labs to other problems. Before coming to the lab, students are given a challenge and asked to generate ideas about potential solutions and to identify what more they need to know to solve the challenge. Also, they prepare for the lab by reviewing web-based learning resources (e.g. tutorials, on-line test of basic concepts, components, and procedures for using equipment). These materials help familiarize students with the expectations of the lab. In the lab, computer-based instruments by National Instruments replace conventional bench-top ones. Workstations are connected to the Internet enabling student’s immediate access to the web-based resources. Now students can guide their own inquiry by accessing these resources as needed, rather than continually asking for instructor assistance.

“Proceedings of the 2005 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright © 2005, American Society for Engineering Education"

Watai, L., & Brodersen, A., & Brophy, S. (2005, June), Designing Effective Electrical Engineering Laboratories Using Challenge Based Instruction That Reflect Engineering Process Paper presented at 2005 Annual Conference, Portland, Oregon. 10.18260/1-2--15107

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