June 22, 2008
June 22, 2008
June 25, 2008
Electrical and Computer
13.421.1 - 13.421.12
Development of an Integrated Spiral Curriculum in Electrical and Computer Engineering
This paper discusses the development and assessment of an integrated curriculum in electrical engineering (EE). The underlying spiral curriculum philosophy seeks to reduce the compartmentalizing of sub-disciplines within EE by creating courses that integrate material from different areas and that revisit concepts with deeper complexity in subsequent courses. The paper describes adaptation and implementation of this paradigm in an EE program, and presents some preliminary results from the ﬁrst two and one half years of effort. Multiple robot platforms provide a thematic project continuity across the curriculum.
2 Introduction and Background
Over the last 15 years, the Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) faculty at University of Detroit Mercy (UDM) have been exploring various approaches for the integration of a comprehensive autonomous ground vehicle (AGV) design project into the EE curriculum. Effective upper-division curriculum integration has been implemented and assessed, and an award winning paper describing our efforts published. 1 In fact, we have noted substantial improvements in a variety of learning outcomes due to the use of such an integrated and comprehensive project. These improvements include greater student enthusiasm, better concept comprehension, a much improved understanding of topical relevance, and signiﬁcant demonstrations of successful independent enquiry and multi-cultural and multi-disciplinary teaming. These successes have been directly responsible for our continuing efforts to migrate these beneﬁts downward in the curriculum, and the resulting comprehensive curriculum reform for the Electrical Engineering program described in this paper.
The EE program has for many years distinguished itself by focusing on both engineering design and practice while placing an emphasis on critical thinking, ethics, and social responsibility via an extensive humanities-based core curriculum. Mandatory cooperative education assignments and extensive laboratory and class-based projects ensure that students not only grasp theoretical concepts, but also know how to apply those concepts in practical situations. Before the curriculum reform described in this paper, the course sequences and content were traditional and reﬂected national norms, but several innovative courses presented unusual opportunities for interdisciplinary teaming. Examples included an integrated freshman engineering design course, three courses in the area of mechatronics, and a two-semester joint ME/EE capstone design sequence. Yet, despite this sound program structure, and the regular use of active and enquiry-based learning principles, students still questioned the relevance of the various topics, and did not become truly enthusiastic about the ECE discipline until late in their program of study. Furthermore, over the years, the program content expanded to match the dramatic growth in the ECE ﬁeld, creating an overloaded curriculum and encouraging opportunism; that is, the development of strategies to cope with testing requirements without the attendant deep-seated learning. 2 The program we have developed directly addresses these issues while building on traditional program strengths, including design, practice, and a strong humanities-based core curriculum. The broad goals of our curricular implementation plan are summarized below.
Yost, S., & Krishnan, M., & Paulik, M. (2008, June), Development Of An Integrated Spiral Curriculum In Electrical And Computer Engineering Paper presented at 2008 Annual Conference & Exposition, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. 10.18260/1-2--3180
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