New Orleans, Louisiana
June 26, 2016
June 26, 2016
August 28, 2016
Electrical and Computer
The study of electromagnetics, one of the least popular undergraduate specializations in the field of electrical engineering, focuses on the study of Maxwell’s Equations which govern how information can travel as electromagnetic waves through open air. While some sparse analogies can be drawn between electromagnetic waves in air and real waves on a string, electromagnetic theory is extremely intricate to visualize and is therefore both difficult to teach and difficult to learn.
At the (Anonymous) University, the introductory electromagnetics class for undergraduates teaches concepts such as transmission lines, static and time-varying electric and magnetic fields, antennas, and radiation through lectures and textbook problem-solving sessions. The problem is that this teaching structure lacks connection to applicable, real-world examples, a primary factor in drawing students’ interest. Without this connection, many students develop a sense that these mathematical theories are not of practical use which results in the avoidance of more advanced courses in electromagnetics. As modern wireless technology advances, individuals with a strong understanding of electromagnetics continue to become more valuable. Low undergraduate interest and high demand for the electromagnetic specialization poses a problem.
In some fields more than others, hands-on experience is a necessary part of learning. In engineering, many concepts simply cannot be fully taught in a lecture hall or out of a textbook. The aspects of teaching which cause students to retain the material they have learned – two of the most important being motivating students to learn and sparking students' interest – often pertain less to the material being taught and more to the method by which the material is presented to the students. In the long term, the plan is to create a laboratory component for this electromagnetics class in which the students will spend two hours every week complementing what they have learned in lecture and homework problems with hands-on experiments related to real-world problems.
These new labs will introduce the students to measurement devices, such as network analyzers and anechoic chambers, in combination with a technical computing language such as MATLAB as a tool to create a visual representation of complex concept, transforming the students’ understanding from mathematical theory into mathematical reality. In addition, the students will gain first-hand experience with the same equipment and software used to take measurements and perform analysis in both advanced research and industry. Institutional Review Board approved pre- and post-laboratory surveys will be used to measure changes in interest and understanding. (Measurements are being taken from August – December 2015. As a result, the results discussion will be added to the abstract at the time of the Draft Paper submission.)
Donohoe, L. E., & Urbina, J., & Kane, T., & Bilén, S. G. (2016, June), Developments in the Teaching of Engineering Electromagnetics for Improvement in Student Interest and Understanding Paper presented at 2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, New Orleans, Louisiana. 10.18260/p.26834
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