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Embedding Engineering Design in a Circuits and Instrumentation Course

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2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Seattle, Washington

Publication Date

June 14, 2015

Start Date

June 14, 2015

End Date

June 17, 2015





Conference Session

Circuits and Systems Education 1

Tagged Division

Electrical and Computer

Page Count


Page Numbers

26.594.1 - 26.594.22



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Paper Authors


Jacquelyn Kay Nagel James Madison University

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Dr. Jacquelyn K. Nagel is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Engineering at James Madison University. She has eight years of diversified engineering design experience, both in academia and industry, and has experienced engineering design in a range of contexts, including product design, bio-inspired design, electrical and control system design, manufacturing system design, and design for the factory floor. Dr. Nagel earned her Ph.D. in mechanical engineering from Oregon State University and her M.S. and B.S. in manufacturing engineering and electrical engineering, respectively, from the Missouri University of Science and Technology. Dr. Nagel’s long-term goal is to drive engineering innovation by applying her multidisciplinary engineering expertise to instrumentation and manufacturing challenges.

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Stephen Keith Holland James Madison University

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S. Keith Holland received his PhD in Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering from the University of Virginia in 2004. He served as the Vice President for Research and Development with Avir Sensors, LLC prior to joining the Department of Engineering at James Madison University (JMU). At JMU, he developed statics, dynamics, circuits, instrumentation, controls, renewable energy, and engineering study abroad courses. His current research interest include material development for solar energy applications and optoelectronic device development for non-destructive testing and evaluation.

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Brian Groener James Madison University

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Embedding Engineering Design in a Circuits and Instrumentation CourseThe junior level circuits and instrumentation course at _______ University is a 4-creditcourse with three lectures and one laboratory each week. Fundamentals of DC and ACcircuit analysis are covered along with instrumentation topics. The laboratory portion ofthe course reinforces the concepts learned in lecture and assignments while buildingskills in circuit prototyping and measurement. Lab exercises have traditionally been atime when students follow a given procedure, collect data, and interpret the data. Thehighly structured experience often leads to students focusing on the procedure and notfully thinking through the concepts being covered. To encourage a deeperunderstanding of course concepts and how they translate to physical systems, twoopen-ended design projects were offered in place of structured labs in the most recentoffering the circuits and instrumentation course.The design projects are undirected experiences that build on the directed experiences inthe lecture and lab. Students are challenged to work in teams of four to design, build,test a specific type of circuit. Project one focused on a calibrated instrument thatreported the weight of a sample using a strain gage. Project two focused on a filtercircuit that allowed a signal to be decoded from an AM transmission. No instruction isprovided for the projects, rather, a set of design requirements, timetable, andsupplemental materials (e.g., data sheets, vendor design briefs, past labs relevant tothe design requirements) are given. Students must synthesize multiple weeks of coursecontent into a single design project.This paper reports on our observations and findings for embedding design experiencesinto a circuits and instrumentation course, as well as descriptions of the design projects.Quantitative assessment of learning through both design projects is performed throughsurveys and by student grades in both projects and the course, while qualitativeassessment is through reflection questions.

Nagel, J. K., & Holland, S. K., & Groener, B. (2015, June), Embedding Engineering Design in a Circuits and Instrumentation Course Paper presented at 2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Seattle, Washington. 10.18260/p.23932

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