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Excel Spreadsheets To Promote Interactive Engagement In Semiconductor Device Courses

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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

NSF Grantees Poster Session

Page Count


Page Numbers

10.603.1 - 10.603.11



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Paper Authors

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Ramachandran Venkatasubramanian

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Brian Skromme

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

Session 1526

Spreadsheets to Promote Interactive Engagement in Semiconductor Device Courses R. Venkatasubramanian and B. J. Skromme*

Department of Electrical Engineering, Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ 85287-5706


The development and initial implementation of a prototype “virtual laboratory” based on Microsoft Excel spreadsheets with associated Visual Basic for Applications modules is described for use in semiconductor device courses for engineering undergraduates. The spreadsheets use graphical methods to illustrate quantities such as charge densities, electric field profiles, electrostatic potentials, energy band diagrams, carrier concentrations, current density plots, and related quantities for various semiconductor devices, including pn junctions, bipolar junction transistors, MOS capacitors (including both electrostatics and capacitance-voltage characteristics), MOSFETs, and also for semiconductor statistics. The students can use scrollbars and other ActiveX controls interactively to adjust device parameters such as doping levels, applied bias voltages, layer widths, and temperature, and immediately visualize the effects of those changes on the device behavior. Interactive exercises using these spreadsheets have also been developed. The initial use and assessment of these tools using student examination and homework scores, student teaching evaluations, focus groups, and a special web-based Device Concept Inventory developed in this project are described.


Traditional passive, lecture-based instruction in semiconductor device theory, even when it is of excellent quality, has only limited success in promoting conceptual understanding and student achievement. The importance of interactive engagement in technical courses has been well documented in the literature.1-3 Yet there is a critical national need for engineers who are well trained in device theory to support the semiconductor industry, which has become the largest manufacturing industry in the United States. The inherently difficult nature of the subject matter, which places exceptional demands on students’ skills with elementary mathematics, calculus, and differential equations, and on their background in electrostatics, statistical mechanics, and quantum mechanics, contributes to the lack of success.4 A particular problem is the lack of student intuition in this area, because students are unable to see, hear, feel, or touch electrons and holes, energy band diagrams, electrostatic field or potential distributions, and other facets of semiconductor devices. Laboratory experiments can familiarize students with some basic semiconductor properties, and with terminal characteristics of devices, but it is virtually impossible to construct ones that allow students to observe the internal operation of a device directly. There is an urgent need for a “virtual laboratory” based on simulation, in which students can easily visualize and interact with these quantities, and learn by experience how they

*Contact author. e-mail address: Proceedings of the 2005 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright © 2005, American Society for Engineering Education

Venkatasubramanian, R., & Skromme, B. (2005, June), Excel Spreadsheets To Promote Interactive Engagement In Semiconductor Device Courses Paper presented at 2005 Annual Conference, Portland, Oregon. 10.18260/1-2--15357

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