Asee peer logo

Exploiting a Disruptive Technology to Actively Engage Students in the Learning Process

Download Paper |

Conference

2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition

Location

Atlanta, Georgia

Publication Date

June 23, 2013

Start Date

June 23, 2013

End Date

June 26, 2013

ISSN

2153-5965

Conference Session

Laboratory Development in ECE I

Tagged Division

Electrical and Computer

Page Count

16

Page Numbers

23.576.1 - 23.576.16

Permanent URL

https://peer.asee.org/19590

Download Count

39

Request a correction

Paper Authors

biography

John M Robertson Arizona State University, Polytechnic campus

visit author page

John Robertson, PhD, is a Professor in the Engineering Department at Arizona State University Polytechnic where he specializes in instrumentation and semiconductor technology. His research interests include process control and its application to educational development. He was formerly an executive with Motorola and now participates in many senior technical training programs with local companies.

visit author page

biography

Kathleen Meehan Virginia Tech

visit author page

Kathleen Meehan is presently an Associate Professor in the Bradley Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Virginia Tech. Her previous academic positions were at at the University of Denver and West Virginia University. Prior to moving in academia, she was employed at Lytel, Inc., Polaroid Corporation, and Biocontrol Technology. She received her B.S.E.E. from Manhattan College and her M.S. and Ph.D. from the University of Illinois - Urbana/Champaign under the direction of Prof. Nick Holonyak, Jr. Her areas of research include design of optoelectronic materials, devices, and systems; optical spectroscopy; high heat load packaging; and electrical engineering pedagogy.

visit author page

biography

Robert John Bowman Rochester Institute of Technology (COE)

visit author page

Robert J. Bowman has held faculty positions at the University of Utah, the University of Vermont, the University of Rochester, and Rochester Institute of Technology and has consulted or has held engineering positions with a number of companies. He was Director of Analog and Mixed-Signal Engineering at LSI Logic until 2001 and then became Department Head of Electrical Engineering at RIT. Dr. Bowman is now Professor of Electrical Engineering and Lab Director of the RIT Analog Devices Integrated Microsystems Laboratory. His areas of interest include analog integrated circuit design and technology, semiconductor device physics, and integrated transducers. His current research work is concentrated on smart MEMs sensors, miniature near-field antennas, thin film acoustic cavity resonators, and devices and circuits fabricated in thin film, crystalline silicon on glass.

visit author page

biography

Kenneth A Connor Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

visit author page

Kenneth Connor is a professor in the Department of Electrical, Computer, and Systems Engineering, where he teaches courses on plasma physics, electromagnetics, electronics and instrumentation, electric power, and general engineering. His research involves plasma physics, electromagnetics, photonics, engineering education, diversity in the engineering workforce, and technology enhanced learning. Since joining the Rensselaer faculty in 1974, he has been continuously involved in research programs at such places as Oak Ridge National Laboratory and the Universities of Texas and Wisconsin in the U.S., Kyoto and Nagoya Universities in Japan, the Ioffe Institute in Russia, and Kharkov Institute of Physics and Technology in Ukraine. He was ECSE Department Head from 2001-2008 and served on the board of the ECE Department Heads Association from 2003-2008. He is presently the Education Director for the SMART LIGHTING NSF ERC.

visit author page

biography

Douglas A Mercer Analog Devices Inc.

visit author page

Doug Mercer received the B.S.E.E degree from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, in 1977. He has 35 years experience in the linear IC industry in the design and development of high resolution and high speed data converter products. Since joining Analog Devices in 1977 he has contributed directly or indirectly to more than 30 commercial products. He holds 13 patents.
He was a full time Analog Devices employee until 2009, the last 14 years as an ADI Fellow, the highest level of technical contributor at ADI.
Since 2009 he has transitioned to the role of Consulting Fellow at ADI working part time, most recently in the area of undergraduate EE education outreach and development, principally as ADI’s point of contact with Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.

visit author page

Download Paper |

Abstract

Exploiting a Disruptive Technology to Actively Engage Students in the Learning ProcessAs graduates of ECE programs continue to produce ever more powerful technology at ever lowerprices, a few of the remarkable products they create have the potential to totally change the waywe deliver education to the bright young people who wish to follow in their footsteps. Thecapabilities of electronics powered and controlled by PCs through their USB ports are now suchthat it is possible to provide our students with a very low cost, fully portable electronicslaboratory that they can use in both formal and informal educational settings, anywhere andanytime. These mobile, hands-on learning tools are the latest example of the kind of disruptiveengineering educational technology that appears once every decade or so. Examples from thepast include calculators (late 1960s), Spice 1 (1973), PCs (1980s), and microcontrollers (mid-1990s). The adoption of each of these technologies has had profound impacts on instruction inengineering, although most have taken years to be incorporated universally in ECE curricula.While there are always enthusiastic early adopters, general use has been slow to establish due tofaculty reluctance, little institutional support and few substantive incentives. In addition, therehave been many new ideas and tools that never worked out. In academia, we therefore face achallenge to recognize winning technology early so that when it does take off commercially, weare not left behind with obsolete curricula and the justifiable industry criticism that follows.Inexpensive USB-powered electronic instrumentation offers an easier path to adoption and thus,educators are already proactively using these tools to dramatically transform engineeringeducation. The availability of electronic instrumentation that is cheaper than a textbook iscoupled with (a) inquiry-based learning in primary and secondary education, (b) rapid growth ofonline education, (c) development of world-wide user communities in academia and industry andof high-tech hobbyists. In one stroke, the availability of USB-powered instruments has redefinedthe concept of student-centric hands-on learning. Students can now own their personal laboratorystations; they are no longer bound by the constraints of fixed space, equipment and schedules toconduct experiments. Faculty members also have much greater flexibility to map out the desiredpractical experience they wish to provide their students.The paper outlines the experience of four universities with support of two companies to exploitthis technology in ECE curricula and electronics-rich courses from other programs. Assessmentof hands-on pedagogy shows that the approach has very positive impact on the depth ofunderstanding of complex concepts. Student surveys indicate strong and sustained interest inmaterial learned experimentally. Effects are particularly profound in the early years of auniversity program and for underrepresented and minority students or those who have had afractured educational experience. In addition to its impact on student learning in ECE, hands-onlearning has been applied to the instruction of non-ECE students to address the strategicchallenges of STEM recruitment, retention in engineering disciplines and building awareness oftechnology in the general population.

Robertson, J. M., & Meehan, K., & Bowman, R. J., & Connor, K. A., & Mercer, D. A. (2013, June), Exploiting a Disruptive Technology to Actively Engage Students in the Learning Process Paper presented at 2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Atlanta, Georgia. https://peer.asee.org/19590

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2013 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015