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Facilitating Student Learning with Hands-On Projects in an Electronics Course in a General Engineering Curriculum

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2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


New Orleans, Louisiana

Publication Date

June 26, 2016

Start Date

June 26, 2016

End Date

August 28, 2016





Conference Session

Division Experimentation & Lab-Oriented Studies: Electrical and Control Engineering

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Division Experimentation & Lab-Oriented Studies

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Paper Authors


Jason Yao East Carolina University Orcid 16x16

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Dr. Jianchu (Jason) Yao is an Associate Professor with the Department of Engineering at East Carolina University (ECU), Greenville, North Carolina, USA. He received a B.S. and M.S. degrees in electrical engineering from Shaanxi University of Science and Technology, China, in 1992 and 1995, respectively, and the Ph. D. degree in electrical engineering from Kansas State University in 2005. He served as a controls engineer in China from 1995 to 2000. His current research interests include wearable medical devices, telehealthcare, bioinstrumentation, biosignal processing, and control systems. His educational research interests are laboratory/project-driven learning and integration of research into undergraduate education. Dr. Yao is a member of the American Society of Engineering Education and a senior member of Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE).

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Brent Walter Reed

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In our general engineering program, an electrical concentration Electronics course does not have dedicated laboratory components. In the past years, pSPICE simulation projects were utilized to reinforce electronic circuit (mostly transistor-based) analysis and design. These software-based hands-off projects were not received well by the students due to technical difficulties associated with the software and the lack of physically tangible excitement.

Two hands-on projects, one consisting of a light-controlled LED and the other involving two alternatively fading LEDs, were recently introduced to the course. On the first day of the class, both projects were demonstrated to the students to stimulate their interests. Early in the semester, the students were asked to build the circuit in the first project and show its function. Later in the semester, as bipolar junction transistors (BJTs) were introduced, the alternatively fading LED project was assigned. The students were asked to build and troubleshoot the circuit to make it work and write a comprehensive report describing various parts of the circuit, which includes a triangle waveform generator, the DC biasing and AC changing of two complementary driving circuits that further consist of current sources and NPN and PNP BJT drivers. Based-upon the hands-on experience, the students were challenged to design circuits to meet different load needs and alternating frequencies.

Many evidences from the semester have clearly shown that these hands-on projects successfully served as a vehicle to motivate student interests, facilitate classroom interaction, and improve learning outcomes. This paper presents the learning theory that supports hands-on experience, the basic structure of the course, the implantation and logistics of the projects, and assessment applied to evaluate outcomes as a result of this hands-on addition.

Yao, J., & Reed, B. W. (2016, June), Facilitating Student Learning with Hands-On Projects in an Electronics Course in a General Engineering Curriculum Paper presented at 2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, New Orleans, Louisiana. 10.18260/p.26881

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