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Flattening The Learning Curve For Orcad Cadence Pspice

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2002 Annual Conference


Montreal, Canada

Publication Date

June 16, 2002

Start Date

June 16, 2002

End Date

June 19, 2002



Conference Session

Computers in Education Poster Session

Page Count


Page Numbers

7.564.1 - 7.564.14



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Paper Authors

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Kenneth Soda

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Session 1520

Flattening the Learning Curve for OrCAD-Cadence PSPICE

Kenneth J. Soda Department of Electrical Engineering U.S. Air Force Academy

Abstract: The circuit simulation program PSPICE, and its companion schematic capture tool Capture, find widespread use in contemporary Electrical Engineering curricula. This software suite, offered by Cadence PCB Systems Division, can be a powerful instructional asset as well as an important tool for student design. PSPICE also finds consistent application in industry, further motivating use in academia. In recent years however, the investment required to train students to apply this software has become ever more burdensome. Most especially in lower division courses, the unavoidable software training often confuses students and diverts attention away from the very principles the simulator is intended to illustrate. In order to “flatten the learning curve”, we have developed and implemented several techniques to simply student application of Capture and PSPICE, particularly in introductory digital, signals and circuits courses. We apply a building block approach across our curriculum, incrementally applying specially prepared software templates and custom instructional materials. Our “just in time” approach minimizes frustration and builds skill while continuing to support our course and institutional objectives. This paper details our instructional approach, illustrates our use of templates, and describes our supplemental materials. Internet links to our important software templates are also provided.


The USAF Academy’s Department of Electrical Engineering is fully committed to the integration of contemporary design tools in its course of instruction. Indeed, one of our institutional objectives is to ensure our graduates possess competence in the use of these tools. As in many other undergraduate programs in our discipline, computer aided circuit analysis software has become an all but essential design tool. Not only does this software support instruction and validate student designs, it also realistically prepares our students for the environment in which they will find themselves after graduation. The difficulty with computer based CAD tools is their very finite potential to confuse, frustrate, even bewilder students. Modern CAD tools possess so many features and controls that the novice operator can be easily overwhelmed. Without careful instruction, the very principles we hope to illustrate become buried behind a host of radio buttons, icons and full down menus. After some years of development, our department has developed a carefully tiered process though which Cadence PSPICE1 circuit simulation is introduced and applied across our curriculum. We find this process significantly “flattens the learning curve” and permits our students to develop

1 OrCAD Family Release 9.2, Cadence Design Systems, Copyright 1986-1999, San Jose, CA.

Proceedings of the 2002 American Society of Engineering Education Annual Conference &Exposition Copyright ã 2002, American Society of Engineering Education

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Soda, K. (2002, June), Flattening The Learning Curve For Orcad Cadence Pspice Paper presented at 2002 Annual Conference, Montreal, Canada. 10.18260/1-2--10575

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