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Flipping a Hardware Design Class: An Encouragement of Active Learning. Should it Continue?

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2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Salt Lake City, Utah

Publication Date

June 23, 2018

Start Date

June 23, 2018

End Date

July 27, 2018

Conference Session

Electrical and Computer Division Technical Session 3

Tagged Division

Electrical and Computer

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Paper Authors


Nader Rafla Boise State University

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Dr. Nader Rafla, P.E., received his MSEE and PhD. in Electrical Engineering from Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, Ohio in 1984 and 1991 respectively. His Doctoral research concentrated on object recognition and localization from multi sensor data: range image, force-torque, and touch.
From 1991 to 1996, he was an Associate Professor at the Department of Manufacturing Engineering at Central State University. Where he taught courses was involved in collaborative research with Wright-Patterson Air Force in applied image processing.
In January 1997, he joined the newly developed electrical and computer engineering program at Boise State University where he is currently is the chair and an Associate professor. He led the development and starting of the BS and MS programs. He taught several courses and supervised numerous M.S. thesis and Senior Design Project. He contributed to the start of the PhD program and is currently advising three Ph.D. students and two MS students. He also has been conducting research and consultation in R&D for Micron Technology, Hewlett Packard and others.
Dr. Rafla’s areas of expertise are: security of systems on programmable chips and embedded systems; advanced methods for improving hardware and physical network security; evolvable hardware; and evolutionary and reconfigurable computing. He is a senior member of the IEEE organization and several societies, a member of the ASEE and ACM organizations.

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H. Shelton Jacinto Boise State University

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H S. Jacinto received his BS degree in electrical and computer engineering from Boise State University, Boise, Idaho, USA, in 2017, and is currently pursuing a PhD in electrical and computer engineering from Boise State University. From 2015 to 2017 he worked with Idaho National Labs conducting research on self-powered wireless sensor networks and their security. From 2016 he now works in the High Performance Reconfigurable Systems (HiPeRS) lab on hardware security. His main research focuses on quantum network hardware cybersecurity, quantum informatics, and adaptive hardware anti-tamper and encryption technologies for use in the field of hardware security.

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In this paper, we aim to discuss the pros and cons of flipping the classroom for an entry-level graduate course on digital hardware design. This course requires students to learn the concepts and methods of design, simulation, synthesis, and verification of digital circuits through hands-on exercise and projects. In addition, the students are exposed to the usage and application of an industrial design suite to further enhance their understanding and knowledge of practical applications. Even with experience in the field of hardware design, as well as working on prepared activities, students still spend several hours outside the classroom debugging design issues while working alone on assignments and projects – without additional help from the instructor or teaching assistants. Even help through office hours and recitation sessions is not enough to fully develop design concepts. We have explored the implications of taking a previously all lecture-based classroom environment (traditional teaching) and changing to a blended learning environment, using multi-modal techniques. In this new environment, students watch and follow-along with short videos produced to provide instructional and programmed-exercises before coming into the class. The classroom environment then becomes a center for active learning through means of creative activities. Students may work in teams to further reinforce key concepts and operational ideologies. From students’ perspectives, preliminary results show that they spent less time working alone on assignments and projects due to the new combined learning environment used, pre-class preparations, and in-class activities. This environment included on-line preview of lecture notes, real interaction with instructors during class, and in-class hands-on activities. From the instructional point of view, regardless of drawbacks, this technique allowed the instructor to reinforce and delve more deeply into course content while allowing students work efficiently with new material.

Rafla, N., & Jacinto, H. S. (2018, June), Flipping a Hardware Design Class: An Encouragement of Active Learning. Should it Continue? Paper presented at 2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Salt Lake City, Utah. 10.18260/1-2--30527

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