June 24, 2017
June 24, 2017
June 28, 2017
Electrical and Computer
Many students do not consider an undergraduate degree in engineering because they don’t know what engineers do, they have little knowledge about engineering coursework, or they don’t believe they have the requisite skills to pursue this pathway. In electrical and computer engineering programs, this is especially true for female students and students from historically under-represented groups. An outreach program at our university encourages the development of hands-on science activities for area high school students from these groups as a way to increase their participation in STEM education. We describe an activity conducted by the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering. The goals are to expose participants to the field of ECE, have them complete an activity similar to a sophomore-level digital circuits laboratory, and use that success to demonstrate that they possess the skills necessary to pursue an engineering degree.
The activity begins with a brief introduction to fundamental concepts in digital circuits (voltage, current, binary representations), after which the participants use an oscilloscope to measure the calibration waveform, and consider it as a model for a computer clock signal. The majority of the time is spent constructing and troubleshooting a simple model for a traffic light controller, consisting of a 1 Hz oscillator, a two-bit counter, and a binary decoder to produce a four-state machine. Red, yellow and green LEDs are connected to appropriate outputs so that the LEDs flash in the sequence produced by a two-way traffic signal. This project provides a way to connect the abstract ideas of digital circuits and multi-state systems with an example from everyday life.
This project has been conducted on an annual basis for over ten years. Key to the success of this activity is the support provided by faculty and students in the ECE department. Undergraduate and graduate students assist in construction and troubleshooting of the circuits, with at least one ECE student for each two participants. The participants benefit from the exposure to the technical content as well as the social interaction with the ECE students. The ECE students also benefit, reinforcing their own mastery of circuit construction and testing by explaining it to others. Participants complete surveys indicating what they learned from and enjoyed about the program, and responses support that this exercise is both interesting and useful, with over 80% reporting that they learned a lot and recommending that it be continued.
We prefer a regular session presentation.
Jacobs, S. P., & Allen, A. M., & Demoise, L. W. (2017, June), Hands-On Science Activity in Digital Circuits for High School Students Paper presented at 2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Columbus, Ohio. 10.18260/1-2--28429
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