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How Much Physics the First-year Engineering Students Really Need: A Study and Survey

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2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


San Antonio, Texas

Publication Date

June 10, 2012

Start Date

June 10, 2012

End Date

June 13, 2012



Conference Session

Innovations in Teaching and Research in Physics or Engineering Physics I

Tagged Division

Engineering Physics & Physics

Page Count


Page Numbers

25.701.1 - 25.701.10



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Paper Authors


Bala Maheswaran Northeastern University

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Bala Maheswaran, College of Engineering, Northeastern University, Boston, MA 02115.

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How much Physics the First Year Engineering Students really need: A Study and Survey AbstractFreshmen engineering courses are the eye opener for engineering students in several institutions.Exploring different ideas and new techniques are always a challenging task. Even though severalhigh schools have rigorous curricula, students' knowledge varies with the courses and the level ofthe courses they have taken. As a good example, most high schools have physics or physicsrelated courses, but their students' knowledge of electrical circuit elements such as resistors,capacitors, and inductors varies. For first year engineering students, a background in physics isan important aspect to deal with various activities and projects.Incorporating projects with Physics concepts in the freshmen engineering courses, such asdealing with circuit elements and exposing the use of those elements in real applications is oneway to build the students' confidence and background in an important subject such as physics. Atour institution, Electrical and Mechanical engineering majors take a circuit based course aftertheir freshmen year. This report analyzes and addresses the issues pertaining to concerns ofwhether freshmen engineering students can handle projects involving substantial amount ofelectrical circuit elements such as breadboard, battery, pre-bent wires, three-pronged connector,switch, LED, LCD, resistor, capacitor, seven-segment display, microcontroller, temperaturesensor, light sensor, and speaker.As part of a problem solving and programming course in the freshmen engineering programat our institution, the circuit elements based activities was introduced to demonstrate the use ofsoftware.This report will present the outcome of a survey and physics concepts, which involves dealingwith circuit elements concepts. About seventy five students participated in this study, varioustypes of questions were asked including the following two:  Rate your knowledge / background in electrical circuit Physics concepts  Do you think more background in physics would have helped you to better understand the circuit concepts?The data was analyzed using an excel spread sheet and the out outcome will be reported in thispaper.

Maheswaran, B. (2012, June), How Much Physics the First-year Engineering Students Really Need: A Study and Survey Paper presented at 2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, San Antonio, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--21458

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