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How Should Electronics Technology Be Taught Today? A Fresh Look At The Top Down Approach For Associate Degree Programs

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2009 Annual Conference & Exposition


Austin, Texas

Publication Date

June 14, 2009

Start Date

June 14, 2009

End Date

June 17, 2009



Conference Session

Exploring Technological Literacy and Awareness

Tagged Division

Two Year College Division

Page Count


Page Numbers

14.674.1 - 14.674.10

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Paper Authors

author page

Louis Frenzel Electronic Design Magazine

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract



Most two year AAS degree programs in electronic programs still teach a version of electronics more in keeping with the way things used to be rather than the way things are today. A mix of faculty resistance to change, bureaucracy and politics in the college administration, lagging views of accrediting bodies, lack of lab funding, and little or no industry input has contributed to the retention of a dated curriculum skewed from real industry needs. Change is always difficult so most colleges react to change later than they should rather take a proactive approach to continuous improvement Engineering and technology colleges realize that continuing rapid changes in electronic components, technologies, methods, equipment and jobs are the norm but find it difficult to keep courses and curriculum are in step. Yet, more than ever it is essential that academia match industry and the consumer in keeping up with the technology.

One way to update and improve the technician-level electronics curriculum is to adopt a systems- oriented rather than a component/circuit analysis approach that most schools still use. Thanks to high density integrated circuits, fewer and fewer discrete component circuits are in use today yet most two-year schools continue to teach the analysis and design of discrete component circuits that few technicians actually encounter today. The modern technician works with equipment, pre-assembled PC boards, modules, subassemblies and integrated circuits that create the systems and end- products. There is less need for detailed circuit analysis and design or troubleshooting to the component level. The modern technician works more at the block diagram/signal flow level rather than the schematic level in performing his or her normal tasks of troubleshooting, maintenance, repair, service, calibration, testing and measurement to standards.

One program addressing this change opportunity is the three year NSF eSyst project1 that is studying how to implement a systems approach in electronic technology programs. In its second year, the project is proposing how course content can be revised to deliver the knowledge and skills needed by an electronic technician today.

This paper gives an example of how a pilot course in basic Solid State Circuits and Devices has been taught using a modified top down approach to increase interest and student motivation as well as an attempt to improve retention. This pilot test was initiated to assess the difficulties, problems and issues that might be encountered by other instructors attempting to adopt the systems approach being proposed. Topics such as content, sequence, instructional materials, lab exercises, and textbooks are covered.

Frenzel, L. (2009, June), How Should Electronics Technology Be Taught Today? A Fresh Look At The Top Down Approach For Associate Degree Programs Paper presented at 2009 Annual Conference & Exposition, Austin, Texas.

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