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Improving a Flipped Electromechanical Energy Conversion Course

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2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


New Orleans, Louisiana

Publication Date

June 26, 2016

Start Date

June 26, 2016

End Date

August 28, 2016





Conference Session

Automation, Instrumentation, and Computer Simulations

Tagged Division

Energy Conversion and Conservation

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Paper Authors


Thomas E. McDermott University of Pittsburgh

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Thomas E. McDermott is an Assistant Professor at the University of Pittsburgh, with over 30 years of industrial experience in consulting and software development. His research interests include electric power distribution systems, renewable energy, power electronics, electromagnetics, and circuit simulation. Tom is a registered professional engineer in Pennsylvania and an IEEE Fellow. He has a B. S. and M. Eng. in Electric Power from Rensselaer, and a Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering from Virginia Tech.

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Renee M. Clark University of Pittsburgh

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Dr. Renee Clark has 23 years of experience as an engineer and analyst. She currently serves as the Director of Assessment for the University of Pittsburgh’s Swanson School of Engineering and its Engineering Education Research Center (EERC), where her research focuses on assessment and evaluation of engineering education research projects and initiatives. She has most recently worked for Walgreens as a Sr. Data Analyst and General Motors/Delphi Automotive as a Sr. Applications Programmer and Manufacturing Quality Engineer. She received her PhD in Industrial Engineering from the University of Pittsburgh and her MS in Mechanical Engineering from Case Western while working for Delphi. She completed her postdoctoral studies in engineering education at the University of Pittsburgh. Dr. Clark has published articles in the Journal of Engineering Education, Advances in Engineering Education, and Risk Analysis.

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Our University’s Electrical and Computer Engineering Department has offered an elective course in Electric Machinery for decades. With increasing focus on renewable energy and power electronics in the curriculum, we felt the need to modernize this course so that it provides a better learning experience and appeals to more students. Over a period of two terms, we updated the hardware lab equipment, designed new hardware lab experiments, added new computer modeling experiments, and added power electronics content. This produced excellent student evaluations and good learning outcomes in fall 2013. In fall 2014 we “flipped” the course, with mixed results. Instructor-student interaction did increase, but there was no significant improvement in exam or lab outcomes, and the student evaluations decreased significantly from the non-flipped version in fall 2013. Some students preferred the flipped format, but they were outnumbered by those who did not. We seemed to fix something that wasn’t broken.

This paper will focus on continuing course format changes to improve both outcomes and student evaluations. Only the successful flipped classroom elements have been retained for fall 2015. In the spring 2015 term, 134 video screencast example problems were added to the instructor’s teaching of Linear Circuits & Systems 2. The addition of optional video content yielded significant improvements in both outcomes and evaluations, compared to the instructor’s previous teaching of Linear Circuits & Systems 1. This suggested use of video content to supplement, but not replace, in-person teaching of new material, as in a blended classroom.

Therefore, in the fall 2015 term, Electric Machinery was offered with supplemental video content. The course schedule also changed. The class now meets for two 75-minute lecture periods and one two-hour lab period per week, versus the one-evening-per-week class session in the past. The instructor also incorporated two items from the ASEE National Effective Teaching Institute (NETI-1) summer 2015 offering. The first new element is detailed learning objectives, which are presented as study guides, amounting to six full pages of objectives for the course. The second new element is a “scaffolded” handout for each class, requiring students to actively complete content and take notes. In addition, the instructor has added animations using the ANSYS Maxwell software that serve as demonstrations for students during the software labs. Students also complete short online quizzes before class to promote preparation. Thus, our fall 2015 class has assumed a blended classroom format, in which face-to-face and technology-enhanced instruction are used together.

We are continuing to evaluate this classroom for the degree of active learning, problem solving, student collaboration, and instructor-to-student interaction using a structured behavioral observation protocol known as the Teaching Dimensions Observation Protocol (TDOP). We will compare our observational results between fall 2014 and fall 2015 to formally assess differences in classroom practices. Impacts on student final exam performance and student evaluations will also be discussed.

McDermott, T. E., & Clark, R. M. (2016, June), Improving a Flipped Electromechanical Energy Conversion Course Paper presented at 2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, New Orleans, Louisiana. 10.18260/p.25610

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