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Improving Student Confidence and Retention using an Introductory Computer Engineering Course

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2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Columbus, Ohio

Publication Date

June 24, 2017

Start Date

June 24, 2017

End Date

June 28, 2017

Conference Session

Electrical and Computer Division Technical Session 11

Tagged Division

Electrical and Computer

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Paper Authors


Daniel W. Chang Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology

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Dr. Daniel W. Chang is an Assistant Professor in the department of Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) at the Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology. He is the faculty advisor for the student chapters of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineering (IEEE) and the ECE honor society Eta Kappa Nu (HKN). His interests include computer architecture, digital systems, memory systems, and engineering education.

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An introductory computer engineering course where students learn about combinational and sequential circuits is fundamental to any Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) curriculum. Many of these courses are taught using a hardware description language (HDL) such as Verilog or VHDL. However, younger students traditionally struggle with HDLs due to their abstract nature. The students are used to designing with traditional logic gates and structures, but are often confused by the software-like interface that an HDL provides. This creates a disconnection between the student's experience in the classroom where the students learn with one method (visually with gates and structures) and in labs or projects where they are asked to implement designs using text descriptors. Often times a student's frustration with HDLs leads to them being disinterested in digital systems or even computer engineering as a major. This paper will describe the transition of an introductory Computer Engineering course from primarily using Verilog for its lab assignments to instead using a combination of schematic capture (which is very similar to what they see in class) and Verilog. With this course's redesign, the author saw the student's self-reported confidence in their design skills improve by 44% (from 41% to 85%) and their interest in taking additional computer engineering courses improve by 10% (from 66% to 76%).

Chang, D. W. (2017, June), Improving Student Confidence and Retention using an Introductory Computer Engineering Course Paper presented at 2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Columbus, Ohio. 10.18260/1-2--28492

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