New Orleans, Louisiana
June 26, 2016
June 26, 2016
August 28, 2016
Division Experimentation & Lab-Oriented Studies
The breadth of topic material in all branches of engineering is expanding at a rapid pace, none more so than in electrical and computer engineering. For example, molecular electronics barely existed as a topic even ten years ago, and the proliferation of high-speed wireless networking has been rapidly accelerating. While understanding Kirchhoff's laws is still necessary, it is equally imperative to give students a sense of breadth. As electrical engineering design moves to a more systems-level approach, it is still necessary for students to assess the performance of the individual devices that comprise the system and how they interact. Equally important is the necessity of being able to work with actual devices in a hands-on sense. When we expose students to component models without giving them an experiential context for their application, we run the risk that they will never develop a sense of what happens when the model limits are exceeded, and the implications that might have on an overall systems level design. Also, we run the risk of overwhelming them with theory and having them lose interest altogether. We are addressing these issues with a new course sequence for electrical and computer engineers, the Fundamentals of Electrical Engineering Series, a 3-course sequence. These courses replace our prior sequence of courses for 2nd and 3rd-year students: Circuit, Electronics, and Signals and Systems. Each of these new courses takes a breadth-first approach to electrical engineering topics and is taught studio style, with the laboratory component being tightly interlocked with the formal lecture material. We have previously reported on our work in the Fundamentals 1 and Fundamentals 2 courses and have now offered both several times. We are also through the first iteration of Fundamentals 3. In this paper, we present our findings on how the overall sequence intertwines, and what modifications to the earlier courses in the sequence were made as a result of our later experiences. We also go into detail on how our overall methodology has resulted in pedagogical approaches that encourage broad system level understanding through planned sequences of experimental modules and projects. For example in Fundamentals 3, the modules include sequences of experiments that address understanding of subsystems, i.e. active filters, with the expectation that these subsystems will be assembled into a complete design for a major project. We also move from the continuous time transforms and analysis techniques of Fundamentals 2 to their discrete-time counterparts. Each module is separately studied, and the limits of performance are exposed while making students broadly aware of how each one fits into the larger picture of the overall project. The culmination of the study of the individual subsystems is a complete project that incorporates each of the prior elements. For Fundamentals 3, this is a digital EKG monitor in which students specify performance goals, develop the analog subsystem including a printed circuit, and interface it with an industry-standard digital signal-processing platform.
Powell, H. C., & Brandt-Pearce, M., & Williams, R. D., & Weikle, R. M., & Harriott, L. R. (2016, June), Incorporating Studio Techniques with a Breadth-First Approach in Electrical and Computer Engineering Education Paper presented at 2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, New Orleans, Louisiana. 10.18260/p.25661
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