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Instructing Lab Courses Virtually

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2021 ASEE Pacific Southwest Conference - "Pushing Past Pandemic Pedagogy: Learning from Disruption"



Publication Date

April 23, 2021

Start Date

April 23, 2021

End Date

April 25, 2021

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Zhen Yu California State Polytechnic University, Pomona Orcid 16x16

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Dr. Jenny Zhen Yu is an Associate Professor of Electrical & Computer Engineering, California State Polytechnic University, Pomona. She has expertise in the areas of Nanotechnology with application in nanomaterial synthesis, electronics devices fabrication and characterization, low cost and robust manufacturing processes, 3D printing of energy storage device for UAVs and water contamination treatment. Her research has resulted in several patent applications, peer-reviewed journal papers and book chapters, and has been sponsored by California State University (CSU) Agricultural Research Institute (ARI) and other industry and government grants. She is also active in her professional societies. As a Senior Member of Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE), she has served as Guest Editor and Journal/ Conference paper reviewer, Chair of the Electron Devices, Circuit and System (EDCAS) Chapter and Chair of Women in Engineering (WiE) in IEEE Foothill Section.

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Menglai Yin Cal Poly Pomona

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Meng-Lai Yin is Full Professor at the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, California State Polytechnic University, Pomona.

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Tim Lin

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2021 American Society for Engineering Education Pacific Southwest (ASEE PSW) Conference

Paper title: Instructing Lab Courses Virtually


Hands-on learning has always been essential in Cal Poly Pomona’s educational culture. Most engineering lectures are accompanied with lab courses. The 2020 COVID-19 pandemic forces almost all the labs to be taught using the virtual mode. Accessing on-campus facilities and working with classmates seems no longer possible for engineering students. Worse yet, the transition happened in such a short period of time that overwhelmed both the students and the faculty members.

The challenge is to move lab courses quickly online and still meet the learning objectives. The tasks for the faculty members teaching labs including finding the right resources, delivering simple and clear instructions, and creating labs that can be performed without a teacher being physically present. Three examples are described in this paper demonstrating our approaches and strategies in dealing with the difficulties.

The first example shows how to transit the labs using online simulation tools such as PSpice and LTSpice. This allows students to conduct the labs remotely. Online simulations provide adequate learning environments for students to explore concepts, and collect/store/transmit data. Moreover, students can verify their predictions without purchasing anything beyond access to the website. This experience shows that proper online simulations resources can provide a robust alternative to in-person labs.

The students in the other two labs were already using their own equipment prior to the pandemic lockdown. In particular, the computer network lab uses Arduino Raspberry Pi, or some other microcontrollers with radio frequency (RF) wireless capabilities. The digital circuit design lab uses Xilinx FPGA board. For these labs, conducting labs can be done individually and remotely. Labs demonstrations can be recorded and posted online through video-sharing platform such as Youtube. With the Video conference application such as Zoom, the labs instructions are conducted in real time and students adapt to the transition smoothly.

Yu, Z., & Yin, M., & Lin, T. (2021, April), Instructing Lab Courses Virtually Paper presented at 2021 ASEE Pacific Southwest Conference - "Pushing Past Pandemic Pedagogy: Learning from Disruption", Virtual.

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