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Instructional Demos, In-Class Projects, and Hands-On Homework: Active Learning for Electrical Engineering using the Analog Discovery

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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

Labs & Hands-on Instruction II

Tagged Division

Electrical and Computer

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Paper Authors


Gregory J. Mazzaro The Citadel

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Dr. Mazzaro earned a Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering from Boston University in 2004, a Master of Science from the State University of New York at Binghamton in 2006, and a Ph.D. from North Carolina State University in 2009. From 2009 to 2013, he worked as an Electronics Engineer for the United States Army Research Laboratory in Adelphi, Maryland. Dr. Mazzaro's research focuses on studying the unintended behaviors of RF electronics illuminated by electromagnetic waves and on developing nonlinear radar for the remote detection and characterization of those electronics. Dr. Mazzaro joined The Citadel in Charleston, South Carolina as an Assistant Professor of Electrical Engineering in the Fall of 2013. He is currently an instructor for Electric Circuit Analysis, Electronics Laboratory, Electromagnetic Fields, Antennas & Propagation, and Interference Control in Electronics.

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Ronald J. Hayne The Citadel

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Ronald J. Hayne is an Associate Professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at The Citadel. He received his B.S. in Computer Science from the United States Military Academy, his M.S. in Electrical Engineering from the University of Arizona, and his Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering from the University of Virginia. Dr. Hayne's professional areas of interest include digital systems design and hardware description languages. He is a retired Army Colonel with experience in academics and Defense laboratories.

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Electrical engineering (EE) students are typically introduced to their major without much hands-on exposure. To engage students with active learning in their early EE courses, a design tool was selected whose operation requires minimal electrical knowledge and whose cost is not prohibitive: the Analog Discovery by Digilent. This tool enables each student to learn, construct, and measure electronic circuits beyond the traditional classroom and laboratory environments. To integrate use of this portable instrument across the EE curriculum, the authors of this work have crafted several projects to supplement traditional courses.

Starting freshman year, each student purchases an Analog Discovery unit and the instructor supplies components and breadboards. During in-class exercises, students build and measure simple analog and digital circuits, providing hands-on reinforcement of theoretical concepts. In the sophomore year, each student also purchases a multimeter and is issued an electronic parts kit. During the Circuit Analysis course, each homework is supplemented with a hands-on exercise. The student first performs a written analysis, then constructs the circuit and takes measurements with the Analog Discovery instrument to confirm their theoretical results.

Integration of such an instrument into undergraduate courses helps to align the electrical engineering curriculum with outcomes specified by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. Students’ scores on in-class projects and homework indicate proficiency with breadboarding, waveform generation, and instrumentation, well before they take their first formal electrical laboratory course. Also, end-of-course feedback from students indicates that they appreciate hands-on learning and see a direct link between classroom theory and practical implementation.

Mazzaro, G. J., & Hayne, R. J. (2016, June), Instructional Demos, In-Class Projects, and Hands-On Homework: Active Learning for Electrical Engineering using the Analog Discovery Paper presented at 2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, New Orleans, Louisiana. 10.18260/p.25744

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