June 23, 2013
June 23, 2013
June 26, 2013
23.824.1 - 23.824.21
Introduction of a Digital Logic Project in a First-Year Honors Engineering CourseThe purpose of this study was to determine the feasibility and effectiveness of introducing digitallogic theory in an honors first-year engineering course. Traditionally, digital logic theory is notcovered at all in non-electrical engineering programs and not introduced until the third year ofelectrical engineering programs. The authors wished to determine whether a digital logic projectcould be used as a motivational and educational activity much earlier in the engineeringcurriculum.Project-based learning has already been shown to be an effective method of engaging studentswith their coursework. At ___ a first-year experience of hands-on and project-based learning hasbeen developed to help motivate and retain honors students of all engineering disciplines. Initialsuccess with the program led the authors to propose moving more advanced topics into thecurriculum to help support the students in later classes, following the assumption that freshman-level students were more capable of comprehending advanced engineering concepts than waspreviously thought by college faculty.The first author developed a digital logic project that emphasized design and problem-solvingtechniques. Digital logic was chosen because even the advanced theory does not require studentsto have a high level of mathematics knowledge, specifically calculus). By using the context ofdigital electronics, the authors hoped to show that freshman students could work on a fairlysophisticated design project and still be able to master the material.The participants in this study were first-year engineering students from various disciplines.These students were enrolled in a second-semester freshman course in the spring of 2012.Students were paired into groups of two and instructed to design and build an arithmetic logicunit (ALU) that could successfully perform addition, subtraction, multiplication and divisionusing discrete digital logic components (and, or, and inverter gates). The measure of studentsuccess was determined by project completion as well as student achievement in a subject matterexam.The results of this study indicated that the freshman level honors engineering students weresuccessfully able to master the digital logic concepts they were presented with. Not only did allgroups finish the required portion of the ALU project, but scores on the post-project exams werealso high. These data suggest that it is appropriate to introduce digital logic concepts earlier inthe electrical and general engineering curricula, and that these types of projects can be used toengage and motivate freshman engineering students.This research challenges the convention of delaying the teaching and practice of applied skillsuntil after students have completed their first year of engineering studies. It also suggests that itmay be possible to redesign portions of the engineering curriculum in order to engage andchallenge students more in their first year of study, potentially increasing their motivation topersist and complete their engineering degree.
de la Rosa-Pohl, D. G., & Long, S. A., & Goodwin, C. (2013, June), Introduction of a Digital Logic Project in a First-Year Honors Engineering Course Paper presented at 2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Atlanta, Georgia. https://peer.asee.org/19838
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