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Introduction of a Digital Logic Project in a First-Year Honors Engineering Course

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2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Atlanta, Georgia

Publication Date

June 23, 2013

Start Date

June 23, 2013

End Date

June 26, 2013



Conference Session

FPD 1: Projects and Teamwork in First-Year Courses

Tagged Division

First-Year Programs

Page Count


Page Numbers

23.824.1 - 23.824.21



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Paper Authors


Diana G. de la Rosa-Pohl University of Houston (CoE)

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Diana de la Rosa-Pohl is an instructor in the Cullen College of Engineering at the University of Houston. She developed the first-year experience for the Honors Engineering Program and also teaches the two-course sequence. Her research interests include project-based learning in engineering education and the alignment of engineering education with professional practice.

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Stuart A. Long University of Houston (CoE)

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Stuart A. Long was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on March 6, 1945 and completed his secondary education in Snyder, Texas. He was granted the B.A. (magna cum laude) and M.E.E. degrees in Electrical Engineering from Rice University, Houston, Texas, in 1967 and 1968, respectively, and the Ph.D. degree in Applied Physics from Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts, in 1974.
He was employed as an Aerosystems Engineer in the antenna design group of General Dynamics, Ft. Worth, Texas, from 1968 to 1969. From 1970 to 1974 he was a Teaching Fellow and Research Assistant in applied mathematics and applied physics at Harvard University. He was also a Research Assistant at Los Alamos Scientific Laboratories, Los Alamos, New Mexico, for the summers of 1970 and 1971. In 1974 he joined the faculty at the University of Houston, and served as Chairman of the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering from 1984 to 1995 and from 1998 to 1999 and as Associate Dean of the College of Engineering from 1995 to 1998, and again from 2000 to 2008. He was Interim Dean of the Honors College in 2008-09. He also serves as Associate Dean of Undergraduate Research and the Honors College, and in this role oversees the undergraduate research programs for the entire campus. He is a Professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering and a registered Professional Engineer. In 2010-2011 he served as Interim Vice Chancellor/Vice President for Research and Technology Transfer.
His research interests are in the broad area of applied electromagnetics and more specifically in microstrip and dielectric resonator antennas. His most recent work has been focused on broadband dielectric resonator antennas and on the use of existing structures to serve as radiators for wireless communications systems.
Over the past several years Dr. Long has also begun a program designed to increase the number of graduates in engineering. Among these are GRADE Camps which bring high school girls to campus during the summer, the RET program which allows high school teachers to be involved in research, the REU program which involves undergraduates in research activities, the WIE-UH program which forms a community for female engineering students, and Redshirt Camps that aid in the retention of currently enrolled students. These programs are sponsored by NSF and the State of Texas.

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Casey Goodwin University of Houston Honors Engineering Program

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Casey Goodwin is a senior mechanical engineering student at the University of Houston, graduating in May 2013. She is performing undergraduate research with Dr. de la Rosa-Pohl in the area of engineering education.

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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. 10.18260/1-2--19838

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