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Lab-in-a-Box: Online Instruction and Multimedia Materials to Support Independent Experimentation on Concepts from Circuits

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2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Vancouver, BC

Publication Date

June 26, 2011

Start Date

June 26, 2011

End Date

June 29, 2011



Conference Session

NSF Grantees Poster Session

Tagged Topic

NSF Grantees

Page Count


Page Numbers

22.994.1 - 22.994.10



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Paper Authors


Kathleen Meehan Virginia Tech

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Kathleen Meehan is an Associate Professor in the Bradley Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Virginia Tech. Prior to joining Virginia Tech, she worked at the University of Denver and West Virginia University and worked twelve years in industry. Her research interests are in optoelectronic materials and devices and high heat load packaging as well as in Electrical Engineering pedagogy.

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Robert W. Hendricks Virginia Tech

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Dr. Hendricks is a member of the ASEE and is Professor and Associate Head of the Materials Science and Engineering Department.

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Cortney V. Martin Virginia Tech


Peter Doolittle Virginia Tech

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Director for the Center for Instructional Development and Educational Research, and Associate Professor of Educational Psychology at Virginia Tech.

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Justeen Olinger Virginia Tech

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Student Assistant with the NSF-CCLI Grant at Virginia Tech.

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Lab-in-a-Box: Development of Materials to Support Independent Experimentation on Concepts from CircuitsA project known as Lab-in-a-Box (LiaB) was developed in 2004 as one of the outcomes of adepartment-level reform within the Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) Department,addressing a need that was identified through student and employer surveys for concreteexamples of fundamental concepts in electrical engineering. LiaB is a set of ‘hands-on’ exercisesin which students design, build, and test various d.c. and a.c. circuits using an inexpensiveelectronics kit, digital multimeter, and a software oscilloscope. The experiments can be doneanywhere and require significantly fewer resources than a traditional electronics lab. LiaB hasreceived overwhelmingly positive comments from the students as well as from faculty memberswho have used the kits for projects in upper division courses at a four-year college as well asthree community colleges, which were formerly lecture-only courses.A number of the major tasks in the National Science Foundation Course, Curriculum, andLaboratory Improvement Phase II grant, awarded in 2008, have been accomplished. Theseinclude the publication of the 3rd edition of the laboratory manual in 2009, the development ofon-line multimedia learning materials to support student experimentation outside of theclassroom, vodcasts on measurement techniques used in individual experiments linked directly tothe lab report template, and the development of on-line classes for two circuits laboratorycourses. The first is a d.c. circuits course is designed for off-campus students and the second is asupplement to increase independent learning by students in the a.c. circuits course. Theassessment of the learning materials and evaluation of the project has been initiated.In addition to these activities, the authors have also been engaged in an expansion of thepedagogical approach into the circuits and electronics courses taught to mechanical engineeringundergraduate students. A hands-on laboratory component that utilizes the electronic breadboardas a miniature optical table will be introduced into the ECE electromagnetic courses in the near-future. The 4th edition of the lab manual is expected to be published in 2011. The latest editionwill incorporate a number of new design lab exercises that have been developed during the NSFCCLI project by our ECE undergraduate students. A laboratory manual for the ECE coursestaught to the mechanical engineering students is also expected to be published in 2011. Weexpect to offer a hands-on tutorial on the LiaB experiments and the learning materials toengineering faculty at XX Community College System’s New Horizons Conference in Spring2011 to initiate the transfer of the pedagogical approach and learning materials to support theinstruction at these institutions and to receive feedback and suggestions. A similar workshopwas held the XX Conference on Higher Education Pedagogy on Feb. 19, 2010, which was wellreceived.An explanation of our pedagogical approach to the development of the on-line courses and theassociated learning materials, a review of the initial evaluation and assessment results, and adiscussion about the methods we have employed to disseminate the results of this project withinour institutions and to the other community colleges within the state will be presented.

Meehan, K., & Hendricks, R. W., & Martin, C. V., & Doolittle, P., & Olinger, J. (2011, June), Lab-in-a-Box: Online Instruction and Multimedia Materials to Support Independent Experimentation on Concepts from Circuits Paper presented at 2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Vancouver, BC. 10.18260/1-2--18242

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