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Laboratory From The First Day: An Efficient Method To Convey Electrical Concepts To Engineering Students

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2006 Annual Conference & Exposition


Chicago, Illinois

Publication Date

June 18, 2006

Start Date

June 18, 2006

End Date

June 21, 2006



Conference Session

Unique Laboratory Experiments and Programs

Tagged Division

Division Experimentation & Lab-Oriented Studies

Page Count


Page Numbers

11.861.1 - 11.861.8



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Paper Authors


Jason Yao East Carolina University Orcid 16x16

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Jianchu Yao received his Ph.D. degree in electrical engineering from Kansas State University in 2005. Dr. Yao joined East Carolina University as an Assistant Professor in August, 2005. Prior to this appointment, he served as a Research Engineer in China from 1995 to 2001. His research interests include wearable medical devices, telehealthcare, bioinstrumentation, control systems, and biosignal processing. Dr. Yao is a member of the American Society of Engineering Education.

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Philip Lunsford East Carolina University

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Phil Lunsford received a B.S. in Electrical Engineering and a M.S. in Electrical Engineering from Georgia Institute of Technology and a Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering from North Carolina State University. He is a registered professional engineer and is currently an Assistant Professor at East Carolina University. His research interests include system simulation and information assurance.

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Laboratory from the First Day: an Efficient Method to Convey Electrical Concepts to Engineering Students


In a traditional engineering course, laboratory exercises are presented to students as a validation and reinforcement of the theory covered in the classroom. This paper proposes a change in this paradigm, engaging students first with experiments and then challenging them to explain the results. Subsequent class discussion of the underlying theory helps students complete the analysis of the measurements taken. This approach is being used in a general engineering curriculum to cover outcomes included in the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) exam.

Two examples are presented to illustrate this educational approach. The first experiment uses the dissectible motor kit sold by Hampden Engineering. Students first examine the different parts of a direct current electric motor, assemble and run the motor, and then take measurements. The second example uses LabVIEW graphical programming tools to build a virtual lab which can help students understand binary numbers and arithmetic and other digital logic concepts.

The approach has several advantages. The first is being able to engage the students. Incorporating algebra-based laboratory exercises in the freshman year helps to motivate the students with hands-on experiences. Also, the students gain a higher sense of accomplishment when they are first faced with a problem that they cannot solve, and then later are able to understand the concepts needed to analyze the problems. Lastly, the students are challenged, keeping their interest and promoting excitement for the course.


The new general engineering program at East Carolina University requires interdisciplinary integration of electrical, mechanical, and systems topics. This integration demands creative pedagogy to ensure coverage of necessary content within limited time. With a brief introduction of the features of the newly-built program, this paper describes methodology required by the curriculum structure. It then presents an efficient method to deliver electrical engineering subjects with two examples. Preliminary results of this initial work are further discussed.


Benjamin Franklin’s famous saying ─ Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn ─ suggests ways educators should deliver knowledge to their students. This is particularly true for the new general engineering program under development at East Carolina University [1]. The NCEES (National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying) has clearly defined content areas that general engineering students must master in the “electricity and magnetism” area [2]: the

Yao, J., & Lunsford, P. (2006, June), Laboratory From The First Day: An Efficient Method To Convey Electrical Concepts To Engineering Students Paper presented at 2006 Annual Conference & Exposition, Chicago, Illinois. 10.18260/1-2--315

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