June 22, 2008
June 22, 2008
June 25, 2008
13.976.1 - 13.976.14
This doesn’t mean that one third of the class had never heard of Ohm’s law. It did mean that faced with a problem that required its use, only two out of three appreciated that was what they had to do. Given this range of capabilities, some students would have found an introductory course on circuits (say) very straightforward while some of their fellows would have been struggling. By comparison, examining high level systems was a new activity for everyone. For example, no one had ever thought of a casino as an electronic system but everyone knew the functions involved and could contribute to the higher level representation – specifically, the first three levels of system breakdown (requirements, criteria for success and major functional blocks). Reaching that stage in systems analysis was the main achievement of the course. The system analysis activities do not disguise the sad fact that there was a very wide range of capabilities to manage basic concepts. This still has to be addressed in later courses but at least the students see the need to learn more and appreciate where it may be applied.
Digging deeper into the options for each functional module presented many more challenges. All the applications were new and even the students with substantial background experience found it difficult to apply their knowledge in the new context. A good example concerned the formulation of a figure of merit for system performance. The idea of creating a simple equation or ratio presented real conceptual difficulties even when the expressions were restricted to linear and inverse functions. Everyone had learned math in the context that equations are always provided and the task is to insert numbers and find an answer. The idea that an equation could be a simple statement of the relationship between variables was totally new. This is a pity because that is how they will see equations used in most professional applications.
Freshman students are eager to describe systems features using the lay terms that anyone would use for such familiar subjects. However, the jump to use higher level representational tools was a big challenge. This is a difficult conceptual issue that is not explicitly taught in any other course. Electronics has to combine charge behavior with physical features and functional environments. To manage these interactions, there is a tool box with an array of abstract representational techniques. For one electronic function, we can use any or combinations of:
Algebraic equations Boolean equations Differential equations VHDL statements SPICE statements A truth table A component circuit diagram A functional diagram A block diagram A response surface (eg: I as function of V) A simulation A plan view of a device A cross-section A process flow to create the components etc.
Robertson, J., & Roux, S., & Ramanathan, V., & Rager, M. (2008, June), Perspectives On A Freshman Treatment Of Electronic Systems Paper presented at 2008 Annual Conference & Exposition, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. 10.18260/1-2--3903
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