Asee peer logo

Practical Circuit Design In An Elementary Circuit Theory Lab

Download Paper |


2000 Annual Conference


St. Louis, Missouri

Publication Date

June 18, 2000

Start Date

June 18, 2000

End Date

June 21, 2000



Page Count


Page Numbers

5.498.1 - 5.498.8



Permanent URL

Download Count


Request a correction

Paper Authors

author page

Christopher T. Field

author page

Brian Jenkins

Download Paper |

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

Session 2532

Practical Circuit Design in an Elementary Circuit Theory Lab Brian Jenkins, Christopher T. Field Department of Electrical Engineering U.S. Naval Academy 105 Maryland Ave. Annapolis, MD 21402

A course in elementary circuit analysis is a common requirement in an electrical engineering curriculum. The course traditionally emphasizes fundamental DC and AC circuit theory concepts for resistive and reactive components and may introduce operational amplifiers (op- amps). Students learn Ohm’s and Kirchoff’s Laws, series and parallel relationships, and voltage and current division, as well as various circuit analysis techniques and theorems, such as nodal and mesh analysis, Thevenin and Norton equivalent circuits, superposition, and transient analysis. It is often the first required course in the curriculum, so students enter the course highly motivated and excited to finally begin their major area of study. It is also common for the theoretical rigor and tedium of the fundamentals to discourage some students, leading them to different courses of study. No doubt this is best for certain students, but it is also unfortunate if students who could succeed and become excellent electrical engineers do not only because they may not yet appreciate the value of fundamental circuit theory. This motivational problem can be a particular challenge at an institution like the U.S. Naval Academy, where the student is trained primarily as a naval officer and electrical engineering is a secondary pursuit.

To provide a rationale for learning the theoretical concepts required in the course, we have restructured our laboratories. In implementing new labs for the course, we’ve attempted to meet the following goals: 1) Labs should motivate students through greater emphasis on the practical merit of the fundamentals. Using typical devices, with which students are familiar, such as lamps, batteries, loudspeakers, etc, is helpful. 2) Insure that the labs are conceptually integrated with the course in a preconceived fashion. The labs should not merely be fun, but must reinforce the fundamental concepts. 3) Emphasize design using practical components. The use of lights and sound in an electrical engineering lab is not a new idea. However, when students are encouraged to be creative using components they are familiar with, the learning process is more relevant for them. This can be challenging in less advanced courses that have a theoretical orientation, but it is possible if the instructor is innovative.

Here we discuss four different designs that were done in the lab. In the first, students design a dimmer circuit for a lamp. The design process is made quite evident to the student, as the initial design is marginally adequate, requiring changes. The circuit is improved in following lab exercises as different circuit theory concepts are emphasized along the way. In later labs, other designs, such as a digital-to-analog converter with an op-amp or a camera flash simply aid in teaching fundamental concepts. In addition, we sometimes demonstrate slightly more advanced circuits that operate on the same principles as the ones designed by the students. This helps keep students motivated and interested in knowing how they can make improvements. The final design project, a bass and treble control circuit, emphasizes many of the concepts taught during

Field, C. T., & Jenkins, B. (2000, June), Practical Circuit Design In An Elementary Circuit Theory Lab Paper presented at 2000 Annual Conference, St. Louis, Missouri. 10.18260/1-2--8632

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2000 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015