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Pros and Cons of Laboratory Methods Used in Engineering Education

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2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


New Orleans, Louisiana

Publication Date

June 26, 2016

Start Date

June 26, 2016

End Date

August 28, 2016





Conference Session

Labs & Hands-on Instruction I

Tagged Division

Electrical and Computer

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Paper Authors


Cyrus Habibi P.E. University of Wisconsin, Platteville

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Mohammad Habibi is an Assistant Professor of Electrical Engineering at the University of Wisconsin-Platteville. He received his undergraduate degree from Iran University of Science & Technology in 1994, his master's from Isfahan University of Technology in 2000, and his Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee in 2010. Following his postdoctoral appointments at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, he joined the faculty at Minnesota State University –Mankato at the Iron Range Engineering program where he served as an Assistant Professor.

Professor Habibi has taught a number of electrical engineering courses such Analog Electronics, Advance Analog Design, Communications, Circuits II, Signals and Systems, and Controls. Professor. Habibi’s passion for engineering education, teaching and mentorship is demonstrated each day through his interactions with students inside and outside the classroom. To this point, he has shared his knowledge of best practices in engineering education with his peers through the many articles he has published in ASEE conference proceedings. He has been investigating novel methods on how to motivate students to learn, as well as how to help them become self-directed learners.

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Chase Fearing University of Wisconsin, Platteville

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Chase Fearing is a 5th year undergraduate student at the University of Wisconsin Platteville majoring in Electrical Engineering with an emphasis in Communications and Electronics.

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Mesut Muslu P.E. University of Wisconsin, Platteville

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Pros and Cons of Laboratory Methods Used in Engineering Education

Laboratory activities are an essential part of engineering education. Through hands on work in the laboratory, students are able to learn in depth concepts and practical skills that help them succeed academically and prepare them for their careers. Currently, instructors are employing multiple methods to integrate hands on learning into engineering courses. One of the commonly used methods involves preparing a lab manual, also known as a “cookbook”, which includes step-by-step instructions for students to follow. The cookbook method reduces the time required to perform an experiment and is typically less demanding. Therefore, students are able to perform more experiments over the course of a semester. On the other hand, the cookbook method decreases self-directed learning and does not provide opportunities for students to solve open-ended problems. In another method students are only given design specifications and must independently define a method to achieve anticipated results. In essence, students create their own lab instruction. The design method requires more involvement and stimulates self-directed learning and allows students to draw their own conclusions. The final method is proposal based and gives students the freedom to define the problem, develop methods to arrive at a solution, and compose evidence-based conclusions. The proposal method requires the highest level of involvement and its effectiveness is often dependent on the students’ motivation and interest level. When done properly, proposal based projects stimulate creative problem solving and are typically memorable for the student. The Electrical Engineering department at the University of XXX integrates design into many of its courses. Typically a course will have anywhere from 3 to 7 lab projects throughout the semester. In Analog Electronics classes, labs are design based and students are responsible for designing, fabricating, and proving that the design meets provided specifications. Many of these classes also have a final project that is proposal based. In classes where materials are limited or safety is a concern, lab experiments are cookbook based and students are responsible for following instructions and describing phenomena observed. In this paper the pros and cons of each of the aforementioned methods will be explored. To support the discussion the students of an Analog Electronics class will be given three different types of lab experiments, each type employing one of the methods described. After completing each type of lab experiment a survey will be conducted and the students’ opinion regarding these experiments will be collected. The survey will consist of questions including but not limited to: 1. What is your interest level in this course? (High, Medium, Low) 2. What type of lab do you prefer? (Cookbook, Design Based, Proposal Based) a. Why? 3. What project type was the most challenging ? a. Why? 4. On Average, How much time was required to complete each of these projects? a. Did other commitments conflict with your ability to finish the project? 5. How well did each project type contribute to your understanding of the course material (Contributed greatly, some, not at all) 6. Through what project type were you able to retain the most knowledge? a. Why? 7. What project type, if any, helped you gain skills relevant to your future career? 8. Did you have enough time to complete your proposal-based project? a. If you had more time would you have chosen a more challenging /interesting design? 9. How much help outside lecture was required to complete each of the project types? a. What were the sources of help?

Habibi, C., & Fearing, C., & Muslu, M. (2016, June), Pros and Cons of Laboratory Methods Used in Engineering Education Paper presented at 2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, New Orleans, Louisiana. 10.18260/p.26011

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: © 2016 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