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Putting The Engine Back In The Engineer

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2008 Annual Conference & Exposition


Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Publication Date

June 22, 2008

Start Date

June 22, 2008

End Date

June 25, 2008



Conference Session

New Trends in ECE Education I

Tagged Division

Electrical and Computer

Page Count


Page Numbers

13.1014.1 - 13.1014.14



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Paper Authors


Fred Cady (Retired) Montana State University

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Fredrick Cady is a Professor Emeritus in the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department, Montana State University. He has been involved with ABET accreditation for the Electrical Engineering and Computer Engineering programs at Montana State University for 20 years. He is interested in improving the quality of engineering education and has authored four microcomputer textbooks. He has a Ph. D. in electrical engineering from the University of Canterbury, NZ and is a senior member of IEEE.

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John McLellan Freescale Semiconductor

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John McLellan is a applications engineer for the University Programs at Freescale Semiconductor. He currently works with universities, authors, and industry partners around the globe to drive, create, and implement student learning tools and curricula which support Freescale products in the classroom. John has a B.S. in Electrical Engineering Technology from Texas A&M University.

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

Putting the Engine back in Engineering Abstract

Electrical and Computer Engineering programs across the nation are seeing a decrease in engineering student enrollment and retention. Electronic systems and components these days are far too small and complex to allow an inquisitive student to explore and satisfy their curiosity about how these gadgets work. These students often take to exploring mechanical systems instead and are thus led away from Electrical and Computer Engineering. Similarly, with advances in computer simulations of engineering circuits and models that produce realistic results, engineering programs have transitioned away from physical hardware and hands-on experimentation. This trend away from having students being able to "tinker" with real hardware is detrimental to their development into well rounded engineers. In addition, as globalization continues, engineers must broaden their team-work and technical skills.

This paper describes a hardware, software and courseware learning ecosystem that has been created to capture student attention and develop a broader skill set. Laboratory and in-class exercises use POGIL (Process Oriented Guided Inquiry Learning) – based laboratory modules to engage students in learning through exploration, critical thinking, and team and cooperative participation exercises. Laboratory and in-class exercises are designed to teach the student how to explore a new technology to be able to learn more about it. In fact, learning how to learn is a key outcome. Laboratory hardware is designed to provide easy connection to real-world devices and allow students to extend their explorations from classroom theory to the practical application of technology they are learning.


Over the past few years, educators have seen a technical boom in the semiconductor industry with more computational power packaged into the smallest of packages. It is becoming less feasible for hands-on, practical-application oriented courses to have students fiddling with hardware at the processor level. In addition to this fundamental size problem, new generations of computational hardware are appearing far faster than we can update laboratory facilities. As we scramble to keep up with technology changes, we find ourselves still behind. Structuring hardware, software, and courseware into reusable components allows the core knowledge to grow alongside technology advances. This type of courseware is not only re-usable, but fosters skills needed for upcoming generations of engineers in a cooperative learning environment.

First, we will discuss the adoption of a teaching methodology which spurs creative, scientific, and collaborative thinking. Initial care has been taken to re-think the way we write course materials so that they are more easily adapted to the changes in technology. With this approach we are able to encapsulate the fundamental information and quickly and easily apply to the latest hardware.

Next, we will show how the Freescale Student Learning Kits embrace an adaptive, modular and reusable teaching platform. Modular hardware boards (Application Modules), a project board, and CodeWarrior software tools provide a flexible, common platform that can be applied to a

Cady, F., & McLellan, J. (2008, June), Putting The Engine Back In The Engineer Paper presented at 2008 Annual Conference & Exposition, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. 10.18260/1-2--3717

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