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Revitalizing an Electromechanical Energy Conversion Course

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2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Seattle, Washington

Publication Date

June 14, 2015

Start Date

June 14, 2015

End Date

June 17, 2015





Conference Session

ECCD Innovative Teaching Applications

Tagged Division

Energy Conversion and Conservation

Tagged Topic


Page Count


Page Numbers

26.1345.1 - 26.1345.19



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Paper Authors


Thomas E McDermott P.E. University of Pittsburgh

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Thomas E. McDermott is an Assistant Professor at the University of Pittsburgh, with over 30 years of industrial experience in consulting and software development. His research interests include electric power distribution systems, renewable energy, power electronics, electromagnetics, and circuit simulation. Tom is a registered professional engineer in Pennsylvania and an IEEE Fellow. He has a B. S. and M. Eng. in Electric Power from Rensselaer, and a Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering from Virginia Tech.

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Renee M Clark University of Pittsburgh

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Renee Clark serves as the Director of Assessment for the Swanson School of Engineering at the University of Pittsburgh. She received her PhD from the Department of Industrial Engineering, where she also completed her post-doctoral studies. Her research has primarily focused on the application of data analysis techniques to engineering education research studies as well as industrial accidents. She has over 20 years of experience in various engineering, IT, and data analysis positions within academia and industry, including ten years of manufacturing experience at Delphi Automotive.

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Revitalizing an Electromechanical Energy Conversion CourseOur University’s Electrical and Computer Engineering Department has offered an electivecourse in “Electric Machinery” for decades. It is a 4-credit course offered each fall term forjuniors and seniors, with a laboratory component. Prior to fall 2013, this course had been lecture-heavy due to school scheduling requirements, and it suffered from use of old laboratoryequipment that was difficult to maintain. With increasing focus on renewable energy and powerelectronics in the curriculum, we felt the need to modernize this course so that it provides a betterlearning experience and appeals to more students.Over a period of two terms, we have implemented several improvements to the lab work. Theoriginal seven hardware lab experiments were replaced with six new hardware experiments andsix new computer software labs. Thus, the course’s hands-on laboratory content nearly doubled.The new hardware experiments feature power electronics, new machines and newinstrumentation. The new computer modeling assignments feature finite element and multi-domain system simulation software.In the fall 2014 term, we have also “flipped” the course. Each week, students watchapproximately 40 minutes of video, broken into segments. Most of the videos are screencasts thatintroduce new concepts or illustrate example problems in advance of the lecture; those aretypically four to eight minutes in length. A few of the videos are longer; they were made withAdobe Captivate to demonstrate software operation in advance of the computer labs. This freesthe lecture time for more interactive work, including problem sets worked in teams, question-and-answer periods, and either a hardware or computer lab session. The video segments alsoallow students to review concepts on their own schedules, as they work through assignedtextbook readings and problems. The course grading criteria consists of 80% in-class activity,namely the problem sets and lab assignments, plus 20% final exam. There have been essentiallyno unexcused absences from class.The classroom environment was evaluated through the University Student Opinion of TeachingSurvey. In fall 2013, the results encouraged further development of both hardware and softwarelabs, which we continued in fall 2014. Course enrollment also increased by 60% in fall 2014.Favorable teaching evaluations and comments from fall 2013 encouraged even more classroominteraction, which led us to the “flipping” model. The fall 2014 course will be evaluated with anew Teaching Survey, supplemented with custom questions about the flipped classroom. We arefurther evaluating this flipped classroom for the degree of instructor-supported active learningand problem solving and student interaction using a structured behavioral observation protocolknown as the Teaching Dimensions Observation Protocol (TDOP). We will compare ourobservation results to those of a recent study of 58 STEM classrooms in three researchuniversities to assess the degree of classroom engagement. Impacts of the flipped classroom onstudent final exam performance will also be discussed.

McDermott, T. E., & Clark, R. M. (2015, June), Revitalizing an Electromechanical Energy Conversion Course Paper presented at 2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Seattle, Washington. 10.18260/p.24682

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