July 26, 2021
July 26, 2021
July 19, 2022
Electrical and Computer
This paper focuses on the design, implementation, and evaluation of an introductory electrical and computer engineering course that integrates theory, hands-on practice, and real-world application through the implementation of a fully customizable robotics system, µSAFABOT. This course is required for all electrical and computer engineering students, but specifically targets undeclared students at a liberal arts military academy. The previous version of the course was a traditional, lecture-based course that introduced circuits and software design. The new version of the course covers most of the same topics, but through a series of projects that culminate in a robotics maze competition. Redesign was motivated after two shortfalls were discovered: first, the number of electrical and computer engineering majors graduating each year was declining, and second, students graduating out of the major did not have necessary experience or knowledge in robotics.
Using best practices in engineering education, the course transitioned from a lecture model to a project-based learning model that includes three blocks over a forty-lesson semester: block 1, introductory topics; block 2, robotics design and implementation; and block 3, maze competition. Each laboratory includes a brief fifteen-minute introduction to a fundamental electrical and computer engineering concept and 3.5-hours of hands-on application. For example, after learning how the average power of a system can be controlled via pulse-width modulation, students integrate motors into the robot and connect each motor to a modern measurement tool to observe the digital pulse-width modulation signals sent to the robot and calculate the response time of the motors.
Evaluation measures include a pre/post survey that measure student excitement in the course, intent to major in electrical and computer engineering, and understanding of the field. Additionally, an exit survey upon graduation evaluates student intent to pursue a career in robotics. Lastly, registration data observes pre/post number of students in the major. Results show significant increases in interest in the field of electrical and computer engineering, number of majors, and student learning.
Beyer, S. M., & Neff, B. J. (2021, July), µSAFABOT: A Robotics Learning Platform for a Hands-on, Laboratory-based Approach in an Introductory ECE Course Paper presented at 2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual Conference. https://peer.asee.org/38228
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