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Software For New Directions In Undergraduate Circuits Instruction

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1998 Annual Conference


Seattle, Washington

Publication Date

June 28, 1998

Start Date

June 28, 1998

End Date

July 1, 1998



Page Count


Page Numbers

3.498.1 - 3.498.15

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Paper Authors

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Michael D. Ciletti

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

Session 3532

“Software for New Directions in Undergraduate Circuits Instruction” Michael D. Ciletti, Professor Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering University of Colorado at Colorado Springs P.O. Box 7150 Austin Bluffs Parkway Colorado Springs, Colorado 80933-7150

Abstract Many universities have dedicated personal computing environments supporting their engineering curricula. A typical arrangement allows students to use a variety of software tools for writing reports, performing complex analysis and simulations, and illuminating abstract concepts. In an electrical engineering department, the sophistication of these tools might range from spreadsheets and word processors, to industrial-strength computer-aided engineering systems for designing integrated circuits, and modeling processes for fabricating such circuits. While commercial engineering software tools can provide a high degree of realism to the curriculum, they don’t necessarily lend themselves to the broader objectives of classroom instruction. Commercial tools generally provide powerful analytic and problem-solving capability, but fail to present an integrated view of concepts. Hence, there is a need for point tools serving the pedagogical needs of individual courses within an overall curriculum. This paper identifies key features that can be used to compare software tools for the introductory circuits courses, and then describes features of a new software tool for students and faculty in the undergraduate circuits course sequence.

I. Background

Circuits courses provide a foundation for undergraduate electrical engineering education, and are often taken by other engineering majors to satisfy curriculum requirements. In many accredited degree programs one or two courses cover, as a minimum, the fundamentals of Ohm’s Law, Kirchhoff’s Laws, time-domain (transient) analysis, power, sinusoidal steady-state response, Bode plots, Fourier series, Fourier transforms, and Laplace transforms, and spectral concepts. These courses typically focus attention on linear circuits having resistors, capacitors, inductors, opamps, independent voltage and current courses, controlled sources, and transformers, with primary attention to step and sinusoidal input signals.

Today’s classroom and computer technologies offer new solutions to the challenges that confront students and instructors in engineering. Software tools now support the curriculum, and many students learn to use them early in their studies. The availability of powerful personal computers linked to classroom video projection systems creates an opportunity for faculty to broaden the scope of their instruction on-the-fly, with a high level of audience interaction and exploration. With software tools, examples can be explored freely, and students can address “what-if” questions immediately. Students gain valuable reinforcement for their understanding of abstract concepts by seeing physical, practical effects on the screen, under their control.

Ciletti, M. D. (1998, June), Software For New Directions In Undergraduate Circuits Instruction Paper presented at 1998 Annual Conference, Seattle, Washington.

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