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Teaching Digital Circuit Design to Middle-School Students

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2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Atlanta, Georgia

Publication Date

June 23, 2013

Start Date

June 23, 2013

End Date

June 26, 2013



Conference Session

Recruitment, Retention and First-year Programs in ECE

Tagged Division

Electrical and Computer

Page Count


Page Numbers

23.1141.1 - 23.1141.6



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Paper Authors


Christopher R. Carroll University of Minnesota Duluth

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Dr. Carroll received his undergraduate education at Georgia Tech, and received the MSEE and PhD in Computer Science degrees from Caltech. He is currently Associate Professor of Electrical Engineering at the University of Minnesota Duluth. His interests include special purpose digital system design, VLSI, and microprocessor systems, especially as they relate to educational environments.

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Teaching Digital Circuit Design to Middle-School Students Author omitted Affiliation omittedAbstractDuring the summer of 2012, the Electrical Engineering department at **institution omitted**offered a summer camp for seventh-grade students to attempt to interest them in engineering.Among the topics included in this one-week summer camp was a one-day exposure to digitalcircuit design. How does one teach digital circuit design in one day to students who are in themidst of summer vacation and who have no technical background? What are the vital basics?What is unnecessary confusion? How can seventh-graders be entertained while still inspiringthem to consider engineering concepts? These questions were among those faced by theElectrical Engineering faculty. This paper exposes some of the techniques used to intriguestudents and to capture their interest in digital circuit design.Attracting middle-school students to the field of engineering is a challenge. Students’ interestmust be captured before societal pressures deflect career choices into other directions. Students,must be encouraged to consider engineering as an interesting field before it is “too late” to enterthe necessary math and science tracks in high school. Consequently, students must be exposedto the excitement and potential of engineering during their middle-school education to motivatethem successfully to consider engineering careers. The goal of the summer camp was to dazzlestudents with fun applications that engineering makes possible, without intimidating them withundue complexity or technical details.Topics presented to these seventh-graders during their one-day exposure to digital circuit designincluded both combinational and sequential circuits, although only in very restricted arenas.Only two different types of digital components were described, NAND gates and D-flip-flops. Aseven-segment LED display digit was used to show the output produced by student circuitsbecause these students were familiar with such displays from their everyday life. Studentsperformed a variety of experiments from simply making a light flash to creating custom patternson the seven-segment display, with a wide range of success. Overall, students seemed to enjoythe experience.This paper describes the topics presented to these middle-school students in digital circuit design,and details some “lab experiments” performed to provide hands-on experience. Also includedare lessons learned by the Electrical Engineering faculty to improve future camp offerings.

Carroll, C. R. (2013, June), Teaching Digital Circuit Design to Middle-School Students Paper presented at 2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Atlanta, Georgia. 10.18260/1-2--22526

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