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Teaching Effective Troubleshooting In The Microprocessors Lab

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2004 Annual Conference


Salt Lake City, Utah

Publication Date

June 20, 2004

Start Date

June 20, 2004

End Date

June 23, 2004



Conference Session

Electrical ET Laboratory Practicum

Page Count


Page Numbers

9.1173.1 - 9.1173.6

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Paper Authors

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Thomas Gendrachi

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

Session 3550

Teaching Effective Troubleshooting In The Microprocessors Lab

Thomas E. Gendrachi, P.E. Ward College of Technology, University of Hartford


One of the most important functions of an engineering technologist, regardless of specific discipline, is her ability to solve real, practical problems. Most of the problems students solve are paper and pencil textbook problems written by the author of the textbook. Sometimes you will find troubleshooting problems included in the problem sets at the ends of chapters but, once again, these troubleshooting problems are paper and pencil textbook problems limited to creativity of the author. As good as some of these problems are, they are not “real” problems.

For example, a student might encounter a “real” problem in the laboratory setting up a circuit for a fundamental AC or DC course. The student realizes something is wrong when he does not get the expected results. The cause is usually a setup problem; something is not connected right. After checking the schematic, the student can determine the problem by inspection and correct the error. However, this technique does not work very well when the circuit the student has to construct involves a significant amount of wiring and components as in a memory circuit added to a computer. In the microprocessor, lab this is often the case.

The student cannot achieve the learning objectives of the lab if their circuit is not set up correctly. But instead of spending too much time checking every connection, the student can more quickly determine the problem if they are shown how to apply their knowledge of the operation of the circuit and apply some simple tests based on this knowledge. The reward for the student is that, in addition to achieving the learning objectives for the experiment, he also develops confidence in solving a “real” problem by applying his knowledge.

In this paper, I will discuss an example of a problem students usually encounter in the microprocessor lab. The problem demonstrated in the example is specific but the technique, identifying symptoms and performing appropriate tests, is general and can be applied to any problem.

A Common Laboratory Problem

We use a typical microcomputer in the laboratory component of our second microprocessor course. The operating system of the microcomputer is contained in a 1 kilobyte ROM chip. The

Proceedings of the 2004 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright © 2004, American Society for Engineering Education

Gendrachi, T. (2004, June), Teaching Effective Troubleshooting In The Microprocessors Lab Paper presented at 2004 Annual Conference, Salt Lake City, Utah.

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