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Teaching Non-major Students Electrical Science and Technology

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2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


San Antonio, Texas

Publication Date

June 10, 2012

Start Date

June 10, 2012

End Date

June 13, 2012



Conference Session

STS Perspectives on Engineering Education

Tagged Division

Liberal Education/Engineering & Society

Page Count


Page Numbers

25.1255.1 - 25.1255.15



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Paper Authors


Harold R. Underwood Messiah College

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Harold Underwood received his Ph.D. in electrical engineering at UIUC in 1989 and has been a faculty member of the Engineering Department at Messiah College since 1992. Besides teaching circuit analysis and electromagnetics, he supervises the Communications Group of the Messiah College Collaboratory, including a project involving flight tracking and messaging for small planes in remote locations, and an assistive communication technology involving wireless enabled remote co-presence for cognitively and behaviorally challenged individuals. He has been teaching Exploring Electrical Technology as a Science, Technology, and the World (STW) component of the general education curriculum at Messiah College for more than 10 years.

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Teaching Non-Major Students Electrical Science and TechnologyIn recent years, many students in majors other than engineering or science have beentaking a Science, Technology and Society (STS) course, or the equivalent, to satisfy acomponent of their general education requirement, for good reason. Ideally, the STSrequirement can help students learn how culture interacts with science and technology,through influences in both directions, and be able to single out an individual element ofculture as a specific factor. In the process, such non-major students can also gain muchappreciation for essential concepts, controversies and current areas of exploration, whiledeveloping increased technological literacy for critiquing scientific or technologicalclaims in presentations of various forms. Teaching an STS course, however, requires avery different pedagogical approach than a faculty member may use for a traditionalengineering course. Rather than an emphasis on rigorous quantitative problem solving orproject planning, non-major students benefit much more from an approach that providessufficient historical context and biographical details of explorers and their contributions,guides discussions on key questions related to selected readings or video presentations,utilizes classroom demonstrations to illustrate key concepts, and assigns certain miniexperiments or projects that help students get a hands-on feel for how things work.While matching and multiple choice test questions can assess students learning at thelower levels of the New Bloom’s Taxonomy related to remembering names, contributionsand terminology or understanding concepts correctly, assigning one or more thesis drivenpapers can serve to assess students’ progress in the upper levels of thinking fromanalyzing and applying to evaluating and creating. This paper will illustrate choices madeby the author in teaching a non-majors course involving electrical science and technologyat his home institution over the past ten years, including samples of assessmentmeasuring student outcomes using the above techniques. The paper will also identify andexplain the selection of readings, demonstrations, experiments and projects that studentsdo throughout the course. The author recommends teaching such an interdisciplinarycourse for non-majors not only for the pleasure of the experience, but also for the benefitsof expanded scholarship that result, bringing broader background into the classroom ofthe standard engineering curriculum.

Underwood, H. R. (2012, June), Teaching Non-major Students Electrical Science and Technology Paper presented at 2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, San Antonio, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--22012

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