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Teaching of Design of Experiment to the First-Year Electrical Engineering Students

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2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


New Orleans, Louisiana

Publication Date

June 26, 2016

Start Date

June 26, 2016

End Date

August 28, 2016





Conference Session

Electrical and Computer Division Poster Session

Tagged Division

Electrical and Computer

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Paper Authors


Fong K. Mak Gannon University

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FONG MAK, P.E. received his B.S.E.E. degree from West Virginia University in 1983, M.S.E.E. and Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering from the University of Illinois in 1986 and 1990. He joined Gannon in 1990. He was the Chair of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Gannon University from 2001 till 2014 and the Program Director for the professional-track Gannon/GE Transportation Embedded System Graduate Program for 2001-2014. He is now a professor of the department.

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Ramakrishnan Sundaram Gannon University

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Dr. Sundaram is a Professor in the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department at Gannon University. His areas of research include computational architectures for signal and image processing as well as novel methods to improve engineering education pedagogy.

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In the traditional Electrical Engineering curriculum, courses are introduced and taught progressively from the most fundamental subjects such as circuit theory, for example, to more advanced subjects such as power electronics and electric drives. To complement the teaching of concepts, laboratory components are used to augment the courses in order to enhance students’ mastery of the subject matter and its applications. Usually, the capstone design course at the senior level allows students to synthesize what they learned and exercise their creative ability. The main goal is to facilitate an environment for students to walk through the entire design process from the formulation of ideas, through implementation, test and validation. There are many reasons that might contribute to the difficulty faced by the students in their ability to synthesize and be creative. Two specific contributing reasons that we identified and attempted to address are (1) insufficient critical thinking exercises and (2) lack of self-motivated activities unlike the cook-book style of laboratory exercises which, in general, is where students begin to learn the hands-on implementation of a design.

In this paper, we report on how the re-structure of the laboratory activities in Circuit I, a second-semester freshman-level course, help to introduce the concept and activities of “Design of Experiment”. Instead of the traditional follow-the-steps experiments that students perform to understand various aspects of the Circuit I concepts covered in the lecture class, students are required to first understand the circuit, the intended results, and only then expected to design the experiment (DOE) needed to validate the intended results. At the end, students are required to produce documentation of the testing procedure so that the DOE can be repeated by other students. This reverse process of learning requires students to be more proactive in identifying (1) factors to be tested, (2) levels of those factors, (3) the structure and layout of experimental runs and operating conditions. Students are therefore made more aware of how to deal with measurement errors, unexplained variations, and how to properly use the equipment in the laboratory. These three points are precisely the essence of the DOE. The challenge comes when the process above is introduced in the course because the students are being exposed, for the first time, not just to circuit theory but also to the laboratory equipment and how to conduct experiments in the laboratory. Assessment of the results will be presented and discussed as well. The main goal of the first year laboratory activities is not to focus on electric circuit design, but rather to emphasize the critical thinking needed to design the experiment and prepare the relevant documentation. In addition to instilling critical thinking early on in the curriculum, it also allows us to measure more specifically the “design” aspect of the particular ABET Student Outcome “ability to design and conduct experiment, as well as to analyze and interpret data”.

Mak, F. K., & Sundaram, R. (2016, June), Teaching of Design of Experiment to the First-Year Electrical Engineering Students Paper presented at 2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, New Orleans, Louisiana. 10.18260/p.26039

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