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Teaching Power Electronics to Electrical Engineering Undergraduates in an Interactive Two-semester Integrated Sequence

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2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access


Virtual Conference

Publication Date

July 26, 2021

Start Date

July 26, 2021

End Date

July 19, 2022

Conference Session

Energy Conversion and Conservation Division Technical Session 3: Education Track

Tagged Division

Energy Conversion and Conservation

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Paper Authors


Herbert L. Hess University of Idaho

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Herb Hess is Professor of Electrical Engineering at the University of Idaho. The University of Wisconsin-Madison awarded him the PhD degree in 1993. His research and teaching interests are in power electronics, electric machines and drives, electrical power systems, and analog/mixed signal electronics. He has taught senior capstone design since 1985 at several universities. He has served as Division Chair and Program Chair for three ASEE divisions: Energy Conversion and Conservation, Electrical and Computer Engineering, and Instrumentation. Dr. Hess is a Fellow of the ASEE.

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Almost all electrical power in industrialized societies now is processed through at least one power electronic stage. As such, electrical engineers often encounter power electronic circuitry and systems when performing their routine duties. A knowledge of how these systems work gives an EE an advantage in understanding and working with power of a nature that is provided to every electrical system. In an unusual sequence of courses at _____ University, electrical engineering undergraduates learn these power electronic systems in a hands-on, creative environment.

The curriculum in which we teach power electronics consists of a five-course sequence in electrical power designed to serve a range of undergraduate Electrical Engineering (EE) students. This sequence and its pedagogy was presented in a 2004 ASEE Annual Conference Paper[1]. Its first course serves all EE students with power subjects that all EEs will likely encounter in their careers. The second course is designed for EEs who will have responsibilities as power engineers and their customers. The third and fourth courses serve EEs who plan to enter the electric power industry. The final course is a power electronics course with a particularly interactive character.

Power electronics is explicitly taught in a portion of the first course (for all EEs) and in the last course (for those who specialize in power electronics). In the first course, we teach DC/DC converters in the well-known methodology of Daniel Hart {2}. There is an entrepreneurial bent to the learning, using the methods and products of Limor Fried.[3] It is one of several topics that most EEs should encounter. The last course has all the elements of a classical power electronics course: rectifiers, DC/DC Converters, and inverters. Each of these three subjects is taught in three approaches: as a circuit to analyze and design, as semiconductor devices to employ in a functioning design, and as an application in industry. Because DC/DC converters have already been taught in the prerequisite first course in the sequence, we are able to engage a hands-on approach to the converters. Students, most of whom are juniors, use the methods of Pressman [4], to design two elementary converters or one isolated converter. Simulation is on SPICE-based simulation software. A PC board creation system, purchased through an equipment grant from an in-state donor, enables the students to build a sequence of at least two prototypes of each converter. The process is intentionally messy. No converters perform within specifications on the first try. About 40% perform on the second try. This is a lot of interactive design and engineering work for both student and instructor. Each student has at least three oral presentations within the course, a practice that teaches them the engineering environment in industry. The real proof of success comes later: the PC boards built for their senior projects usually perform close to specifications on the first try and their final oral presentations are often superior to students who did not take this last course.

This course is now in its fourth year. An outline of the course and its syllabus will be presented in the paper. We will show examples of student performance in the first course, snapshots of design and fabrication work in the last course, and feedback from students now alumni.

Hess, H. L. (2021, July), Teaching Power Electronics to Electrical Engineering Undergraduates in an Interactive Two-semester Integrated Sequence Paper presented at 2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual Conference.

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