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Teaching The Non Science Major: E El0l The Most Popular Course At Yale

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1997 Annual Conference


Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Publication Date

June 15, 1997

Start Date

June 15, 1997

End Date

June 18, 1997



Page Count


Page Numbers

2.396.1 - 2.396.9

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Roman Kuc

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

Session 2532

Teaching the non-science major: EEl0l - The most popular course at Yale

Roman Kuc Department of Electrical Engineering Yale University, New Haven, CT 06520-8284

EE 101 - The Digital Information Age, a course for non-science majors, is the largest course at Yale with an enrollment of more than 500 students. The goal of the course is to describe how common-place information systems work and why they work that way by illustrating clever engineering solutions to technical problems. The course considers the following topics: information sources, logic gates, computer hardware and software, measuring information using entropy, information coding and encryption, information transmission and information manipulation. EElOl includes a hardware and software project. For the hardware project each student implements a bean counter that counts a student-specific number of beans. The real success of the course is the software project that involves writing a personal World Wide Web page and developing a Web page for a Yale-affiliated organization. Having taken the course, students feel that they have an appreciation for the digital information artifacts they encounter on a daily basis. The joys and tribulations of teaching EElOl are discussed.


The problems with teaching science and technology to the non-science major are well known [l, 2, 3,4]. The main problem is dealing with the wide spectrum of the student’s experience in math and the sciences. A secondary problem is what to have the students do that is meaningful, instructive and satisfying. The solution to both problems that has found acceptance at Yale is to present material that the students find interesting and relevant, thus providing the motivation for expending the effort to learn the material.

EElOl is a course for non-science majors, as well as for freshmen are considering EE as a major. In addition to teaching students about electrical engineering, the student is invited to be an engineer for one semester: To think quantitatively, to design a simple digital system that does something useful and to develop pages on the World Wide Web.

The course attempts to teach technology in the least stressful manner to allow the poets, who would not normally have access to this material, to take the course. Among the difficul- ties with teaching a 100-level course are that there are no prerequisites and the course itself is not usually a prerequisite for follow-on courses. In a student’s time and effort, it competes with courses in the major. Teaching such a course introduces a challenge to make the course accessible to the liberal arts major, while still making it interesting for the science major.

Kuc, R. (1997, June), Teaching The Non Science Major: E El0l The Most Popular Course At Yale Paper presented at 1997 Annual Conference, Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

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