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The Use of a Project Circuit in the Teaching of a Basic Electric Circuits Course

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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

NSF Grantees' Poster Session

Tagged Topic

NSF Grantees Poster Session

Page Count


Page Numbers

25.1351.1 - 25.1351.15



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Paper Authors


James P Becker Montana State University

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James Becker is an Associate Professor of electrical and computer engineering at Montana State University. His professional interests include microwave circuits, radio frequency electronics, nanoelectronics, pedagogical research, and distance education. He is a 2004 recipient of the NSF CAREER award.

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Carolyn Plumb Montana State University

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Carolyn Plumb is the Director of Educational Innovation and Strategic Projects in the College of Engineering at Montana State University (MSU). She works on various curriculum and instruction projects including instructional development for faculty and graduate students. She also serves as the college’s assessment and evaluation specialist, currently planning and implementing evaluation for several programs,

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Richard A. Revia Montana State University

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The Use of Project Circuits In The Teaching Of A Basic Electric Circuits CourseAbstractTo better motivate the study of basic electric circuit analysis and to encourage a deep learningapproach among the sophomore electrical engineering students taking the course, theimplementation of two project circuits is being carried out in the fall 2011 offering of___________ at ___________. The project circuits being explored, a photoplethysmograph(PPG) circuit used to monitor a person’s pulse, see Figure 1, and an audio amplifier with tunablefilters, were chosen to demonstrate compelling circuits whose design requires a student havestrong command of key topics from the course. For example, to understand the operation of thePPG circuit and to make reasonable design choices in implementing it, students must becomfortable in making basic voltage, current and power calculations in this battery-operateddevice, they must be able to handle dependent sources calculations, identify and design basicoperational amplifier (op amp) circuits, appreciate the importance of static offsets in op amps,develop Thévenin equivalent circuits and carry out first-order circuit calculations. Naturally,students must also demonstrate skill in a laboratory setting as they put together and debug theircircuits. So as to help the typical student through the relatively complex considerations indesigning the project circuits, several standard lecture sessions have been converted into active-learning group work. These activities are spread out over the semester and in many cases theactivities amount to pre-lab work including studying component datasheets and speculating onthe impact of component specifications on circuit function. The lab activities are made to requirestudents to tackle open-ended problems and are fashioned using inquiry-based techniques.The implementation is being assessed in terms of student performance on essay type examscrafted to probe deeper knowledge of the course material, student mastery of standard learningoutcomes as evidenced by their scores on more typical calculation-type exams, student surveys,and class observations made by an evaluation expert. Prior to the implementation of the projectcircuit materials in the course, baseline data were collected to provide a means to determine theimpact of the project circuits on student learning. This paper provides details regarding thematerials and activities developed around the project circuits as well as assessment tools,evaluation methods and results in comparing the initial implementation of the project circuitmaterials to an offering of the course prior to the intervention. FIGURE 1: An example schematic of a PPG circuit. Over the course of the semester studentsstudy the operation of the circuit and build two versions of this battery-operated circuit used to monitor an individual’s pulse.

Becker, J. P., & Plumb, C., & Revia, R. A. (2012, June), The Use of a Project Circuit in the Teaching of a Basic Electric Circuits Course Paper presented at 2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, San Antonio, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--22108

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