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Threading Topics And Creating Course Linkage Among Courses And Curricular Areas

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2006 Annual Conference & Exposition


Chicago, Illinois

Publication Date

June 18, 2006

Start Date

June 18, 2006

End Date

June 21, 2006



Conference Session

Electrical ET Curriculum

Tagged Division

Engineering Technology

Page Count


Page Numbers

11.1340.1 - 11.1340.7



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Paper Authors


Jeffrey Richardson Purdue University

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Jeffrey J. Richardson is an Assistant Professor for the Electrical and Computer Engineering Technology Department at Purdue University where he teaches introductory and advanced embedded microcontroller courses. At Purdue, he is active in Project Lead the Way, recruitment and retention of students, applied research and has written several conference papers related to teaching embedded microcontroller systems.

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John Denton Purdue University

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John P. Denton is an Associate Professor for the Electrical and Computer Engineering Technology Department at Purdue University. His primary teaching responsibilities are electronic communication and advanced circuit analysis courses. He has won four outstanding teaching awards in ECET.

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James Jacob Purdue University

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James Michael Jacob, the current George W. McNelly Professor of Technology, is an award-winning teacher. He has received numerous outstanding teaching awards at both the department and college level including the Joint Services Commendation Medal (for excellence in instruction) from the Secretary of Defense. In 1999 he was listed in Purdue University’s Book of Great Teachers, which holds the top 225 faculty ever to teach at Purdue University. Professor Jacob’s contributions in scholarly endeavor and service include writing and holding workshops. He has published several internationally popular texts on analog integrated circuits and industrial control electronics, as well as a variety of papers and conference presentations on the art and technology of teaching.

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

Threading Topics and Creating Course Linkage Among Courses and Curricular Areas

Abstract - Electrical engineering technology (EET) programs have curriculum course sequences that create ‘silos’ of courses that appear independent to the students that take them. Students come to believe that the disciplines (analog, power, digital, communication, etc.) within EET have little in common or are remotely related. A FM receiver project for a junior level EET course in electronic communication has created a curricular linkage to two sophomore courses, one in RF and power electronics and the other in digital microcontrollers.


The traditional model for teaching is comprised of curriculum course sequences that create vertical ‘silos’ where each topic is fully developed before going on to the next topic. This compartmentalized sequence of courses builds a solid conceptual foundation for the students 1, 2. However, each course is treated as a separate body of knowledge creating an environment where the student sees no connection between different disciplines3. As the student progresses through the program, they may only get exposure to cross discipline courses in upper division electives or design courses. The traditional approach is flawed in that it tends to result in inadequate synthesis of basic concepts, poor retention of fundamental material between learning and application, and low motivation for learning fundamental materials2. It is essential that students should be made fully aware of what electrical engineering is all about and in what kind of problems electrical engineers are involved early in their academic studies1.

Unless the curriculum helps the students integrate material across the courses, they have difficulty seeing how the material studied in one silo of courses connects to another silo4. Core courses are rarely interrelated, so no cohesive picture emerges as a student progresses through the curriculum. Curriculum content and flow is critical to the success of the student and their education3,5. The acquisition and retention of a true understanding of fundamental concepts and the relationship among the concepts is the hardest and least understood part in the educational process. Integrated problem-based learning scenarios that link across courses are crucial1,4.

One of the biggest challenges has been, and still is, the integration of topics. Major curricular change is difficult to accomplish6. Major change requires that the entire faculty become involved. One such example is the creation and implementation of a spiral curriculum. The curriculum is spiral in that it revisits the concepts periodically with increasing sophistication throughout the curriculum2. The FM receiver project of this paper highlights the importance of connection within the disciplines without the major undertaking of completely revamping the entire curriculum.

The FM receiver project addresses problems such as lack of student motivation, poor retention, segment learning, and the lack of integration. The FM receiver project created for the junior year electronic communications course, while not a new idea or project for this type of course, serves as a vehicle to integrate the digital/microcontroller course sequence with the

Richardson, J., & Denton, J., & Jacob, J. (2006, June), Threading Topics And Creating Course Linkage Among Courses And Curricular Areas Paper presented at 2006 Annual Conference & Exposition, Chicago, Illinois. 10.18260/1-2--499

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