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UML Laboratory in a Box, a New Way of Teaching ECE Labs

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2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Indianapolis, Indiana

Publication Date

June 15, 2014

Start Date

June 15, 2014

End Date

June 18, 2014



Conference Session

Active Learning in ECE

Tagged Division

Electrical and Computer

Page Count


Page Numbers

24.1284.1 - 24.1284.9



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Paper Authors


Jay A. Weitzen University of Massachusetts Lowell

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Jay Weitzen has been at University of Massachusetts Lowell for 27 years. He has strong interests in both wireless communication research and in providing students with high quality hands on design experiences. He teachs the first year intro to ECE course and also serves as chair of the College of Engineering First Year Education Committee and serves on the Capstone design committee. Recently he has been working with Analog Devices to beta test their new discovery module which is a complete laboratory module.
Dr Weitzen has published over 100 papers in the open literature and is a Senior Member of the IEEE.

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Alan Rux University of Massachusetts, Lowell


Erin Isabel Webster University of Massachusetts Lowell

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I am a graduate student in Computer Engineering at UMass Lowell. I am a research student with Prof. Weitzen, and we are developing a hands-on "Lab in a Box" Program for our first year Electrical and Computer Engineering students. The open ended labs are built around the Analog Discovery Kit, and focus on introducing our students to hardware, programming, and test equipment.

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The University of Massachusetts Lowell “Laboratory in a Box” a new teaching technique for ECE labs Jay Weitzen, Erin Webster, Alan Rux AbstractThe University of Massachusetts Lowell “Lab in a box” is more than just a physical set of items.It marks a new way of teaching ECE labs. The paradigm that is used at most schools is thatstudents report to a lab once or twice a week for a few hours. They work in teams of two or threeto a lab bench. In these teams, many students do not get adequate hands on experience using testequipment, debugging and just tinkering. The allocated time is all that they get with thisexpensive equipment. Students who want to work on their own often go to swap fests andpurchase used test equipment for their home or dorm laboratory setups. Labs are expensive toequip and maintain and as our program continues to grow at 10% per year, laboratory timeslotsare becoming a problem.University of Massachusetts Lowell, working with nearby Analog Devices and Digilent isexperimenting with approaches to get students excited to be an Electrical or Computer Engineerby allowing them to work on both formal labs and open ended design projects on their terms: intheir dorms, in the cafeteria, in the student lounge. The approach is to give all first year studentsour version of the “Lab in a Box”. While the “Lab in a Box” concept is not totally new, ourversion is different in both the contents and how it is used. Our goal is to furnish a completeelectronics lab that can be used anywhere there is a computer. One of our key goals is to stressembedded programming and use of sophisticated test equipment early in the program andthroughout the program. The “lab” consists of a parts kit (customized for each year), wire kit, amicrocontroller with proto board (to teach programming), and is centered on the Digilent/AnalogDevices “Discovery Kit” (a complete test bench).The Analog Devices Discovery module is a complete electronics test system consisting of 2Channel Digital Oscilloscope, Function generator, Digital Logic Analyzer, voltmeter, and powersupply. Software development environments for the microcontroller and the “Discovery Kit” areprovided to the students. Together these elements represent a complete electronics lab thatstresses our priorities in engineering education. The strength of the program is that they can workon their terms and timeframes. During their lab periods, they get extra help from their TA. Theequivalent is almost applying the concepts of the flipped classroom to laboratories.We have already developed a first year curriculum and are currently developing a second yearcurriculum based on the lab in the box. We have already observed that going to the lab in thebox paradigm is providing us significant relief from overcrowding and stress on our existinglaboratory resources. Students have responded very favorably to the first year lab curriculum.This paper describes the UML laboratory in the box showing how it is being used to change howwe teach ECE laboratories. We present sample curriculum.

Weitzen, J. A., & Rux, A., & Webster, E. I. (2014, June), UML Laboratory in a Box, a New Way of Teaching ECE Labs Paper presented at 2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Indianapolis, Indiana. 10.18260/1-2--23217

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