June 15, 2014
June 15, 2014
June 18, 2014
Electrical and Computer
24.1284.1 - 24.1284.9
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
ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2014 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015