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Using Systems Design To Construct A New Freshman Course

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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

FPD8 -- Systems, Nanotechnology & Programming

Tagged Division

First-Year Programs

Page Count


Page Numbers

11.1412.1 - 11.1412.10



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Paper Authors


John Robertson Arizona State University

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John Robertson is a professor in the College of Science and Technology at the ASU Polytechnic in Mesa, Arizona. His research interests are in process control and data management for integrated circuit production, especially novel non-volatile memories. From 1994 to 2001, he was a Director in Motorola’s Semiconductor Products Sector and before that, he held the Lothian Chair of Microelectronics at Edinburgh University, UK.

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Richard Newman Arizona State University

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Richard Newman is Director of Training for the Microelectronics Teaching Factory at the ASU Polytechnic campus. He has extensive experience in the community college system and has managed many partnership programs with industry.

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

Using systems design to construct a new freshman course


A new first year course must satisfy many requirements in addition to its technical content. In order to meet these expectations, a systems approach was used to set the scope, interfaces and interactions for the first offering in a new four-year degree track. The course is called “An Introduction to Electronic Systems”. A life cycle model for the course incorporated the wide range of incoming student capabilities, the outcomes criteria and the role of the course to set expectations for the following program of study. The first delivery in fall 2005 was treated as a prototype within the systems model. While retaining the same scope, the topics will be expanded in 2006-07 to provide a well- rounded 6 SCH first year program. The process used to plan, analyze and record progress is also being applied more generally to overhaul the whole curriculum.


In the past, the campus operated a 2 + 2 system with most students transferring from the local community college system to take upper division university courses to complete their bachelor degrees. The designation of the campus as a Polytechnic in early 2005 introduced many program changes to address the wider educational goals offered by the polytechnic designation. Aggressive recruitment goals have been supported by new freshman and sophomore programs to build a four-year degree track that can operate in parallel with the traditional 2 + 2 stream.

Since resources follow student head-count, the new courses had to be introduced in stages and be capable of expansion as they could be justified by enrollment numbers. This is the classic systems design problem where the customer requirements demand a point solution yet everyone knows that it must be capable of evolution to meet goals and operational conditions that are as-yet unspecified. The decision to proceed with a freshman course was made in April 2005 and the course was delivered in the fall semester for the first time. This paper traces the planning, delivery and change process both for the course and its impact on the rest of the Electronics Systems program.

The local engineering-based industry is predominantly associated with three sectors: aerospace, semiconductors and construction. Our department has close ties with all three and their system solution methodologies have been widely used for curriculum planning in industry advisory board meetings, in research collaborations and to deliver industry short courses. There is nothing particularly novel about using systems thinking to examine education programs. A cursory reading of any relevant reports over the past decade from the National Science Foundation1 or from the National Academy of Engineering2 will show a very refined systems-level view. The problems come at the more mundane and practical levels where the strategy has to be implemented. The usual bottleneck lies in responding to local challenges such as legacy course requirements, limited resources and the need to introduce change seamlessly. In the case for this paper,

Robertson, J., & Newman, R. (2006, June), Using Systems Design To Construct A New Freshman Course Paper presented at 2006 Annual Conference & Exposition, Chicago, Illinois. 10.18260/1-2--1078

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