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What Do Prior Experience And Student Attitudes Say About Ece Lab Ability?

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2010 Annual Conference & Exposition


Louisville, Kentucky

Publication Date

June 20, 2010

Start Date

June 20, 2010

End Date

June 23, 2010



Conference Session

Pedagogy and Assessment in ECE II

Tagged Division

Electrical and Computer

Page Count


Page Numbers

15.1365.1 - 15.1365.10



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Paper Authors


Christopher Van Arsdale Michigan Technological University

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Christopher Van Arsdale is a graduate student in mining engineering. His interests include power systems, controls, and mining.

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Anna Pereira Michigan Technological University

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Anna Pereira is a graduate student in mechanical engineering. Her research interests include human factors and engineering education.

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Leonard Bohmann Michigan Technological University

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Dr. Leonard Bohmann is a faculty member in electrical engineering and presently serves as the
Associate Dean of Engineering. His disciplinary research interests are in expanding the use of
renewable energy in electric power systems. He has research interests in gender differences and
how they relate to engineering education as well as methods to increase the participation of
women in engineering.

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Michele Miller Michigan Technological University

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Dr. Michele Miller is an Associate Professor in mechanical engineering. She teaches classes on
manufacturing and controls and does disciplinary research on microelectromechanical systems
and precision machining. Her educational research interests include problem solving in the lab
and informal engineering education.

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William Helton Michigan Technological University

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Dr. William Helton is an Associate Professor in cognitive and learning sciences. He teaches
classes in human factors and educational psychology and does disciplinary research on attention, expertise, and stress. His educational research interests include cognitive load theory, expertise
development, and psychometrics.

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

What do prior experience and student attitudes say about ECE lab ability? Abstract

One hundred nine students over three semesters took a Prior Experience Questionnaire and the Pittsburgh Freshman Engineering Survey as part of their initial Electrical and Computer Engineering lab. Twelve weeks later, each student was given a lab practical as part of this sophomore lab. The lab practical, given to the students the last week of the course, is used as the measure of ECE lab skills. The practical has the students perform basic measurements with a multimeter and an oscilloscope on a simple circuit that also requires the use of a power supply and a function generator. These skills were used throughout the semester long lab in various experiments. This practical is done individually and each result is observed by the Teaching Assistant.

Correlations were then calculated between the survey results and the lab practical in an effort to determine what factors contribute to better lab practical scores and thus, hands on ability.

The results show that most correlations are small. The highest correlations were Lab Grade and GPA, 0.65 and 0.45 respectively. When the partial correlations are taken correcting for GPA, the number of significant factors decreased by 30% and ACT scores became strongly correlated to the lab practical score.

When females (approximately 10% of the sample population) were removed, there were no significant changes in the correlation results.


What makes students successful in an Electrical and Computer Engineering introductory laboratory? If a set of prior experiences can be determined, or a set of attitudes, then these could be used to help improve student performance. This paper will explain the progress of determining the prior experiences and attitudes of students taking an Electrical and Computer Engineering laboratory and discuss the correlations between their performance in the laboratory and their responses to surveys about their past experiences and attitudes toward engineering.


The ECE sophomore laboratory is the first experience with instructional introduction to the function and use of electrical test equipment used in the ECE department. The instruments include multimeters, oscilloscopes, function generators, DC power supplies, breadboards, resistors, simple logic chips, circuit simulation software, and simple logic programming. The course has a common lecture one hour each week, and individual lab sections meet in the lab for a two-hour period each week. The lecture covers basic skills that will be needed in that week’s lab. In our curriculum, this lab precedes the basic

Van Arsdale, C., & Pereira, A., & Bohmann, L., & Miller, M., & Helton, W. (2010, June), What Do Prior Experience And Student Attitudes Say About Ece Lab Ability? Paper presented at 2010 Annual Conference & Exposition, Louisville, Kentucky. 10.18260/1-2--16312

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