Experiment, explore, design: A sensor-based introductory ECE laboratory

Conference Paper

A new introductory course, Fundamentals of Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE), has been designed to provide a rigorous, integrated introduction to the ECE field. The course laboratory, described in this paper, both promotes concept integration and provides a mechanism by which students can explore applications. Consistent with the curricular theme of Integrated Sensing and Information Processing (ISIP), a microcontroller-based robotic platform that includes a suite of sensors was selected as the foundation of all laboratory exercises. To develop both the students' conceptual understanding and their design skills, each laboratory session includes an initial, guided experimental component, in which basic concepts are investigated, and a subsequent open-ended exploration component, during which students are challenged to design a robot that completes a real-world task. After students complete a series of eight such laboratory sessions, the experience culminates in a five-week Integrated Design Challenge (IDC). To successfully complete the IDC, students have to go beyond the knowledge developed in previous weekly laboratory activities, assimilating new knowledge and using new sensors or processing data in new ways. The IDC is structured to not only emphasize technical accomplishments, but also to promote the development of project management, team organization, and communication skills. This paper elaborates on the philosophy behind the design of the laboratory experience, describes specific laboratory activities (including the IDC), and provides an assessment of the course based on data from several semesters. These data indicate that the more integrative, design-oriented, sensor-based approach benefits students in a variety of ways such as reinforcing fundamental concepts, motivating the study of ECE, and providing an opportunity to develop creative problem solving skills. In addition, the laboratory experience has been shown to have a significant positive impact on the achievement of several ABET criteria. © American Society for Engineering Education, 2007.

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Huettel, L; Coonley, K; Gustafson, M; Kim, J; Ybarra, G; Collins, L

Published Date

  • January 1, 2007

Published In

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 2153-5965

Citation Source

  • Scopus