A novel introductory course for teaching the fundamentals of electrical and computer engineering
The Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) department at Duke University is undergoing extensive curriculum revisions incorporating both new content and organization and innovative teaching methods. The cornerstone of the new curriculum is a theme-based introductory course entitled Fundamentals of ECE. To introduce students to the major areas of ECE in their first year of study, this course has been organized around three concepts: 1) how to interface with the physical world, 2) how to transfer/transmit energy/information, and 3) how to extract/analyze/interpret information. Other goals include illustrating how various areas of ECE contribute to the design and functioning of an entire system, emphasizing the relevance of course material to realworld applications, and capturing the students' imagination and creativity. To achieve these goals, the course adopts a unifying theme, tightly couples lecture and laboratory exercises, and includes a laboratory experience that emphasizes design, integration, and real applications. The course content and laboratory exercises were developed iteratively such that each component supported the other, rather than one being dominant and driving the other. A robotic platform was selected as the foundation of the laboratory experience. This platform enables the exploration of a broad range of ECE concepts, both independently and integrated into an entire system, is flexible, to encourage creative solutions, is capable of being applied to real-world challenges, and is easily connected to the curricular theme. This paper describes the curricular objectives and key course elements which guided the development of this course, the process by which the course was created, and the resulting content and structure. © American Society for Engineering Education, 2006.