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EnginEEring starts with EE

Written by: Leslie Lestinsky

Do you know how the power grid, house wiring, light bulbs or MP3 players work? Chances are first and second-year engineering students don’t either. Our society is exposed to and greatly benefits from electrical engineering (EE) all day, every day. EE is all around us and is a good base for any student considering the engineering discipline to start with. Frank M. Freimann Professor of Electrical Engineering Gary H. Bernstein saw an opportunity to teach students the basics of EE to help them fully understand the fundamentals of the electrical world around them. “I wanted to design an introductory course around projects that students have a personal experience with,” said Bernstein. Thus, Introduction to Electrical Engineering Lab 20225 was created.

This unique undergraduate experience consists of ten modules, each comprising of one 50-minute lecture followed by a three-hour laboratory session. Each lab session introduces a new topic that is of interest to future engineers and scientists, with an emphasis on EE. In the lab, students use state-of-the-art electronics along with several electronic components developed specifically for the course. The labs were developed with assistance from Department of Electrical Engineering (NDEE) laboratory manager, Clint Manning.

When Bernstein created the course, he had four goals in mind for student learning outcomes:

  • Fostering an appreciation for the importance of EE in modern society.
  • Teaching simple circuits and the ability to reason through electrical systems.
  • Preparing students for future courses by introducing conceptually advanced material.
  • Developing electronics lab-bench skills.

Equipment developed for the course to allow students to investigate 3-phase power on their benchtops.

Students are exposed to difficult concepts in the lab, coming out of the course much more comfortable with the rudiments of EE. They are empowered with basic EE understanding and critical thinking skills that will become building blocks. These building blocks will break the ice for more difficult courses. It’s relevant and timeless knowledge that will serve them their entire career.

The lab modules of the course are:

  • Introduction to electrical components through soldering of an AM radio kit.
  • Introduction to lab bench equipment.
  • Power transmission.
  • Time and frequency domains and filters.
  • Phasors.
  • Maxwell’s equations, radio, waves, and amplitude modulation.
  • Semiconductors including diodes, transistors and op-amps.
  • Energy efficiency, photometrics, lightbulbs and solar cells.
  • Analog-to-digital conversion (ADC), digital-to-analog conversion (DAC), sampling, Nyquist criterion and music compression.
  • Batteries and power supplies.

In collaboration with Professor Kerry Meyers, Assistant Dean of Students in the College of Engineering, a pre and post-survey conducted on students found they significantly increased their knowledge and confidence in concepts taught throughout the course, thus better preparing them for their future studies, projects and eventually, careers. Their results were presented at the 2017 American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE) Annual Conference and Exposition. “Major electronics companies seek to hire our graduates because they know they have gained valuable experience from all of our many undergraduate laboratory courses such as this,” said Bernstein.

EE 20225–Intro to EE–CRN 14667, is being offered in the fall 2019 courses on Fridays from 10:30 a.m.- 11:20 a.m.