A team of faculty members led by Kathleen Meehan has received $500,000 in NSF funding to extend the Lab-in-a-Box curriculum online. Lab-in-a-Box is the name for a personal laboratory kit developed by a team of ECE faculty and first used in the curriculum in 2004. The kit can be used anywhere and was developed to give students hands-on experience and to encourage exploration and experimentation outside the classroom-laboratory.
“The kit’s primary goal is to instill self confidence and improve self reliance in the students, when they build a circuit with physical components rather than symbolic parts,” Meehan said.
Students purchase the Lab-in-a-Box kits and build circuits and systems for their homework and project assignments. The kit includes a digital multimeter, a software oscilloscope, a powered circuit trainer with an attached breadboard, wires, and various electronic components. This represents the major measuring equipment and tools that once were restricted to laboratory benches, according to Robert Hendricks, who led the initial development.
The kits are used by students starting in the sophomore-level courses in Electric Circuit Analysis (ECE 2004) and Introduction to Computer Engineering (ECE 2504).
The new effort extends the functionality of the kits, adding online multimedia learning materials. Online availability will also enable community college programs that have no classroom laboratories to incorporate the hands-on experience in their curricula. “Getting this experience to community colleges is critical,” Meehan said. “Many community college students transfer to full-time ECE programs and need this experience for a successful transition.”