Chris Headley (EE ’06) demonstrates the new ‘lab-in-a-box,’ which ECE developed for a series of EE and CPE courses. The personal, portable kits enable students to experiment and explore outside of class.
Recent curriculum changes are boosting undergraduate presentation experience, providing more elective options, and better integrating theory with experimentation and design.
Beginning with the class of 2008, all students are taking a new sophomore-level course, called Engineering Professionalism in ECE. The course provides writing and presentation instruction and practice in the context of electrical and computer engineering. Instruction and case studies relate to contemporary ECE issues, global impact issues, and ethics.
Expanded science/math electives
Engineering science electives have also been expanded. Previous classes were restricted to a choice of Statics, Multi-Body Mechanics and Visualization, and Engineering Thermodynamics. Reflecting the growing interdisciplinary nature of the field, current science electives include 15 additional courses in biology, physics, chemical engineering, industrial systems engineering, and mechanical engineering. The mathematics electives also have been increased by eight courses.
Blending theory with hands-on
In a move to encourage personal exploration and experimentation throughout the curriculum, ECE has developed personal laboratory kits to support a sequence of four required courses. The kits include a powered protoboard, switches, a logic probe, potentiometer, clocks, and LEDs and fits in a container about the size of a textbook. For each class that uses the “lab-in-a-box,” students purchase a bag of course-specific components, such as resistors, capacitors, inductors, digital ICs and op amps.
Beginning with the sophomore-level courses in Electric Circuit Analysis and Introduction to Computer Engineering, students use the laboratories for homework and project assignments. The kits are also used in Digital Design, required for CPEs, and AC Circuit Analysis, which is required for EEs.
The biggest advantage to the kits is that students can now try out circuits and designs without going to a special room or taking a special course, according to Robert Hendricks, who served as faculty lead on the effort. “With lab-in-a-box, students can wire up a design any time of day,” he said.
The CPE program has been revised to reflect developments in the field with a stronger integration of hardware and software and a focus on embedded systems and real-time operating systems. Beginning with the class of 2008, CPEs are studying system architecture, operating systems, and data structures in the ECE department, with an engineering focus.
With the new curriculum, students get a strong programming background with Engineering Problem Solving with C++, Introduction to Data Structures and Algorithms, Introduction to UNIX, and Software Engineering. Newly required courses include Computer Organization and Architecture and Embedded System Design.