This work-in-progress paper examines the use of hands-on STEM-centered electrical engineering laboratory activities in the critical entry-level course, First-Year Seminar in Engineering, for undergraduate engineering majors. At our institution, the First-Year Seminar in Engineering is offered once each year during the fall term. One component of this course comprises hands-on laboratory activities in sessions of short duration (fifty-five minutes apiece) in engineering disciplines such as Biomedical Engineering (BME), Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE), Environmental Engineering (ENV), and Mechanical Engineering (ME). The challenge confronting the instructor is to teach, inspire, engage, and stimulate (TIES) to STEM-centered learning given the fact that student motivation, commitment, and level of engagement in such a short interval of time can be non-existent. Laboratory experiences which focus on system-level assembly, test, and validation of concepts must be emphasized over detailed conceptual analysis. Toward this end, the hands-on STEM-centered laboratory activities for ECE comprised the design, assembly, test, and validation of design projects titled (a) electronic timer circuit, and (b) digital logic gate circuits. The students used the Snap Circuits Pro electronic circuit assembly kit from Elenco, Incorporated. The kit contains electrical components that are placed onto the circuit assembly board using snap connectors, and are connected to create basic and advanced circuits. Learning how to use these kits is very intuitive. Consequently, the first-year engineering students consumed less time on any tedious assembly process and were able to focus more on the purpose of their actions and the capture of the desired outcomes. Since these students are just being introduced to the disciplines of engineering, the laboratory experiences are driven more by their powers of observation i.e. following the ‘seeing is believing’ paradigm rather than any rigorous analysis of the circuit and its outcomes. Subsequent engineering courses will address the M in STEM aspects of observations. However, it is fervently hoped that these laboratory experiences will serve to whet the appetite for the STEM experiences to follow.
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