2018 FYEE Conference

Completing a Lab in 50 Minutes: Optimizing Student Attention Span

Presented at Technical Session IV

Accommodating students’ relatively short attention spans is a significant challenge when designing a first-year engineering course. It is increasingly difficult for first-year students to maintain their focus throughout a 150-minute laboratory session. An alternative is to create laboratory experiences that provide students with self-contained hands-on experiences that can be completed within a traditional 50-minute window. In electrical and computer engineering, this is challenging, since so many of the laboratories require extensive wiring and, possibly, programming.

We describe a set of 24 hands-on laboratories in which students perform a significant experiment within a 50-minute period. The labs are written to explore analog circuits, digital circuits, and programming embedded microcontrollers. Completing these experiments in 50 minutes is made possible by making just a few adjustments to the lab exercises and by providing a few key supporting structures for students.

These one-period labs were taught for the first time last academic year, and they are currently being used for a second time with a few small revisions. Assessment results are presented that demonstrate these labs are beneficial to students’ achievement of course learning objectives.

Authors
  1. Dr. Doug Tougaw Valparaiso University [biography]
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