Projects help students connect concepts to physical reality and allow students to experience the process of design, construction, and testing. Finding suitable projects can be difficult. They should be challenging yet enjoyable, demonstrate the concepts in an understandable way, tangible (hands-on), not cost too much, and not require too much time of either students or instructors. This paper describes one such project: soldering an audio amplifier and building a speaker. The primary goal of this project was to make electrical engineering tangible, as early students (or those in other disciplines) often complain that they cannot “feel” or “see” electricity. This project allowed them to feel, see, and hear the movement caused by an electrical signal and to interact with it through a volume knob. Concepts addressed included circuit theory, operational amplifiers, and electromagnetic fields but could be extended to other topics as well, such as spherical wave propagation or system modeling. This project was implemented with 190 first-year students at Baylor University during the 2017 fall semester. Students were given all of the necessary parts, including a printed circuit board (PCB), electrical components, magnets, and wire. Each student soldered the components onto the PCB and constructed his or her own speaker from household materials, like plain paper, cups, plastic bottles, paper plates, etc. Amplifiers were tested for operation. Speakers were tested for frequency response and loudness. The initial, one-time equipment cost is $5-10 per student, depending on equipment already available, and the recurring materials cost is $10 per student. The students were enthusiastic about their designs both before and after they completed their projects. This paper includes more detail about the project, examples of student designs, speaker testing results, student feedback, and future plans.
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