First-year electrical and computer engineering (ECE) students who have not yet encountered applications in their discipline often struggle to draw connections between the theoretical concepts from their introductory courses and those specific contexts in which they might apply those concepts in their future careers. As such, these students frequently struggle with relating to their courses and may become discouraged or doubt their ability to become an engineer. To address these challenges, the first ECE-specific course at Valparaiso University has been designed to increase the exposure of students to the various ECE sub-disciplines. The specific applications explored by students in this course range from programming microcontrollers to building amplifier circuits to designing and testing complex digital logic circuits, which are subjects not usually covered until the last two years of study. Results are presented that demonstrate several benefits of the wide range of topics covered in this course. These include helping students choose with greater confidence future elective courses and their major, improving the self-confidence of those students who may struggle with relating to more abstract engineering concepts, and maintaining student interest while providing them with the necessary theoretical background for their future studies.
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