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2020 Annual Conference
The ASEE 2020 Virtual Annual Conference content is available.
Free ticketed event
The introductory CTSS course is one of the most difficult courses that students encounter in an electrical and computer engineering (ECE) curriculum, as evidenced by well above-average drop/failure rates. We have received NSF funding to explore why students find these courses so difficult and to determine effective methods for helping students grasp the concepts. This workshop offers engineering and science faculty an engaging opportunity to explore how to improve learning in introductory continuous-time signals and systems (CTSS) courses. The two primary goals of the workshop are to provide:
• an interactive discussion that will try to provide as broad a perspective as possible to the question, “why is signals and systems difficult?” and,
• a hands-on experience with laboratories that have been used by the facilitators to improve learning in CTSS courses.
While many people are developing supplemental materials for CTSS courses, very little exploration of the sources of difficulty from the students' perspective has been done. We have analyzed historical data and conducted qualitative student interview studies to try to more specifically identify these difficulties. In addition to these studies, we want to gather input from the community at large to try to get as broad an understanding of the problem as possible. The first part of the workshop will be an interactive discussion with the purpose of gathering such input. Discussion will be sparked by presenting data, current ideas, and directed questions. The results of this discussion will be used to guide the remainder of the workshop.
The facilitators have been trying to address issues that are related to a lack of motivation and learning by creating application-oriented, hands-on, active-learning opportunities for students. There are many examples of such opportunities described in the literature, but most of these activities make use of MATLABP®, LabVIEWP®, or DSP hardware. The exercises described in this workshop are based on analog circuits and real-world applications of continuous-time signal processing and system modeling. We are not advocating the elimination of these simulators, and in many cases use them for pre-lab exercises and/or analysis of results. An important way for students to gain an experience of the phenomena that they are trying to model is to actually experiment with them. Using a real system with real-world applications creates a degree of credibility and relevance that is not possible with software simulations.
In order to facilitate application-oriented hands-on activities, the facilitators have developed a number of laboratory lesson plans and an analog-printed circuit board, the Signals and Systems Exploration Platform (SSEP). The SSEP can be configured easily to sum, multiply, filter, and sample continuous-time signals. With an onboard microphone, ECG/instrumentation amplifier, and generic signal input, a wide variety of signals can be studied and manipulated. During the workshop, attendees will be guided through a couple of these hands-on activities. Time will also be given for attendees to play with the equipment and develop a mini-lesson plan of their own. Finally, in order to close the loop, attendees will then be able to provide feedback relating the activities to the previous discussion about sources of difficulty in CTSS courses.
The format of the workshop will be as follows:
I. Introduction to the workshop. (10 minutes)
II. Participant discussion of the initial question: Why is CTSS such a difficult subject for students? (30 minutes)
III. Introduction to hands-on activities being done at facilitator’s institutions (15 minutes)
IV. Overview of the hardware (15 minutes)
V. Supervised activities (60 minutes)
VI. Free time with the SSEP and exploration of other ideas (30 minutes)
VII. Review of hands-on activities with regard to the initial question (15 minutes)
VIII. Assessment of this workshop (5 minutes)
Dr. Mario Simoni is an Associate Professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology. His areas of teaching and research interest include engineering design, signal processing, analog IC design, engineering educational methods, and K-12 outreach.
Professor of Electrical Engineering at Bucknell University