This paper will describe the transition of a highly successful freshman electrical and computer engineering design course in order to improve student learning and mastery. The primary enhancement was to change the hardware platform for the design project from LEGO(R) MINDSTORMS(R) to Arduino microcontrollers. There were several motivations for this change including creating a stronger emphasis on electrical and computer engineering concepts, improving programming and circuit building skills, and increasing the course technical rigor. The objectives of this course are to introduce students to electrical and computer engineering as well as the engineering design process, teamwork skills, professional development, and technical documentation through a quarter-long design project. A primary focus during the course is also for the students to have fun while learning these things. This year the course was converted to include not just a quarter-long design project but also mini-projects implemented with the Arduino-based SparkFun Inventor Kit. The sample projects in the kit touch upon a variety of ECE topics and help the students create connections with their chosen discipline. The kit is also a great tool for improving their technical skill with respect to hardware and software. This paper will contrast and compare this course before and after the change to microcontrollers in order to verify that the new learning objectives were met and the course was indeed improved. The paper will also review lessons learned in order to improve future iterations of the course.
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