Development of an Introduction to Circuits Course and Lab for Mechanical Engineering Students via Systematic Design of Instruction

Journal Title
Journal ISSN
Volume Title
In the traditional Mechanical Engineering undergraduate curriculum, students are typically required to take a single introductory Circuits course. Such a course is usually designed and taught by Electrical Engineering (EE) faculty and taken by students from various Engineering disciplines, including EE. At [our university], there is no EE program and only Mechanical Engineering students are required to take an introductory Circuits Course. This presented an opportunity to carefully design a course tailored to the specific needs of our students in the context of our curriculum, the post-graduation expectations of our constituents, and current trends in electromechanical system integration. Furthermore, with Mechanical Engineering being a new program at [our university], there was also a rare opportunity to design a Circuits laboratory space from scratch (infrastructure and equipment). The main focus of this work is the application of the Systematic Design of Instruction (SDI) towards the design of an Introduction to Circuits course specifically intended for undergraduate Mechanical Engineering students and taught by Mechanical Engineering faculty. The SDI, developed by Walter Dick and Lou Carey, is a comprehensive process which begins with the identification of main instructional goals and carefully formulates an instructional strategy based on students’ entry and subordinate skills, performance objectives, assessment instruments, and a cyclical formative evaluation of the course for continuous improvement. As a result of SDI application, our Introduction to Circuits course provides students with foundational knowledge in DC and AC circuits, as well as some building-block knowledge for future courses in Mechatronics, Controls and Data Acquisition (motors, generators, diodes, strain gages, voltage regulators, and op amps). An accompanying 1-credit lab was also developed using the SDI process, adopting the National Instruments ELVIS and Circuit Design Suite as the main instrumentation platform and software. In addition to reinforcing concepts learned in the course, this lab serves to build practical and hands-on skills in breadboarding, circuit instrumentation and testing, soldering, Printed Circuit Board (PCB) design and circuit simulation. For the final project, students apply the knowledge and skills learned in the course and lab to design, simulate, prototype, test and build a multi-output DC power supply. The final circuits are embodied via PCBs which the students design, order, populate and solder. The success of this course is assessed via faculty assessment of students’ projects and anonymous end-of-semester student feedback surveys. Students are asked to self-evaluate their abilities in every course objective, as well as provide written feedback regarding the course, lab and design project. In addition, evidence of proficiency in circuit design and implementation is manifested in students’ subsequent Senior Capstone Projects, in which some groups have designed and built PCBs to power and embody the main electronic components in their designed systems. Some such examples are presented in this paper.
Senior Capstone Projects, Mechanical Engineering undergraduate curriculum
Crawford, B. G., & Riofrio, J. A., & Melnyk, R. (2018, June), Development of an Introduction to Circuits Course and Lab for Mechanical Engineering Students via Systematic Design of Instruction Paper presented at 2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Salt Lake City, Utah. 10.18260/1-2--30327