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Engineering -- Study and teaching, Curriculum planning


Application of active learning in microwave circuit design courses. We have recently expanded our undergraduate labs to include four 20 GHz VNA-s and four high-speed TDR oscilloscopes. They were obtained initially for junior electromagnetics labs but this opens up obvious opportunities for more hands-on approaches to teaching and learning microwave circuit design. We have redesigned our two quarter, senior-level sequence with these goals in mind: a) Emphasize complete design cycle, from "paper" development, to simulation, to prototype development and testing, followed by more advanced prototyping, testing and redesign. b) De-emphasize face-to-face lecture and emphasize in-class activities and peer interaction c) Provide students with as much immediate or early feedback as possible by utilizing a new classroom interaction system developed by Learning Catalytics. d) Reinforce student learning by having "lab" and "lecture" merge into one so that concepts can be immediately put to practice instead of waiting for assigned lab time. This means that as many designs from item a) should be attempted during class time so that instructor can provide immediate feedback. Work by R. Caverly at U. of Villanova has provided the initial impetus and work by K.C. Guptaon "conceptual mapping" is providing the framework. We will report on the details of lecture and course design, and lessons learned from the initial offering. Significant emphasis was placed on writing and presentation skills but mixed results were obtained. In the future we will provide more opportunity for students to re-write the reports on their activities instead of expecting that they will incorporate feedback into subsequent reports. We have also discovered some significant gaps or misconceptions in how students think about circuits. For example, they do not fully grasp the concept of admittance vs. impedance and why one may prefer to use one over the other. Similarly, basic concepts of impedance transformation took a long time to develop. We attempted to rank order the effectiveness of various components of the course, as judged by the students. Building and testing circuits and their simulations were perceived as most useful by students, as shown in the figure below. Examples of various class activities will be described, some assessment data provided, and plans for future improvements discussed.

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