Development of an Introduction to Circuits Course and Lab for Mechanical

Contributing USMA Research Unit(s)

Civil and Mechanical Engineering

Publication Date


Publication Title

2018 ASEE Annual Conference and Exposition

Document Type

Conference Proceeding


In the traditional Mechanical Engineering undergraduate curriculum, students are typically required to take a single introductory Circuits course. Such a course is often designed and taught by Electrical Engineering (EE) faculty and taken by students from various Engineering disciplines, including EE.

At Quinnipiac University (QU), 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 QU, there was also a rare opportunity to design a circuits laboratory space from scratch (infrastructure and equipment).

The focus of this work is the application of the Systematic Design of Instruction (SDI) towards the design of an Introduction to Circuits course targeted to undergraduate Mechanical Engineering students. The goal of this work is to determine if such a course is more effective at achieving student learning outcomes than a course taught to a variety of engineering majors. 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, the Introduction to Circuits course at QU 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). Finally, through a design project, students apply the knowledge and skills learned in the course and lab to design, simulate, prototype, build, and test a multi-output DC power supply. The final circuits are embodied with Printed Circuit Boards (PCBs) which the students design.

The success of this course is assessed by comparing our students’ perception of their circuitsrelated abilities to those of students from a nationally-regarded peer institution (who took circuits as a service course from their EE department) via anonymous surveys administered to both groups (in both cases, 6 to 12 months after completion of the course). In addition, through an internal end-of-semester assessment tool, we compare our students’ perception of their ability to achieve each course objective to embedded indicators based on performance in selected course assessments. Finally, 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.

Record links to items hosted by external providers may require fee for full-text.