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Electric Circuits spark an entrepreneurial mindset
Updated: 9/8/2021 10:22 AM by Becky Benishek
A traditional electric circuits course can spark the entrepreneurial mindset with just a few key enhancements.

1.) Question Formulation Technique (QFT): [Targets Curiosity]
The QFT is a pedagogical approach, created by the Right Question Institute, to improve the ability of students to formulate their own questions, refine and prioritize the questions, and ultimately use the questions for some purpose. It involves a question focus (QFocus) developed by the instructor to direct the question generation process. Divergent thinking is encouraged, where students brainstorm to create questions (called question-storming) in groups of 3-5 students in order to generate many questions on the QFocus topic. Students then analyze and refine the questions, and then prioritize them based on relevance to the QFocus, propensity for exploration, and student interest. A QFT exercise is used in 10 of the labs as a kickstarter for the laboratory experiment. From the ten sets of QFT exercises, each student selects three questions from different labs to use in three short exploratory research papers on the selected questions. Finally students write a brief reflection on the QFT exercises and exploratory research assignments.

See the Circuits QFT Resources folder for files supporting this tool.

2.) Circuit analogies related to real life experiences or familiar topics: [Targets Connections]
Connecting new topics to established student knowledge and understanding is a well-researched pedagogical approach firmly grounded in the science of learning. Given the abstract nature of electric circuits to students, it is even more critical for this subject. Toward the end of the course, students have the option to reflect on one of the analogies given throughout the course and connect it to a personal life experience, or to create their own analogy that connects the circuit content to a life experience or other topic.

See the Circuits Analogy Resources folder for files supporting this.

3.) Entrepreneurially Minded Learning (EML) circuit design-build-test with value proposition: [Targets Creating Value]
Students organize into groups of two to four students (from at least two different majors, if possible, as the circuits course has students from up to 5 different majors) to design and build a circuit to interface two electrical components: a position sensor that provides a signal with one voltage range and an Analog-to-Digital Converter (ADC) that accepts another voltage range. The mapping of the voltage must meet certain constraints and the circuit must be able to source at least 10mA to the ADC. There are four deliverables for the project: a team charter, design alternatives document, written product proposal, and 5-minute prototype demonstration.

In the team charter, students list the set of rules and expectations for their team to try to avoid the common pitfalls and submit the team charter during Lab 6.

The design alternatives document requires students to demonstrate that at least two unique solutions are viable. They must define relevant design criteria and evaluation metrics, mathematically analyze their designs, simulate them in PSPICE, select one circuit component supplier, and find all parts necessary to construct the circuit. The bill of materials must have supplier part numbers and the correct number of parts to construct 10,000 circuits.

Feedback from the instructor on the design alternatives document must be incorporated in the written product proposal, which should compare 2 suppliers for each design and identify one distributor who would reasonably sell the circuit, convey the value proposition for the circuit design selected, and describe the testing and implementation. The value proposition section should use the Need-Approach-Benefits/Costs-Competition (NABC) framework to organize the value proposition. The NABC framework is a tool developed by SRI International to improve the value propositions generated internally.

Finally, students describe the design and prototype in a 5-minute pitch in the final lab.

See the Circuits EML Design-Build-Test Project with NABC Value Props folder for files supporting this.
Note: Featured Image is a personalized PCB created by ONU student Gabriel Russ.
Learning Objectives
Upon completion of this course, the student should be able to:

1. Solve DC electric circuits as well as single and three-phase circuit problems through use of basic circuit laws, analysis techniques, and network theorems.
2. Solve circuit problems containing operational amplifiers.
3. Apply fundamental principles of storage elements to solve first-order transient circuit problems.
4. Determine the capacitance required for power factor correction in both single-phase and three-phase loads.
5. Analyze ideal transformer circuits.
6. Design and construct simple circuits based on given specifications.
7. Use PSPICE software to analyze electric circuits.
8. Demonstrate competence in both safely constructing electric circuits and obtaining experimental data through laboratory work.
9. Connect life experiences with circuit content and recognize and explore circuit knowledge gaps as curious learners who take ownership of their learning through question formulation and questioning information given without sufficient justification.
10. Explore multiple solution paths in the circuit design process by gathering experimental and simulation data to support or refute circuit design ideas, identifying and evaluating relevant sources of information, considering the underlying problem from multiple viewpoints, and demonstrating an understanding of the ramifications of circuit design decisions, ultimately to craft a compelling value proposition tailored to specific stakeholders about circuit solutions that meet stakeholder needs.
11. Teach and learn from peers while meeting project and team commitments, developing an appreciation of hard work, recognizing the benefits of focused and fervent effort, accepting responsibility for their own actions, crediting the actions of others, and identifying and working with individuals with complementary skill sets, expertise, etc., in order to produce effective written reports and verbal presentations that incorporate instructor feedback and present technical information effectively (graphs, tables, equations).
Instructor Tips
+ Many students reflected positively on: the effects of the QFT exercises on their ability and comfort in formulating questions; the QFT explorations in illuminating connections with more complex systems such as wind turbines, photovoltaic cells, and RF transmitter design; and the design-build-test EML project in improving their understanding of circuit design & applications; the analogies for making the content more relatable.
– An entire lab session is required to introduce the QFT and NABC frameworks.
– Too many deliverables are due near the end of the semester in the current implementation (written product proposal, prototype demonstration, QFT research exploration assignments, and reflections).
– Don't include a minimum number of questions to be generated in the QFT rubric. [This has been removed from the rubrics posted].
Δ Require each student in the group to independently provide a unique design alternative and grade the design alternative individually to provide more individual accountability within the group.
Δ Space deadlines of QFT deliverables, and reduce the number of QFT exercises and explorations.
  • Demonstrate constant curiosity about our changing world
  • Explore a contrarian view of accepted solution
  • Integrate information from many sources to gain insight
Creating Value
  • Identify unexpected opportunities to create extraordinary value
  • Persist through and learn from failure
  • Determine Design Requirements
  • Perform Technical Design
  • Create Model or Prototype
  • Analyze Solutions
  • Validate Functions
  • Identify Opportunity
  • Evaluate Tech Feasibility, Customer Value, Societal Benefits & Economic Viability
  • Create Preliminary Business Model
  • Communicate Solution in Economic Terms
  • Develop Partnerships & Build Team
  • Identify Supply Chains & Distribution Methods
  • Biomedical Engineering
  • Electrical & Computer Engineering
  • Engineering Science/Physics
  • General Engineering
Firas Hassan
Kundan Nepal
Gabriel Russ
Gregory Mowry
The course syllabus and schedule provide context for how the entrepreneurial mindset is integrated into the course. Note that Khalid Al-Olimat's circuits textbook is used in our course, soon to be on the market!
Title Type Ext Date Size
ECCS2311_Syllabus_F2017.doc Syllabus .doc 1/21/2018 148 KB
ECCS2311_Schedule_17_18_LeBlanc.docx Other .docx 1/21/2018 21 KB
Lab 0 is the 1st lab, given during the first week, that introduces the QFT and NABC methods. The guided notes and PowerPoint presentation are provided. The QFT discussion handout is used during this lab and the QFT framework handout is given to students.

QFT exercises are done at the beginning of lab and students type questions in the template.

The early lab rubric focuses more on the process of refining the questions. The later lab rubric focuses more on the prioritized questions.
Title Type Ext Date Size
ECCS2311_QFTExplorationDescription.docx Activity / Handout .docx 1/21/2018 19.1 KB
ECCS2311_Lab0_QFT&NABC.docx Lesson .docx 1/21/2018 50.1 KB
ECCS2311_Lab0_QFT&NABC_pres.pptx Presentation .pptx 1/21/2018 1.2 MB
QFTDiscussionHandout.docx Activity / Handout .docx 1/21/2018 15.2 KB
QFTFrameworkHandout.docx Activity / Handout .docx 1/21/2018 18.3 KB
Lab8QFT_Exercise_Template.docx Activity / Handout .docx 1/21/2018 25.6 KB
Lab8QFT_RedactedStudentExample.docx Student Artifact / Example .docx 1/21/2018 26.8 KB
ECCS2311_QFTRubric_EarlyLabs.docx Assessment / Rubric .docx 1/22/2018 18.4 KB
ECCS2311_QFTRubric_LaterLabs.docx Assessment / Rubric .docx 1/22/2018 18.5 KB
LabQFTQFocusList.docx Instructor Notes .docx 1/26/2018 13.4 KB
The analogy reflection exercise helps students to explore one of the analogies in a deeper context or even create their own circuits analogy.
Title Type Ext Date Size
F2017_ECCS2311_AnalogyReflectionDescription.docx Activity / Handout .docx 1/21/2018 17.8 KB
The presentation introduces the project along with the design project handout.

The team charter is a template to provide students and have them fill it out.

The design alternative rubric is a breakdown of the grading for the first deliverable, which is returned with instructor feedback before students begin on the next deliverables. The proposal and demo rubric are used to grade the final proposal and demo, respectively.
Title Type Ext Date Size
F2017_ECCS2311_EMLDesignProject_pres.pptx Presentation .pptx 1/21/2018 179.8 KB
CircuitsTeamCharter.docx Activity / Handout .docx 1/21/2018 17 KB
F2017_ECCS2311_DesignProject_SignalConditioning.docx Activity / Handout .docx 1/21/2018 80.6 KB
F2017_ECCS2311_DesignAlternativeRubric.docx Assessment / Rubric .docx 1/21/2018 15.2 KB
F2017_ECCS2311_EMLProposalRubric.docx Assessment / Rubric .docx 1/21/2018 21.1 KB
F2017_ECCS2311_PrototypeImp&DemoRubric.docx Assessment / Rubric .docx 1/21/2018 16.9 KB