D. Díaz1, J.A. Somolinos1, T.J. Leo1, J. Morán1, R. Morales2

1Technical University of Madrid - ETSI Navales (SPAIN)
2Technical University of Castilla La Mancha - ETSI Industriales (SPAIN)
In the context of the Spanish Universities adaptation to the European Higher Education Area [1], electric circuits, electronics or automatic control disciplines have been transferred from high courses to lower ones, where the students have not yet acquired an adequate mathematical background. Besides, the associated number of credits has been drastically reduced. In addition, in the Higher Technical School of Naval Architecture and Ocean Engineering of the Technical University of Madrid, the contents of these subjects are not perceived by the students as very important for their future job. These are the main reasons that have impelled to look for a strengthening of knowledge by means of the laboratory practice, in order to make the students understand the concepts explained in class instead of spending long time with tedious calculations with mathematical procedures. In addition, it is necessary for the students to know the tasks to be performed in the laboratory, the safety regulations and the theoretical contents. Usually, the problem statements of practical sessions are not read before attending the laboratory, and much time has to be spent in the initial part of the practice schedule. To avoid this, accomplishment of various Stepped Practical Works have been proposed for each of the subjects related with electricity and automatic control during a 4-5 months course. Each of these works consists of three sequential steps that students must pass to reach a good mark in each practical part.

• Handmade work. A complete problem or a set of them covering the contents under study performed by hand calculations or with a calculator. A booklet of results has to be filled and delivered in time. Only specific tutoring is required.
• Computer work. The same problem/s the students have solved previously are simulated or implemented with the use of computer tools [2-3]. Graphical and numerical facilities let the students validate their results against those previously obtained or with theoretical references as [5]. Large groups in a computer center can be attended by one teacher.
• Laboratory work. Finally, students who have passed the two previous parts, access to the laboratory to set up the circuits or systems with real components, obtain measurements of the physical quantities involved and validate the calculation methods and results. Only small groups of 10-20 students can be attended in a single session by one teacher.

With the proposed method [5] at least five main objectives are achieved:
• Students accessing to the laboratory have previously solved related contents problems.
• The obtained results are validated against the previous theoretical and computer aided results.
• Not too much teacher resources are spent for these tasks.
• Groups of students can validate and compare results. Each student has a personal set of data (related with his/her personal Identity Card Code).
• Teachers spend a relative small amount of time during the correction and marking phases.