About this paper:
Appears in: EDULEARN14 Proceedings
Publication year: 2014
Pages: 5417-5426
ISBN: 978-84-617-0557-3
ISSN: 2340-1117
Conference name: 6th International Conference on Education and New Learning Technologies
Dates: 7-9 July, 2014
Location: Barcelona, Spain
Nowadays, European Engineering Higher Education faces several important challenges: the reduction on the number of newcomer students to engineering courses in each year, which is mainly related to factors from sociological and economic origin; and the technical and personal skills required that students reveal upon graduation, and also the time available to achieve these goals. In the recent past, superseding some legal adjustments, the recruitment basis of new engineering students was enlarged, now ranging from students with some basic skills at the entry level, to others with very poor knowledge or no background in related areas. Besides these, the enrollment of new publics and the students’ mobility are other issues that influence the characterization of a classroom, which is far from heterogeneous and, although having diverse technical skills and background, students’ face common course plans, objectives and achievements. The general shortening on graduation courses operated recently, and the fast technological evolution, demand, on one hand, a strong focus on basis sciences (mathematics and physics) and on the fundamentals of technology. On the other hand, it requires a balance on theory and practice while emphasizing practical and critical thinking skills by using a “learning by doing” basis. Thus, different and dynamic pedagogical approaches and course supporting materials are needed focusing students’ profile and learning objectives, rather than merely on course subjects.

This paper presents the authors´ experience on teaching electronics and telecommunication subjects to students at different levels and courses, with a strong focus on the use of laboratory equipment and experiments to enhance their technical skills and background to enter the profession. The methodology adopted comprises three different but interconnected phases. The first comprises the analytical formulation/resolution of proposed problems/experiments in order to determine the results expected. After that, students are encouraged to use circuit simulation tools to compare its results with those obtained analytically and, third, to implement an experimental setup and compare real experimental results with those obtained in the two previous phases. From the author’s experience, the third is the most critical phase to the overall students´ success and performance and also the one where most students can become despondent. Breadboard misconnections, wrong measurement procedures or deficient adjustments on instruments are the most frequent issues, all caused by a lack on technical skills or background on laboratory equipment usage.

The courses taught comprise basic analog electronics, power electronics and telecommunications electronics, on pre-university level courses, e.g. specialized courses in Electronics and Electrical Installations and Electronics and Telecommunications, and to a bachelor degree in Electronics and Telecommunications. The approach, the resources used and some experiments are presented and discussed. The students’ workload and efforts are measured, the academic success rate is evaluated and the skills acquired are pointed out based on the results achieved by students, the complexity of the proposed problems, the correctness of the solutions adopted, the time spent to accomplish with tasks and the autonomy revealed.
Lab Experiments, Skills Development, Critical Thinking, Hands-on Learning.