About this paper

Appears in:
Pages: 6879-6886
Publication year: 2013
ISBN: 978-84-616-3847-5
ISSN: 2340-1095

Conference name: 6th International Conference of Education, Research and Innovation
Dates: 18-20 November, 2013
Location: Seville, Spain


T. Reece, W.H. Robinson

Vanderbilt University (UNITED STATES)
Modern digital design of integrated circuits (ICs) in nanometer technologies requires both insight for new solutions and familiarity with design tools. Designers are faced with the complexity of billion-transistor chips operating at gigahertz frequencies. The next generation of designers should have proficiency with:
(1) design,
(2) simulation,
(3) design-for-test,
(4) hardware implementation,
(5) hardware testing.

Within electrical and computer engineering, students are exposed to techniques used in electronic design automation (EDA). Many vendors of EDA tools support university programs with the intent to prepare the next generation of designers to meet the challenges of designing and manufacturing modern ICs. We have found that students are challenged by the variety of EDA tools, the usage of hardware description languages (HDLs), and the design flow of modern digital systems.

This paper will demonstrate the tendency of students in a laboratory setting to prioritize the use of familiar tools, while completely avoiding the use of newly available tools. The use of new tools is viewed as risky, since the assignment can be completed successfully with familiar tools, albeit with much greater overhead. It was observed in our Digital Logic laboratory that students will not make use of a newly introduced tool, even when given a task that would take a significant amount of time to complete using only familiar tools. Even if students are shown that the newly available tool will greatly reduce their workload, they will still refuse to switch away from the more familiar tools. This behavior persists so long as the students are not required to use the newly available tool, through either a graded requirement or through a task that cannot be accomplished with only familiar tools. Once a student is required to spend time using a tool, they can evaluate its capability to ease the workload demand of the assignment. They will no longer exhibit this risk-aversion behavior, and will use the most effective tool for a task.

Based on this observed behavior, it is therefore critical to mandate the use of important tools when designing coursework for a laboratory class. Simply presenting such tools as possible options for the students is insufficient in causing the students to learn and use these tools. For a laboratory in which there are multiple tools or techniques that can be used to accomplish the same task, it is necessary to arbitrarily require students to use each tool or technique individually. Without forcing the students' acclimation to each tool or technique, the students will not be capable of effectively choosing between available tools and techniques to complete a task.
author = {Reece, T. and Robinson, W.H.},
series = {6th International Conference of Education, Research and Innovation},
booktitle = {ICERI2013 Proceedings},
isbn = {978-84-616-3847-5},
issn = {2340-1095},
publisher = {IATED},
location = {Seville, Spain},
month = {18-20 November, 2013},
year = {2013},
pages = {6879-6886}}
AU - T. Reece AU - W.H. Robinson
SN - 978-84-616-3847-5/2340-1095
PY - 2013
Y1 - 18-20 November, 2013
CI - Seville, Spain
JO - 6th International Conference of Education, Research and Innovation
JA - ICERI2013 Proceedings
SP - 6879
EP - 6886
ER -
T. Reece, W.H. Robinson (2013) RISK-AVERSION IN LABORATORY LEARNING, ICERI2013 Proceedings, pp. 6879-6886.