Document Type

Conference Proceeding

Publication Date



To engage engineering students in their field of studies, it is essential for the students to take major courses as early as possible. However, first year EE major students in our institution don’t have many options as almost all major courses need physics and math courses as prerequisites. For most of our students, the Introduction to Electrical Engineering is available to them as the only Electrical Engineering course during their first semester in college. It is offered to introduce the students to such topics as electrical circuits, digital logic, and robotics. In addition to learning fundamental topics, the students are expected to be get interested in these subjects and motivated to learn more in the following years. Therefore, student success in this course is critical for retention.

It is well-understood that labs and projects with hands-on engineering experiments are indispensable in engineering training. Nowadays web and mobile technologies are playing more and more important roles in student learning. In this study, we focus on our experience of online labs. Specifically, we utilize an online FPGA platform to teach students on the introductory course’s section of Digital Logic Gates The platform provides students with anywhere anytime hardware lab experience at their fingertips. It had been used for both senior level Digital Engineering class and a summer camp for high-school students in the past., Based on the student feedback, we have customized the platform usage specifically for the freshman course in four different ways: 1) as a classroom teaching demo tool for students to see real-time actions from example circuit designs 2) to provide pre-lab exercise for students to practices with logic gates and combinational circuits with instant feedback 3) as a fast prototyping tool in comparison to the traditional breadboard prototyping technique 4) to provide post-lab activities for students to learn more advanced topics outside scheduled class and lab time. Instructor observations, student surveys are used to evaluate the effectiveness of these activities. This study provides guidelines for future curriculum design based on the platform. It will also contribute to the platform design improvement for more effective online lab delivery.


© 2020 American Society for Engineering Education.

Publication Title

2020 First-Year Engineering Experience



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