In standard introductory electric circuits laboratories for electrical engineering (EE) majors and non-EE majors, prototype boards are typically used to construct and test electric circuits. Students typically do not learn how to design and manufacture Printed Circuit Boards (PCB) that are commonly used in more sophisticated design projects and other engineering applications. This paper will present the development and assessment of a PCB layout and manufacturing laboratory module that has been used in introductory electric circuits laboratories for EE and non-EE majors. The feasibility of integrating the new PCB layout and manufacturing module into the electric circuit course will be discussed. An experiment has been designed and conducted to assess the impact of the PCB module. A survey with questions from the Motivated Strategies for Learning Questionnaire (MSLQ) supplemented with additional questions was used to measure students’ motivation and the impact of the PCB module on student learning. In Winter quarter of 2009 at Cal Poly, two lab sessions for sophomore and junior non-EE engineering majors were taught by an instructor with an experimental group that designed a real PCB for one of their circuit design experiments and a control group that implemented all of the experiments using prototype boards. In Spring quarter of 2009 at Cal Poly, two lab sessions for EE majors at the sophomore level were offered by the same instructor with an experimental group that designed and built a PCB for one of their circuit design experiments and a control group that performed all experiments using prototype boards. Data have been collected and analyzed for these four student groups. Results indicate the inclusion of the PCB module did not impact the student’s ability to achieve any of the course or laboratory learning objectives. Though no statistically significant difference in student’s motivation was found between the experimental group and the control group, the results strongly indicate that students enjoyed the introduction of the PCB design module. Furthermore, students report they have a higher confidence in their ability to design printed circuit boards and they are more likely to design PCBs in other course projects as part of their senior projects.
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