Learning Circuits Through Integrated Hardware, Software, and Courseware

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"Adding Multisim circuit simulation to the mix provides students with a three-way solution process."

- Ed Doering, Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology

The Challenge:
Integrating physical measurements into homework assignments to show students that textbook theory applies to the real world and help them experience the limits of mathematical models.

The Solution:
Developing a three-way solution method as a weekly laboratory activity based on NI hardware, software, and courseware to enhance students understanding of theory and let them experiment multiple scenarios on their own.

Author(s):
Ed Doering - Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology

Circuits and microelectronics courses traditionally separate laboratory projects and homework; however, integrating physical measurements into homework assignments can help students appreciate that textbook theory really does apply to the real world. It also helps them experience the limits of mathematical models.

In my classes at the Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology, I use myDAQ instrumentation to accomplish this integration without laboratory scheduling constraints. My students can build and experience real circuit behavior anywhere and at any time. By solving the problem analytically—simulating the circuit, building the circuit, and taking measurements—students triangulate on the true circuit behavior from three independent vantage points. Adding Multisim circuit simulation to the mix provides students with a three-way solution process. As students work to harmonize these three aspects of the problem, they gain confidence in circuit analysis, improve their ability to set up and interpret simulation results, and develop hands-on laboratory and troubleshooting skills. Moreover, they go beyond basic mathematical manipulations to develop deeper insights into the effects of simplified assumptions, device model mismatches, and temperature-dependent behavior.

Rose-Hulman recently piloted the three-way solution method as a weekly laboratory activity. Student questions shifted from the typical, “How do I do this step?” to a more confident request for help: “Something must be wrong with my analytical work because my simulation and measurement results agree with each other!”

Faculty can download two free textbook supplements from NTS Press to try this new learning paradigm. NI myDAQ and Multisim Problems for Circuits offers 40 problems written in the style of traditional end-of-chapter homework problems. Each problem guides students through applicable simulation and measurement techniques, with links to relevant task-oriented Multisim and myDAQ video tutorials.

Topics include DC/AC circuits, transient circuits, AC power, filters, and Fourier analysis. Problems & Explorations in Microelectronics with NI myDAQ and Multisim features 40 more problems written in the same style and covers diodes, operational amplifier circuits, MOSFETs, and BJTs.

With the seamless integration between Multisim and laboratory hardware, students could correlate real and simulated measurements in a single interface to reinforce theory and complete the laboratories more successfully than adopting a traditional teaching approach.

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