Living-with-Lab: A New & Innovative Initiative

The Electrical Engineering program at Sonoma State University is heavily focused on hands-on teaching and learning methods, which is achieved through laboratory experiments and special projects focusing on design and construction of circuits. During their freshman year, EE students enroll in two 1-unit introductory laboratory courses. The first lab focuses on analog electronics and the second course deals with digital electronics. Due to the mandatory unit reduction for engineering programs across the CSU, the department could not add any lecture hours to these two courses. These courses play a significant positive role in making beginning EE students become interested in building projects, which adds to their excitement for pursuing a EE degree. Moreover, the two introductory courses act like a window into the students’ future courses.

The concept of Living-with-Lab originated from the fact that all EE students at various levels need to have access to test and measurement instruments outside of the laboratory, in their dorm rooms, apartments or at home. The EE department has identified an electronic device that can be connected to students’ laptops through their USB port and function as several instruments. This small and lightweight device is called “Discovery Scope”, and can be used by student to perform basic test and measurement on their circuits. Students are provided with some basic components and tools that can be placed in the backpacks. The combination of the Discovery Scope, a small tool box and the student laptop functions as a mobile and lightweight laboratory that can be set up for test and measurement with little effort.

Professor Saeid Rahimi used his own funds to purchase a sufficient number of Discovery Scope units and materials and components for his students in ES110, the first EE introductory laboratory course. Students have been issued the units and have signed forms that will ensure that they will return the units back to the department. The department is currently applying for grants that will make it possible for the next group of EE freshmen to keep these instruments for the duration of their undergraduate studies at SSU. The local industry has expressed interest to secure funding for the department to make the concept of Living-with-Lab a reality in perpetuity.