Introduction of a Motivational Education Program for Electrical and Electronics Students prior to Matriculating in College

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1 Introduction of a Motivational Education Program for Electrical and Electronics Students prior to Matriculating in College Tsugutomo Kudoh, Kazutaka Itako, Takanori Komuro, Yusuke Takatori and Hiroshi Takahashi Kanagawa Institute of Technology, Shimo-Ogino, 1030, Atsugi, Kanagawa, Japan Corresponding Abstract In an effort linking senior high school and college, this institute started an introductory electrical and electronics course in 2006 for technical high school graduates. Taken prior to matriculating in college, the course is designed to meet the need expressed by senior high school teachers for colleges to provide early reinforcement of skills not adequately acquired at senior high school. In 2010, the institute also started such a course for regular high school graduates, and this has been popular. That year, the institute also began widely advertising the course to students taking the entrance exam, using the catch phrase Help students get their college life off to a smooth start! As a result, every year, some 80% or more of students entering the institute participate in the course. Aside from teaching electrical basics, the purpose of the course is to resolve as much as possible the anxiety of students taking the course by providing advice on the college life they are starting and giving them an early start making friends. The results of a survey on the course showed that 95% of respondents were satisfied with it. Moreover, students that had taken the course in the past reported that even after they graduated from college and started working, the friendships they had formed during the course had continued. Also, since the course was introduced, there have been fewer dropouts. This paper introduces the course and reports on its educational effect. Keywords: Introduction of electrical and electronics, Engineering education, Support program 1. Introduction In recent years, in addition to written examinations, which are the standard format, entrance examinations for Japanese universities have been conducted in a variety of other formats. Typical entrance examination formats include the AO (Admissions Office) entrance examination and entrance examination by commendation, both of which are in use at our university. The introduction of such entrance examination formats has broadened the range of students entering the university, so that we are now welcoming students not only from general high schools, but also those from technical high schools, commercial high schools, and other schools. Unlike the situation 20 years ago, when extremely difficult entrance examinations were a barrier to many students attending university, today s entrance examinations for universities in Japan allow even students who have not yet acquired fundamental academic skills to attend, thereby increasing the percentage of students who go on to attend university. Additionally, as the 18-year-old population continues to shrink, Japanese universities are introducing unique entrance examinations that allow examinees to demonstrate their individual personalities, as well as their academic abilities. In this environment, providing academic support for students following their acceptance to university has become extremely important. For instance, universities are beginning to provide supplementary programs to help students who did not attain the necessary level of learning in high school, as well as providing advice about their upcoming life at the university, support before entering the university, education aimed at boosting motivation, and other unique support programs targeting incoming students. In the Electrical and Electronics Engineering Department of our university, we have been asked by high school instructors to supplement areas of learning that students did not fully master in high school at the university level, early on, as one facet of the liaison relationship between high school and university. In response, taking into consideration the academic abilities of incoming students to our department, in 2006 we began teaching a course called Introduction to Electrical and Electronics Engineering, designed for students coming from technical high schools, which students take before starting their university education as their first attempt at university-level education in this subject. The course, which is offered before students start university, is considered unusual among Japanese universities. Starting from 2010, along with motivational education in the electrical industry field, we added another course for students from general high schools, commercial high schools, and 1

2 other schools, not just technical high schools, under the banner of Let s get off to a smooth start in university learning! Both of these courses have ranked highly in terms of student satisfaction, and because of this, they have been highly appraised by high school instructors as well. The courses are held in late March, during a four-day period, and are attended by 80 to 90% of the students who plan to attend the university. In addition, students who complete the entire content earn credit once they begin their university studies. Students who take the courses enjoy the advantage of making friends at their new university, in addition to learning the course material. This paper describes the content of the courses, which are also designed to introduce students to the attractions of our department. To cite the conclusion first, questionnaires have indicated that 90% or more of the students who have taken the courses have been satisfied with them. We report here on that outcome. 2. Publicity and learning/training content To make sure that as many high school teachers, high school students, and parents as possible would know about the Introduction to Electrical and Electronics Engineering courses, we created leaflets like that shown in Figure 1 and conducted publicity activities such as open campus events at the Figure 1. Pamphlet. university, off-campus courses, and visits to high schools. Also, in our department, we conduct information sessions for high school students who have been notified early on of their acceptance to the university through commendations, AO entrance examinations, and other means, emphasizing the importance of taking the course. Students can enroll Figure 2. The number of participants for the new students. either by sending an application by regular post or online through our website. When they enroll, students can select courses based on their major focus of study in high school. Figure 2 shows the percentage and number of students who took the courses in relation to the number of students who entered our department of the university from the 2010 academic year, when the two-course system was first introduced, to the current academic year. As a result of our publicity activity efforts, approximately 90% of students entering the university took the courses in Figure 3 shows the schedule over the four days of the courses. On the first day, students are given guidance and are taught about safety pertaining to the experiment. They are then divided into various classes and form teams comprising two or three students each, and the lectures and experiment begin. Day 1 Day 2~3 Day 4 Guidance Safety education Technology high school graduates (Course A) Regular high school graduates (Course B) Convivial party Figure 3. The schedule of this lecture. Table 1 shows the topics and the contents of the learning and experiment for students from technical high schools (Course A), while Table 2 shows the Table 1. The topics and learning and experiment content of Course A. (Technology high school) Day Topics Learning and Training content 1 Maximum Experiment for power of a solar cell. 2 power of Theoretical calculation for power of a Solar cell. solar cell. 3 Electrical Experiment for energy of a solar cell. 4 energy of Theoretical calculation for electrical Solar cell. energy of a solar cell. Table 2. The topics and learning and experiment content of Course B. (Regular high school) Day Topics Learning and Training content 1 Basic How to use the measuring instrument. experiment. Experiment of Ohm s law. 2 Solar cell Theoretical calculation for power of a experiment solar cell. 3 Basics of AC and DC. Measurement of change in phase, frequency and sound. 4 Electronic Manufacture and programming of PIC circuit. microcontroller circuits. 2

3 same information for students from general high schools (Course B). Course A focuses primarily on experiments using solar cell panels. Students first attend classroom lectures to review material that they learned in high school, such as technical subjects, physics, and mathematics (calculus). At the next step, they conduct experiments, simulation analyses, and theoretical investigations involving solar cells, in line with the material covered in the classroom lectures. In particular, there are numerous students in Course A who either did not take calculus in high school, or who feel that they are not good at it, so the course focuses heavily on basic calculation at the beginning, before proceeding to the experiments. In Course B, students gain basic knowledge about electricity, simple ways to use measuring instruments, how to construct installation platforms for solar cell panels, the basic operating principles of electricity generation, acoustics, and sensors, and how to use soldering irons. They also learn how to manufacture PIC microcontroller circuits, as well as other introductory material. The course is designed to help students deepen their fundamental knowledge about electricity in ways that are enjoyable and easy for them to understand. In both courses, students write reports on their experiment results, either by hand or using a computer, and submit them at the end of the day. Instructors check and correct the submitted reports and provide feedback to the students. 3. Implementation results and discussion In the following section, we present the implementation results of each course and discussion concerning the two-course system. 3.1 Implementation aspects (Course A) In this section, we present aspects regarding the implementation of Course A. The training in Course A is structured so that students work together in teams of three or four and perform the experiments. On the first day, students attend a lecture on how to use the measuring instruments. After the lecture, they measure basic I-V and P-V characteristics using solar cell panels. Figure 4(a) shows the implementation of this part of the course. One impressive aspect is the mutual cooperation demonstrated by the students as they conduct the target experiment. Figure 4(b) shows students conducting a simulation analysis related to the maximum power of a solar cell, using a computer. Theoretical calculations are done using calculus. Students are carefully taught why calculus is necessary for the theoretical calculations, and the relationship between the simulations and the experiment results. On the second day, students continue to engage in both theory and experiments so that they understand that theory is important, not just experiments. Using guidance methods such as these, we strive to provide constant follow-up to keep (a) Experimental of Solar module. (b) Simulation analysis. Figure 4. Practical training in Course A. students from dropping out, and to date, not a single student has dropped the course. Also, in Course A, time is provided for students to present their thinking to each other, so that they can discuss their points of view. We have found that this format provides extremely effective training for students in learning to think for themselves and to present their own thoughts and ideas. 3.2 Implementation aspects (Course B) In Course B, as in Course A, students conduct experiments in teams of three or four. On the first day, to familiarize them with the atmosphere of the experiment, they learn how to use measuring instruments, what to do if instruments break down, and how to create graphs. They then conduct experiments using Ohm s law, which is basic to electrical circuits. In the Ohm s law experiments, students compare data consisting of theoretical values and actual measured values, and they try to come up with reasons for differences between the two. After the lecture has ended on the first day, most of the students are able to use the measuring instruments and to handle instrument breakdowns. On the second day, the course introduces solar cells, as questionnaires conducted after past courses indicated a high level of desire for this information. The majority of students taking Course B have never done experiments using solar cell panels, so they are first presented with basic information on how to use the panels, and then they freely carry out measurements, as seen in the photograph in Figure 5(a). Next, on the second half of Day 2, students are given an assignment to manufacture an installation 3

4 platform for solar cells. The students manufacture an installation platform that is at an angle, working together as teams to carry out the entire series of steps, from installation of the panels and batteries to making electrical wiring diagrams. Figure 5(b) shows this work. While the students are doing this, the instructor merely observes, without participating. Observing the progress of the students on the second day, they had divided themselves up to handle different aspects of the experiment, such as one person being in charge of measuring and another being in charge of recording, as shown in the photograph in Figure 5(c). One of the features of this course is that it aims to provide students with the ability to think for themselves and to discuss the work with other students. This approach provides more opportunities for team members to talk with one another and is highly effective at encouraging students to form friendships. On the third day, students carry out experiments (a) Experimental of Solar module. involving alternating current, including reviewing oscilloscope operation. The content introduced at this stage, concerning alternating current, represents one area where students often have trouble in classes on electrical circuits once they start their university coursework. This course uses experiment content focusing on voices, which are familiar to the students, to facilitate smooth learning after university courses begin. In the experiment, students use an oscilloscope to measure differences in the wavelengths of high-pitched and low-pitched sounds output by the speaker, and calculate frequencies from waveforms. We strive to give each student enough time so that they can truly understand and keep up with the alternating current content. On the fourth day, students construct electronic circuits using microcontrollers. In our department, we put particular emphasis on helping students understand how much fun it can be to create things using microcontrollers. Also, in recent years, approximately 20% of the students entering the university said that they had never used a soldering iron in junior high school or high school. Given this background, we teach circuit construction with particular emphasis on the pleasure of creating things and on how to use a soldering iron. The substrate shown in Figure 6 was developed by our department as an educational tool for teaching people how to construct an electronic circuit for the first time. In the time that we have been using this substrate to teach circuit construction, there have been almost no cases in which students were unable to successfully complete the assignment. After completing the course, all of the students are able to handle a soldering iron. (b) Experimental of Solar module. Figure 6. Fabricating of Electronic circuit using microcontrollers. (c) Simulation analysis. Figure 5. Practical training in Course A. 4. Questionnaire results On the final day of each of the courses, students fill out questionnaires that ask how difficult the course topics were, how interesting the experiments were, and other questions. Table 3 shows the results of the questionnaires for each of the courses relating 4

5 to the level of difficulty of the various topics. A higher value indicates greater difficulty. The results of the course questionnaires are described below. Table 3. Each topics difficulty level Day 1 Day 2 Day 3 Day 4 Course A 45% 48% 46% 29% Course B 17% 12% 18% 26% 4.1 Topic difficulty (Course A) When students were asked to complete questionnaires about the level of difficulty of Course A, approximately 40% of them perceived themselves as not being good at conducting experiments. Looking at the comments by the students, many of the responses indicated that the theoretical calculations involving calculus and physics were particularly difficult. At the same time, however, students indicated that they found the simulation analyses easy. We believe that students found this area easy because they learned to use Excel in high school, so they were able to easily input theoretical formulas, and they were able to obtain results that were in line with the theoretical formulas. Also, approximately 60% of the students said that they were able to understand the theoretical calculations and investigations. We believe this was because the lectures included basic physics and mathematics content. One current issue in terms of Course A is how to overcome students perception of themselves as not being good at the content even after taking the course. In the future, we hope to further improve the course content so that as many students as possible come away with greater self-confidence with respect to studying. 4.2 Topic difficulty (Course B) In terms of the level of difficulty of the content of Course B, averaged over four days, approximately 20% of the students said that the content was difficult. Breaking down the content, approximately 90% of the students were able to understand Ohm s law and the experiments using the solar cell panels, but the remaining 10% felt that it was difficult. We hope to conduct questionnaire-type surveys and improve the content of the course in the future. There were some students who felt that the topic of alternating current covered on the third day was somewhat difficult, and our sense is that we need to come up with ways to create materials that focus on topics familiar to students other than voices. Because the project on the construction of electronic circuits using microcontrollers was intended for beginners, many of the students said that they did not find it very difficult. We believe we obtained the responses that we did because the course focused primarily on circuit construction and did not introduce programs for operating microcontrollers. Thus, in the future, we believe that the content needs to be improved and should include programs. 4.3 Degree of satisfaction with the courses, and areas for improvement Figure 7 shows the results of students assessment of their level of satisfaction with the various courses throughout the four days. For both courses, students expressed a high level of satisfaction, of 90% or higher. However, although few in number, there were (2) 65% (3) 0% (2) 50% (3) 0% (1) Very satisfaction. (2) Satisfaction. (3) It was OK. (4) Dissatisfaction. (4) 10% (a) Course A (4) 3% (b) Course B (1) (2) (3) (4) (1) 32% (1) 40% (1) (2) (3) (4) Figure 7. Degree of satisfaction with the courses. some students who expressed dissatisfaction, saying that the courses were not interesting. We need to further enhance the courses to make them more attractive. One problem with the courses is that there were some prospective university students who were unable to take the courses because of moving or some other reason. We are providing as much support as possible for such students in order to 5

6 facilitate their studies once they enter the university. In the near future, we also plan to implement content relating to fuel cells and wind power generation, as the questionnaires indicated an interest in these areas. 5. Expected outcomes In addition to supplying content not learned in high school, the courses are also aimed at helping students eliminate anxieties about the lifestyle of a university student. For both of the courses, approximately 90% of the students expressed anxiety prior to taking the course, but 80% or more said that their anxieties had been alleviated after taking the course. Therefore, the results strongly suggest that the courses are effective. Additionally, when asked whether they had been able to make friends by taking the course, 90% or more of the students said that they had. Based on these responses, we found that participants who came from other regions, in particular, had been able to make friends, and that the courses have been effective in quelling their anxieties. 6. Summary From 2006, a course has been held for students from technical high schools entering the engineering department of the university in order to supplement areas that they had not sufficiently mastered in high school. However, because high school teachers teaching general courses expressed a strong desire for a similar course for their students, we initiated a course for students from general high schools in To date, the courses have maintained a high level of satisfaction, 90% or higher. The educational outcomes of the courses are summarized as follows: courses, and, because the courses generate increased interest in the field of electricity as a result of the experiments, there have been fewer students who felt that the university was not a good fit for them. After the educational outcomes described above were obtained from these courses, the university began holding courses for students in other departments prior to the beginning their university studies as well. 7. References [1] Tsugutomo Kudoh, Kazutaka Itako, Takanori Komuro, Introduction of motivation experimental education in electrical and electronics for pre-school training., 59th International Section, JSEE, 2011, pp [2] Tsugutomo Kudoh, Kazutaka Itako, Takanori Komuro, Introduction of motivation experimental education in electrical and electronics for pre-school training., 60th International Section, JSEE, 2011, pp [3] Tsugutomo Kudoh, Kazutaka Itako, Takanori Komuro, et al., Introduction of educational materials of experimental education in electrical and electronic for pre-school training. Proceedings of JSES and JWEA Joint Conference, 2013, pp Because the courses supplement areas that were not sufficiently mastered in high school, many students have been able to keep up with their university courses. In Course B, students were able to enjoy creating things and also learned about a broad spectrum of electricity fields. In the questionnaires following the course, many of the students wrote that they had gained an interest in the fields of electricity and electronics. Students said that they were able to make friends early on in the courses and that once they started their classes at the university, they were able to continue good relationships with these students. We have also heard that students have carried on these friendships over the long term, after graduating. Starting from the 2006 academic year, when we first held one of these courses, there has actually been a decrease in the number of students who dropped out of the university. We believe the reasons for this include students gaining additional confidence about their studies by taking one of the 6

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