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International Conference on Education Informatics (EduMatics-2010), May 22-23, 2010

Electronic Mini-Lab (EML): A Boon for Skill


Based Electronic Engineering Education
1
Vikas J Dongre, 2Ramkrishna V Yenkar , 3Dr. Vijay H Mankar
1,2,3
Department of Electronics & Telecommunication,
Government Polytechnic, Nagpur, India
1
dongrevj@yahoo.co.in; 2rvyenkar@yahoo.com; 3vhmankar@yahoo.com

ABSTRACT:
In this paper, a new approach to teach practical skills based engineering and science students to encourage project and
subjects is presented in very comprehensive manner. An design based learning complementary to the e-learning.
Electronic Mini-Lab (EML) is devised containing basic design
and test instruments with electronic components, ICs, connecting Practicals in the laboratory are an essential part for
wires and battery. Using this EML, students will be able to
perform various formal and informal digital and analog circuit
verification of maximum classroom theory in all subjects
practical as well as design prototypes of projects. This will give of engineering education. The ratio of theory to practical to
them, hands on experience and sense of belonging, sense of theory varies at various levels of education. In engineering
cooperation. They will share their experiences with colleagues. degree, the ratio is generally 60:40. In Engineering
The EML will be useful for performing many practicals of variety Diploma, it is 40:60. In industrial training institutes it is
of subjects. At the same time EML will reduce the workload of 20:80. This highlights the importance of practical sessions.
college laboratories. Students will have their own individual In this paper we specifically emphasize on electronic
EML at their disposal anytime which they can use for electronic engineering group branches. The idea can equally be
fun. This will make them skilled engineers. This EML is implemented in other branches of engineering with
introduced in our college. Every student has his / her own EML
.This provided tremendous benefits in teaching learning process.
suitable modifications.
It has also boosted the interest and confidence of students and
teachers. We wish to spread this concept throughout the nation In electronic engineering laboratories, various instruments
and the world over. The concept is remarkably simple and cost and components are very small and delicate. They are
effective but the dividends can be profound. needed to be handled carefully. Despite careful handling
Keywords: Electronics Mini-Lab (EML), skill based education, the quality of practical kits imposes problems. The kits are
hands on experience, Technical Education fitted in the opaque cabinet and terminals are brought out.
While making connections by many batches of students
I. INTRODUCTION and providing voltages of incorrect ranges or making
The most desired outcome of engineering technology wrong connections, the kit start malfunctioning. Many
education is the creation of skilled technologists who are times the kits do not function at all. This makes the
able to approach the design and application of both teachers and students loose their confidence. The
hardware and software with aptitude and creativity [3]. maintenance engineer is not easily accessible. So the
Recent studies such as [1], [2] show that there is a gap practical performance is not performed and it is converted
between traditional training and the skills actually needed into study only. It is found that in many institutes, 50% of
in today’s job markets in the various domains like the practical are converted into study practical. This
cognitive flexibility, creativity, knowledge transfer, and deprives the students from getting practical exposure.
adaptability. Therefore, being able to solve new problems Students start getting biased that electronic practicals
based on the knowledge acquired has become a desired normally do not perform well.
outcome of technical education institutes. In order to
bridge this educational gap, the long-term goal is to create Even if the new setup of kits properly operates, students
a progressively more engaging laboratory experience with are not able to see or handle the electronic components
problem solving emphasis and various skill and knowledge physically. It is found that many students study a lot about
acquisition. The objectives are: (i) active and hands-on various electronics components analytically, but when
student engagement to develop excellent problem solving asked they are not even able to identify the basic
and troubleshooting skills; (ii) provide opportunities for components. They are not able to distinguish between LED
the students to develop teamwork skills; and (iii) and photodiode. To avoid all this and impart effective
encourage lifelong curiosity towards science and teaching and learning, we have introduced electronic EML
technology. National Mission On Education Through [6] concept in Government Polytechnic Nagpur since
Information & Communication Technology (ICT) [8] in its 2008-09. Replacing laboratory format, 2 hours of activity-
objective no 44 suggested Facilitating development and based instruction per week provides the large number of
deployment of ultra low cost physical tool kits for students an insight of in-depth practical exposure [4].

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International Conference on Education Informatics (EduMatics-2010), May 22-23, 2010

II. ELECTRONICS MINI-LAB (EML): Rs.1000 ($20). The cost can be brought down to about 60-
In the proposed EML, all the required items like battery, 70 % by purchasing it in bulk.
ICs, LEDs, connecting wires and various tools are kept.
The detailed list is given in table 1. Note that the kit is
procured by students at their own cost by personally going
to electronic market.

The EML is introduced in third semester when they start


learning core technology related to their branch. Initially
the EML was used to perform the experiments in Digital
electronics Lab. So the EML contains the components of
this Laboratory. Other components can be added in due
course of time when they study other subjects in parallel or
in later semesters
Fig. 1: Electronic Mini-Lab (EML)
Cost
S.N. Item Qty rate III. PROCUREMENT OF EML
(Rs)
1 Digital Multimeter 1 250 250 In the first or second lecture of Digital Electronics course
during third semester, students are shown a standard EML
2 Soldering Iron 1 150 150 box and all its components. They are given the list of items
3 Soldering stand 1 40 40 as mentioned in Table 1, along with appropriate quality,
quantity and price range. They are also suggested the
4 Desoldering gun 1 50 50 addresses of electronic item venders. They are instructed to
purchase the items in a week’s time, so that Laboratory
5 soldering wire 1 20 20
work can be undertaken soon. They are also instructed to
6 Soldering flux 1 15 15 go in groups of 4 to 5 so that they may get group discount.
In our college, we assigned the responsibility to purchase
7 Breadboard 1 70 70 the kit to the students individually by visiting the
8 9 V Battery with connector 1 20 20 electronics market. This benefits the students with
following advantages.
9 Wire stripper 1 40 40
1. Students get freedom to choose the quality and
10 Nose plier (small) 1 60 60 quantity of items.
11 Hook up wire various colors 3M 3 10 2. The students become aware of the specifications of
different components while purchasing it.
12 Berg strip male and female 2 5 10 3. They personally go to the market, visit various shops.
13 Heat shrink tube 3mm dia 1M 5 5 This gives them the exposure of electronic shops,
which display variety of electronic components and
14 General purpose PCB 1 20 20 materials that can not be observed in academic
laboratories.
15 Plastic container 10”x8”x2” 1 50 50 4. Students are advised to visit various shops to compare
16 Plastic container3”x2”x0.5” 2 10 20 the rates, so that they can learn marketing strategy,
behavioral aspects and variety of electronic items as
17 LED various colors 5mm 5 2 10 much as possible.
5. Some students may already have some items, which
18 Resisters 10 0.5 05
they may not purchase again.
19 IC 7805 , voltage regulator 1 15 15 6. Students are instructed to submit a short report on
their market survey, their comments on location, setup
20 ICs: 7400, 7402, 7404, 1 10 100 of shop, price variation, managerial and behavioral
7408, 7432, 7486, 7493, each ethics of the venders. This forms one of the
555, LM324, LM741 assignments in Professional Practices course in their
Total Cost Rs. 960 studies.
7. The institute is relieved from the burden of collecting
Table 1 money, accounting, distribution of items, blame for
poor quality or missing of components.
In any branch of professional education, students need to
purchase some or the other instruments. Similarly they are The transparent plastic container should have convenient
asked to spend some money for the EML. As mentioned in size so that it can be accommodated in the college bag of
table-1, the total cost of individual EML is less than students. Recommended dimensions in our college were

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International Conference on Education Informatics (EduMatics-2010), May 22-23, 2010

10”x8”x2.5”. Two small visiting card size containers were The teacher gives the idea of logic circuit by drawing it on
used for storing small size components and ICs. The blackboard and within the work of 15 to 20 minutes, the
students bring the EML during practical days. The results start coming in. The students themselves help each
responsibility of managing the EML is assigned to other who do not get proper result.
individual students. All this activity may even be done in the theory classroom.
Every student operates on his own circuit. Hence there is
IV. WORKING WITH EML no crowd near any specific kit.
In the first or second practical session, as and when the
students come with their own EML box, they are
familiarized with the arrangement available in the
Breadboard. Basic workable breadboard connections are
made with 9V Battery, 3 pin regulator IC7805, power and
ground lines, output LEDs with current limiting resisters.
The output of 5V is tested by observing the status of LED.
The students get confidence when the LED glows. The
step by step procedure is instructed to all the class on Fig 3: Sample practical setup
blackboard and the students make the necessary
connection on breadboard simultaneously. It is like hands All the students sit on individual benches. The help of
on workshop experience [4] for the students Laboratory assistant is not needed. Since no mains supply
is needed there is no possibility of electric shock. The
The connections are tightly and perfectly made with proper practical are performed only using low power battery. The
color coding since these connections are to be preserved students and teacher gets enough time for technical
for the whole semester. The students are instructed to guidance, question answers, journal checking and
follow the identical connection methodology on the continuous assessment.
breadboard for the ease of testing and troubleshooting. Fig.
2 shows the connections on breadboard. For sequential circuit design, IC555 timer is connected on
the breadboard in monostable mode with 0.5 sec. time
period. It is triggered using push to on switch for manual
clock generation. Thus all the sequential circuits can also
be designed on the breadboard.

Wire stripper is needed occasionally for preparing the


connecting wires. 1 mm berg strip (male) can be connected
to both the ends of connecting wires for comfortable
Fig 2: Basic connections on breadboard connections on the breadboard. This also necessitates
soldering. Heat shrink tube is used for taping the solder
The horizontal short circuited two lines on the top and joints.
bottom of the breadboard are used for VCC and Ground
respectively using Red and Black wires. Once the LED V. RESULT AND DISCUSSION
glows, it insures that connections, regulator IC, battery are
operating properly. A. Experiences while working with EML
1. On few occasions, students interchange VCC and
From next lab session, the actual practicals on GND, which short circuits the battery. To avoid this
combinational logic start. For all the paracticals centre line power indicator LED is used near power supply. If
of the breadboard is used for mounting the ICs. VCC and LED doesn’t glow, power is immediately removed to
ground are available on top and bottom lines both. VCC and minimize battery discharge. Heating of regulator IC or
GND are suitably connected to the IC pins using hook up other ICs is also the indication of short circuit.
wires. Inputs are given from VCC and GND, as 1 & 0 as Students are advised to touch the ICs occasionally. If
VCC is set to 5V DC using IC7805. Output of the Digital some IC is hot abnormally, students are asked to
IC is given to LED through current limiting resisters. Once recheck the connections.
the input and output connections are properly made, output 2. Due to polarity change, IC or LEDs may get damaged.
is observed on LEDs very conveniently. This gives visible But it is not very expensive affair as ICs are cheap.
output and pleasant experience to the students. After the Components are replaced. After such damage,
first successful experiment on the breadboard, students get students learn to make the connections more carefully.
conversant with the arrangement. From next practical 3. Circuits may not work if ICs are loosely fitted or
onwards, the students become expert to operate the wrongly fitted. Each of such failure teaches the
indigenously designed breadboard circuit. students one or the other concept. Thus learning takes
place in both the cases whether result is obtained or
not.

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International Conference on Education Informatics (EduMatics-2010), May 22-23, 2010

4. All the components in the EML may not be required performed on this kit. It is very useful in designing
for every practical (e.g. Soldering Iron, multimeter). prototype [7] in initial phase of their projects.
Such components may be kept at home to reduce the 9. Component damage rate is well below 20% and
weight of the EML. reduces as students get more experience. They
5. The inspection committee of National Board of understand that damage of component is loss of their
Accreditation (NBA) New Delhi as well as the money. So they work with utmost care.
inspection committee for equivalence committee 10. Failure of circuit teaches the students a lot of technical
Maharashtra State Board of Technical Education design principles, which they share with their
(MSBTE) shown keen interest in EML and classmates. Thus maximum learning takes place
appreciated its implementation. informally too.
11. As the students get 100% practical exposure, they also
B. Advantages of EML develop interest in theory classes. This synergies the
1. Students visit Electronic market and observe lot of teaching learning process. Students now actively
components and appreciate variety of electronic participate in theory and practicals both. Hence
components and materials which they do not observe teacher also gets indirectly motivated and imparts
in the institute. knowledge with more interest.
2. Students understand various tolerances and ranges of 12. Teacher share his/her experience of EML with other
components, their quality and cost. teachers also. Hence other teachers also try to
3. As the students spend their own money, they incorporate practicals based on EML for their courses
understand the sense of belonging. They handle the wherever possible. This increases the utility of EML
instruments and components carefully. In this process, The assessment of performance of students is very
they also understand the importance of handling simple and concise as many technical points can be
laboratory instruments carefully, bringing down the observed on the breadboard design.
failure rate of laboratory instruments. 13. The Breadboard setup used by students throughout the
4. As the students handle the electronics components semester gives them opportunity to design various
physically, they know their footprints, size shape and Hands-on robotics projects also, which has become
weight. This helps them while drawing PCB layout useful educational tools across a variety of subjects.
artwork for their project in later semesters and Because of multidisciplinary nature, the study of
handling other components. robotics has become a valuable tool for the practical,
5. The students built confidence and skill which hands-on application of concepts in various
develops positive attitude in them that electronic engineering and science topics [5]. One of such small
circuits operate nicely when they are systematically robot prototype using breadboard designed by a
built.( This is in contrast that many readymade kits do student is shown in fig 4.
not work reducing confidence of students and teachers
also)
6. As the breadboard has 9V battery and output LEDs,
practicals can be performed virtually any where. This
brings down the workload of laboratory and teacher.
In our institute, maximum practicals of Digital
Electronics subject are done in classroom only with
capacity of 60 students. Whole batch of 60 students
can perform the practical at a time if needed. This
gives consistency in instructions by the subject
teacher. Normally a batch of 20 students is formed for
effective guidance. Students have freedom to perform Fig.4: Small robot using Breadboard designed by a
optional practicals, hobby circuits anywhere, anytime student
during their free time.
7. Students get skill of connecting the components. VI. CONCLUSION
Hence they build confidence of handling electronic The present paper discusses the EML project implemented
circuits. This helps them in effectively performing as an interactive method of teaching learning using easily
practicals of other subjects also. available instruments and electronic components. The
8. EML has multimeter, soldering iron, plier, cutter and implemented EML is cost effective and portable. Using
stripper. These tools are very essential for electronics this EML various practicals are conducted. It is found that
engineer all the time. They are also useful in other students accept the concept with great enthusiasm. They
laboratories like Electronic Workshop, performed practicals with more zeal improving their motor
Microcontroller Lab, projects etc. where they fabricate skills. They developed sense of belonging while handling
their own projects. Some practical based on the electronic components. They are ready to accept the
transistors, operational amplifiers, Timer can also be new concepts in learning. Thus EML is boon for
inculcating the skill based teaching process in Diploma

Chitkara Institute of Engineering & Technology, Rajpura, Punjab (INDIA)


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International Conference on Education Informatics (EduMatics-2010), May 22-23, 2010

and undergraduate programs of Electronics Engineering


curriculum. The concept can be equally extended for other
branches of engineering.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
Special thanks go to Prof. Rabinder Henri and Mr. Pankaj
Bande of International school of Information Technology
(I2IT), Pune who conceived the thought of electronic kit at
one of the hands on course in Robotics and Embedded
VLSI in June 2008. Authors are also thankful to the
Principal and students of Government Polytechnic Nagpur,
for supporting this project.

VII. REFERENCES
1. Ramaley, Judith A. and Haggett, Rosemary R. (2005).
Engaged and Engaging Science: A component of a
good liberal education. Peer Review, Winter.
2. “Losing the Competitive Advantage? The Challenge
for Science and Technology in the United States”, p.
4, February 2005.
http://www.aeanet.org/publications/IDJJ_AeA_Comp
etitiveness.asp
3. Farrokh Attarzadeh, Deniz Gurkan and Driss
Benhaddou, ” Innovative improvements to
Engineering Technology Laboratory Education to
Engage, Retain and Challenge Students of the 21st
Century”,Proceedings of the 2006 ASEE Gulf-
Southwest Annual Conference Southern University
and A & M CollegeAmerican Society for Engineering
Education.
4. Beichner, R. J., and J. M. Saul,”Introduction to the
SCALE-UP (Student-Centered Activities for Large
Enrollment Undergraduate Programs) Project;
Successful Pedagogies, pp. 61-66
5. Jerry Weinberg, Cem Karacal, George Engel, Ai-
Ping Hu, William White, “An Interdisciplinary
Robotics Course Using the Handy Board”, Southern
Illinois University Edwardsville Edwardsville, IL,
62026, USA
6. R. Henry, Pankaj Bande, Innovative Teaching Model
Through Personal Robotic Minilaboratory" ICERI,
Madrid, Spain November 17, 2008.
7. R. Henry, "Digital Integrated Laboratory for Prototype
Design", FAME 2008, Sivakasi, December 13, 2008.
8. National Mission on Education Through information
& Communication Technology [ICT], Government of
India, 2008, page 15.

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