Date of Award

6-2012

Degree Name

MS in Electrical Engineering

Department

Electrical Engineering

Advisor

John Oliver

Abstract

This thesis involves the creation of a system of embedded touchscreen devices called touchSPICE to aid in the learning of basic circuits. Traditionally, circuit theory is taught to students in two different methods, lectures and laboratory exercises. Lectures focus on auditory and visual learning and are largely passive learning. Lab experiments allow students to physically interact with the circuits, and learn visually through viewing output waveforms from simulators or on measurement devices. The goal of the touchSPICE project is to develop a physical system for virtual, real-time SPICE simulation that mimics the laboratory experience. In touchSPICE, touchscreen devices act as circuit nodes that communicate with immediate neighbors using physical wires. Additionally, the nodes communicate wirelessly with a host computer, running a customized version of SPICE. Data is aggregated on the host computer and plotted in real-time. Changes in configuration of the nodes (component types and values), are then reflected on the host computer’s display.

The efficacy of touchSPICE as a learning tool was evaluated by using anonymous surveys from 20 subjects including a pretest, followed by an interactive session with touchSPICE, and a follow-up posttest. Results collected showed that with a few changes to improve the responsiveness of the touchscreen, touchSPICE may be an effective method for teaching circuit theory. Additionally, users enjoyed the quick configuration time that touchSPICE provided, and felt that the real-time feedback of touchSPICE helped support understanding of how circuits operate.

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