Undergraduate Laboratories: Overview
All undergraduate engineering education programs need to provide for design experience. However, the approach used to provide the experience varies considerably at different institutions. The Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Texas Tech University began stand-alone project design laboratories in the early 1960's and has continued to develop this concept since that time. One of the objectives of the ECE laboratory program at Texas Tech is to expose students to areas they have not seen before. It is important for students to develop confidence in their basic knowledge and to realize that they can extend that knowledge to new and exciting areas. In addition, it is important for students to begin the transition to life long learning and to not be afraid of something they haven't seen in a class. Engineers are seldom asked to solve problems that have already been solved. In industry, engineers are constantly asked to learn and develop new techniques and systems for which they may have little prior experience.
Another major objective of the ECE laboratory program is to develop, in each student, a strong, fundamental capability in oral and written communication. In line with this, the majority of time spent in the weekly meetings is devoted to student presentations. Each student makes informal weekly presentations and 2 formal presentations. All presentations include a question and answer session and feedback. Formal written reports are required and are graded and returned for correction. Ample feedback is provided for both oral and written communication to assure continual improvement.
The Electrical and Computer Engineering project lab courses are 3-hour credit lab courses. This means a 9 hours a week should be spent in the lab and 9 hours a week should be spent preparing for the labs for a total of 18 hours per week. Three hours of the 18 hours a week are spent in class for presentations. The equivalent of two weeks (30 hours), out of the 14 weeks in a semester, are assumed to be spent on writing reports. Therefore, the time a student should spend working on a lab project is 15 hrs per week for 12 weeks or 180 hours/semester. For project tracking purposes, each student should budget 12 hours of work per week exclusive of laboratory class attendance.