Gas station without pumps

2016 August 3

Possible new lab order

Filed under: Circuits course — gasstationwithoutpumps @ 12:09
Tags: ,

I’ve been thinking about how to rearrange the labs (and the textbook) for a more sensible 2-quarter sequence. I need to have the basics done before October, since that is when I have to tell the lab staff what tools and parts to order for the winter quarter class.

Currently, the first half of the course is mainly voltage dividers and device characterization, and the second half is mainly amplifiers, but I’m thinking of changing the split so that all the audio stuff (microphone, loudspeaker, preamp, class-D amplifier) are in the second half, moving some of the other amplifiers (pressure sensor instrumentation amp and optical pulse monitor) to the first half.

There are 20 95-minute lab sessions each quarter, which is about the same total time as the 20 3-hour sessions of the old design (splitting a 3-hour session into two sessions adds some setup and teardown overhead, so two 95-minute session is no more than one 3-hour session, and may actually give students less time).

Here is the tentative new lab order:

1 T get parts, one person solders headers, other identifies and sorts parts
2 Th partners swap roles.
3 T Thermistor resistance measurement (ohmmeter) ice water
4 Th Thermistor resistance measurement (ohmmeter) hot water
5 T Thermistor voltage measurement (calibration check & recording)
REPORT (recording thermometer design)
6 Th function generator, oscilloscope, and PteroDAQ for time-varying signals. This is a tools lab, and I’m not sure exactly what form it will take.
7 T Sampling and aliasing (fixed sampling freq, downsample, record 0.1, 0.2, 0.4, 0.45, 0.5, 0.55, 0.6, 0.8, 0.9, 1.0, 1.1, 1.45, 1.6, 2.1 times sampling freq)
8 Th Sampling and aliasing continued (fixed input frequency, adjusting sampling frequency)
REPORT (sampling and aliasing)
9 T hysteresis threshold measurements using PteroDAQ & slow function generator, using 2 methods:

  • plotting Out-vs-in (with lines)and
  • Trigger on rising, trigger on falling to get thresholds.

Maybe add noise generator + power-supply → PteroDAQ digital inputs with and without hysteresis, but inputs on Teensy LC and Teensy 3.1/3.2 already have 0.06*Vdd = 200mV of hysteresis—maybe 74HC14N vs 74HC04, using PteroDAQ to look at digital output?

10 Th hysteresis oscillator on breadboard, view waveform on oscilloscope
11 T solder hysteresis oscillators & show PteroDAQ recording of freq vs. time for touch sensor
REPORT (hysteresis and relaxation oscillator)
12 Th Pressure sensor and instrumentation amp (low gain)
13 T Pressure sensor and inst amp + 2nd-stage op amp
14 Th Recording blood pressure measurements
15 T Drilling holes and recording breath pressure
REPORT (pressure sensor and instrumentation amp)
16 Th LED I-vs-V, phototransistor I-vs-V (dark), phototransistor I-vs-V (room light).
Question: how to make dark be dark enough?
Should we do phototransistor I-vs-V for room light through fingers?
17 T first-stage transimpedance, set gain to avoid saturation with DC.
Should I introduce log-transimpedance amplifier? Better design, but probably too much for first op-amp lab.
18 Th first-stage transimpedance, measure AC signal
19 T add high-pass & second-stage
20 Th low-pass in transimpedance to reduce 60Hz interference? 3-stage amplifier?
REPORT (optical pulse monitor)
quarter break
21 T get new parts + Microphone I-vs-V DC characterization
22 Th Microphone I-vs-V DC characterization
23 T Loudspeaker impedance
24 Th Loudspeaker impedance
REPORT (audio transducers)
25 T Mic preamp first stage
26 Th Mic preamp second stage
27 T Mic preamp soldering
28 Th Mic preamp soldering
REPORT (Mic preamp)
29 T nFET + pFET Id-vs-Vgs, Ron-vs-Vgs ??
Doing this right for power FETs is harder than I initially thought, so we’ll probably have to skip it, unless I come up with some clever way to make it easy.
30 Th Class D power amp
31 T Class D power amp
32 Th Class D power amp
REPORT (Class-D power amp)
33 T Electrode impedance (stainless steel)
34 Th Electrode impedance (stainless steel)
35 T Electroplating Ag/Agcl
36 Th Electrode impedance (silver)
REPORT (electrode impedance)
37 T EKG
38 Th EKG
39 T EKG
40 Th EKG

I’m thinking that reports will be due either Friday (for labs that end on a Tuesday) or Monday (for labs that end on a Thursday), with the intent of grading the labs on the next weekend and returning them on the following Monday.  There are still 10 lab reports due, but they are now spread over two quarters, so only biweekly, rather than weekly.

I’d like hearing from people (particularly students who’ve taken the course) about the order for the labs, the time allotted here for each lab, and ideas for things to add or remove. If no one has any better ideas, I’ll start rearranging the chapters of the book this week.

2016 July 8

Flipped Learning

Filed under: Circuits course — gasstationwithoutpumps @ 23:39
Tags: , , , ,

In A call for flipped learning experiences – Casting Out Nines, Robert Talbert has asked for help finding examples of flipped learning outside math and statistics:

Flipped Learning is a pedagogical approach in which first contact with new concepts moves from the group learning space to the individual learning space in the form of structured activity, and the resulting group space is transformed into a dynamic, interactive learning environment where the educator guides students as they apply concepts and engage creatively in the subject matter.

If you teach a face-to-face in-seat class (not online) then “group space” = “in class” and “individual space” = “outside of class”. (This definition is a recent modification of mine, based on the one at and I may have more to say about it in another post.)

What I’d like to hear from you, is

  • The reasons why you chose to use flipped learning in your class;
  • What students in your class do during the “group space” and the “individual space”; and
  • Any evidence of effectiveness of flipped learning you may have, including anecdotal (student comments, etc.)

Also: I especially would like to hear from people not in mathematics or statistics. Back in November I tweeted out a request very similar to this and got several responses, only one of which was from someone outside of math or statistics. I know that flipped learning is used in a variety of disciplines and I want to showcase that variety as much as I can.

I have not done a lot of “flipped learning” in the most commonly used sense of preparing video lectures that students watch on their own. I did add one video (voiced and acted by my son) on using oscilloscopes to the Applied Electronics course this spring, but that isn’t really “flipped learning”, because the intent is not for the students to watch the video before class, but to watch it in the lab and step through the process of setting up the oscilloscope while running the video.

In general, I don’t find videos a good way to help students learn new concepts—they are too slow and too passive, even worse than lectures, where students can at least ask questions.  Videos are useful for certain limited tasks (such as demonstrating how to use a tool, as long as students can follow along and use the tool at the same time), and I do plan to make a few more this summer for training students in using other lab tools (different model of oscilloscope, function generators, power supplies, multimeters, maybe calipers and micrometers).  The key here is that the students are expected to use the tool as they watch the video—the video is a substitute for me standing beside them guiding them (which is still a better approach, but is hard to scale up—a 13-minute video for setting up the oscilloscope would take me 2.6 hours to do with a class of 24 students, working with a pair of students at a time—with 66 students, it would take over 14 hours of my time).

I do use “flipped learning” in my classes is in a more old-school way: I require students to read the textbook, and often even do homework before I lecture on the subject in class.  (See, for example, my early blog post on live-action math.)

My value as a teacher is enhanced if the students have made some attempt to understand the material before class, so that their questions can be more focussed on the things that confused them. I can then spend time in class on the boundary between what they understand and what they don’t understand, maximizing the learning, rather than on covering stuff that they could have learned in the same amount of time on their own, or on stuff that they don’t understand even after my explanation.  (When students don’t ask enough questions in class, I tend to err on the side of giving them stuff beyond what they understand, rather than re-iterating basics, so questions are super-important to keeping my lectures at the right level.)

To use a textbook for “flipped learning”, it needs to be very well matched to the course—either the course is designed around the book, or the book is designed around the course.  For my applied electronics course, I wanted the course to center around the labs, which need to be carefully ordered to build up design and debugging skills, so I ended up writing my own book.

Students are motivated to read the book, because each chapter provides just-in-time material they need to solve the design problems they are facing in the lab.  Students need to learn something new for each lab, adding it to the material they have already learned.  The old material is used over and over, so that students aren’t tempted into cram-and-forget learning.

Requiring students to read how to do something and work problems on the new concepts before being given a carefully worked example helps them learn how to learn from written references—a skill that all engineers need to develop, but that students often have not developed (particularly not in lower-division biology, chemistry, and physics courses, which tend to spoon-feed them just what they need for the problem at hand, encouraging cram-and-forget strategies) .

Getting explanations and corrections after students have struggled with a new concept helps the explanation sink in—they aren’t just memorizing a meaningless series of steps, but seeing how to get around barriers that they’ve been struggling to bypass. Having to demonstrate a working design and write a design report on it further deepens the learning.  Students have to not only learn the material, but use it and explain how they have used it.

So the electronics course uses some flipped learning, but it would probably work just about as well with no flipped learning.  The key to the course is having design tasks that students are motivated to complete, and that require them to use, demonstrate, and describe the concepts they are learning, and using the same set of concepts over and over in different concepts, until they seem second nature. Having students struggle with some material on their own before lecture makes the lecture time a bit more efficient, but the effect is probably pretty small.

2016 June 14

Things to do for book

Filed under: Circuits course — gasstationwithoutpumps @ 15:24
Tags: ,

I’ve finally finished my grading for the quarter, after a solid week of grading, and so I can now catch up on some of my administrative tasks (like checking the articulation framework documents, trying to find an undergraduate director for bioengineering for Fall quarter, checking the 30 or so senior exit portfolios, and so forth).

I can also start thinking about the tasks for me on revising my book, which will take up big chunks of summer and fall:

  • Move the book files into a source-code control system, probably mercurial, and use and off-site backup, probably BitBucket.  I should have had the files in a source-code control system from the beginning, but I never got around to setting it up.  This is a couple of years overdue, and I shouldn’t make any more updates to the book until I’ve done it.
  • Rearrange book to put labs in new order, moving all the audio labs into the second half, and moving the instrumentation amplifier and transimpedance amplifier into the first half.
  • Revise parts list for next year’s labs.
    • May want to use a different phototransistor (without the filter that makes it less sensitive to visible light).
    • Choose nFET with lower threshold voltage (maybe pFET also).
    • Find better resistor assortment.
  • Add hobbyist add-ons to the labs, for people who want to go beyond what we can do in class.  For example, I could add
    • designing a triangle-wave generator to the class-D amplifier, so that it can be self-contained,
    • sound input from a phone jack to class-D amplifier (with info about TRRS plugs)
    • logarithmic transimpedance amplifier for optical pulse monitor, to make it tolerant of different light levels and finger thicknesses
    • optical pulse monitor using reflected (actually back-scattered) light instead of transmitted light, so all the optics is on one side
    • motor controller based on H-bridge used in class D
    • temperature controller using thermistor, FET, and power resistor
    • galvanic skin response measurement?
    • oscillator design other than Schmitt trigger relaxation oscillator?  Maybe a Colpitts oscillator with the big inductor (though even with 10μF and 220μH, the frequency would be rather high for audio use)?
    • make Schmitt trigger out of comparator chip
    • EMG controller (either with analog envelope detection or with software envelope detection)
  • Insist on LaTeX for design reports.  I had too many reports with terrible math typesetting, incorrect figure numbering, and bad font substitutions with Microsoft Word or Google docs reports.  I’ll need to include a short tutorial in the book, with pointers to more complete ones.
  • Make it clear in the book that design reports build on each other, but each report needs to be self-contained—for example, the class-D amplifier report should contain circuits, results, and some discussion from the microphone, loudspeaker, and preamp labs; and the EKG lab report should include some information from the blood pressure and pulse monitor labs.
  • Add more background physics and math at the beginning of the book, to review (or introduce, for some students) topics we need.
  • Should I add a short lab characterizing the I-vs-V curve for an nFET and a pFET?  If so, where would I fit it in?  What about for a diode (could be LED)?
  • Bypass capacitor discussion should be moved to between the preamp lab and the class-D lab.  I need to talk more about power routing and location of bypass capacitors for the class D lab (it is important that the bypass capacitors be between the the noise-generating FETs and rest of the circuitry, which is noise-sensitive).  May need to introduce the concept of the power wiring not being a single node, so that “clean 5V” and “dirty 5V” are different nodes.
  • Class-D lab should have students measure and record the amount of current and power that their amplifier takes with no sound (removing the mic?) and with loud sound input, both with and without the LC filter.
  • Class-D lab should require students to show oscilloscope traces of the gate and drain of an nFET and of a pFET in the final H-bridge, both for turning on and for turning off.
  • EKG, blood pressure, and pulse monitor prelabs should have students compute the attenuation of 60Hz interference (relative to the signal in the passband) for low-pass filters that they design.

I should also review what students had to say about the course (look at discussion in previous post, for example).


2015 January 17

How big is a course?

Filed under: Circuits course,freshman design seminar — gasstationwithoutpumps @ 10:42
Tags: , , ,

One of the questions that comes up when designing a course is how much work the course should be. When deciding whether to include a particular topic, exercise, reading assignment, project, test, paper, or whatever, there is always the question whether there is enough time for it, and whether it is important enough to be worth the time.  So how much time is there to allocate for a course?

In the UC system, most of the campus are on a quarter system (UCB and UC Merced are on semesters), with approximately 10 weeks of instruction followed by one week of exams. The exact number of instructional hours varies a bit from quarter to quarter, and between MWF and TTh classes, thanks to almost all holidays now being scheduled for Mondays.  All the quarter-based campuses have a 180-unit graduation requirement, where a unit is supposed to represent 3 hours of work a week for the 11 weeks of the quarter, so the 180-unit graduation requirement is supposed to mean 5940 hours of work (about 1485 a year).

UCSC is different from the other campuses, in that our courses are by default 5 units, while the other campuses generally have 3-unit or 4-unit courses. What I was not aware of until recently, however, is that UCSC also differs from the other campuses in terms of how many contact hours the students get with the professors per unit. UCSC 5-unit courses meet for 210 minutes per week. A full course, including exam, is 2100+180=2280 minutes, or 456 minutes per credit. Not counting the exam, there are 420 minutes per credit.  (In actual schedules, there may be up to 105 minutes of lecture missing due to holidays, reducing the time to as little as 399 minutes of lecture per credit.)

According to a proposal about changing class scheduling at UCSC, written in 2011, the other quarter-based campuses have at most 375 lecture minutes per credit, which lets them pack more class credits per classroom seat than UCSC does. (UCSC suffers a double whammy here, as it has the fewest classroom seats per student, thanks to former chancellors who grew the student population rapidly, on the theory that this would force the state to provide the needed infrastructure—the administrators who made this bone-headed prediction have since gone elsewhere, while the faculty are left with too many students and too few classroom seats.)

Of course, some classes involve far more contact hours. I’m a great believer in high-contact courses, where the students spend time with the faculty. For example, my Applied Circuits class in the spring has me in the classroom with the students for 3.5 hours a week, and in lab with them for another 6 hours a week, for 5700 minutes—at 7 credits that’s 814 minutes per credit,  80–90% more than the usual course. The senior design seminar I’m teaching this quarter has 1155 minutes of class for 2 credits plus 180 minutes per student of one-on-one meetings, or 668 minutes per credit—50–60% more than normal.  (Note: my time for 19 students is 76.25 hours for that class—over 5 times the usual contact hours for a 2-unit course, and that’s not counting the grading time for reading 4 drafts each of 19 theses, nor prep time.)  The freshman design seminar I’m also teaching  this quarter has 2030 contact minutes, for a 2-unit course, or 1015 minutes per credit (2.2–2.4 times normal contact hours). Those are just the scheduled contact hours—I also generally have 2–3 hours a week of office hours, and during the circuits course, I often have to stay late in the lab to help students finish.

So when I’m deciding how much homework to assign in, say, the freshman design seminar, I have to start with the 66 hours that the students are supposed to work for a 2-unit course, then subtract off the 33.83 hours of class time, and divide by 10 weeks to get about 3.2 hours of homework a week (or 3 hours a week, if some is done during exam week).  That is not a lot of homework, particularly if I want students to do some web searching and reading on their own, or do design tasks, which tend to be rather open-ended. It’s a good thing that the freshman design course doesn’t have any specifically mandated content—I can take the classes wherever student interests and abilities lead, without having to worry about whether I’ve covered everything.

Note that engineering students typically take a 17–18-unit load at UCSC (3 5-unit classes, plus labs), which comes to a 51–54-hour week, if they are doing what they are supposed to for all their classes. This workload does not allow much time for students to do a part-time job, and certainly not a full-time one. Some students, forced by the legislature’s defunding of the University to work to pay their tuition, end up with 20-hour work weeks on top of the 54 hours they are (or should be) putting in as students. The legislators may have partied their way through school and think that all students do, but the engineering students I see don’t have that luxury—being a full-time engineering student is not compatible with more than 5–10 hours a week of non-class-related work.

Engineering students at UCSC are usually advised to take two technical courses and one non-technical one. The justification is not that the students need the humanities for intellectual balance (even if it is true, students wouldn’t buy into that justification). Instead, the justification that the students accept is that grade inflation has gotten so extreme in the humanities that they can get an A– doing only half as much work as a 5-unit class should require, so that they have enough time to work on their technical courses or hold a part-time job to pay for college.


2015 January 4

New tech writing course

Filed under: Uncategorized — gasstationwithoutpumps @ 15:07
Tags: , , , , ,

In my request for comments, xykademiqz mentioned that she’d like to hear about the tech writing course I’m planning.

Planning this course has been a bit of weird exercise for me, because it is the first time that I’m designing a course that I won’t teach. Normally, I design courses that I teach, which occasionally get transferred to some other teacher.  Here, I’m trying to modify a course I designed and taught for a long time, adapting it to a new audience. But I’ve not taught the original course since Winter 2003 (11 years ago!), and I don’t plan to teach this one, as I already have a more-than-full teaching load.  I’ve paid my dues teaching tech writing, having taught it sixteen times (1987–2003).

The course I originally created was for computer engineering majors, but this one is for bioengineers, specifically those in the biomolecular engineering concentration.

The rest of this post is the “Undergraduate Supplemental Sheet—Information to accompany Request for Course Approval” that is required at UCSC for approval of any new course. I have sent the form off to the Committee on Educational Policy, the committee of the Academic Senate that reviews new courses. I’m hoping to get approval for our department to offer this course in Spring 2015, so there isn’t much time for revision if they decide that they don’t like something. I’ve left a number of design questions in the document, although this is not usually done for CEP course approvals, to emphasize that this course is a work in progress, and to give them some idea of the adjustments that are likely to be needed in the first couple of years. The course design has been discussed by a group of five faculty, two or whom are likely to teach the course, and one of whom is likely to be a guest lecturer for it.  I welcome further discussion—particularly suggestions for more specific exercises (for the graphics and the library puzzle, for example).


Sponsoring Agency: Biomolecular Engineering Course #: 185
Catalog Title: Technical Writing for Biomolecular Engineers
Catalog copy:

Writing by biomolecular engineers, not to general audiences, but to engineers, engineering managers, and technical writers. Exercises include job application and resume, library puzzle, graphics, lab protocols, document specification, progress report, survey article or research proposal, poster, and oral presentation.

Enrollment limited to bioengineering majors, or by permission of instructor.

Prerequisite(s): satisfaction of Entry Level Writing and Composition requirements; and Biology 101L (biochemistry lab).
BIOL 101L may be taken concurrently.

Enrollment limited to 20.

1. Are you proposing a revision to an existing course?  If so give the name, number, and GE designations (if applicable) currently held.


2. In concrete, substantive terms explain how the course will proceed. List the major topics to be covered, preferably by week.

The course will consist primarily of writing and feedback on that writing, with some lectures and readings on common problems. There will be a substantive writing assignment due every week, and the week-by-week outline below lists the assignment that the student will complete that week—some will need to have been started much sooner, so that students may be working on multiple assignments simultaneously.

The list below is the initial design of the course, but we expect that the assignments in the course will evolve, depending on how well they work to develop students’ facility and scientific and engineering writing

Week 1: Job application letter, resume, and letter of recommendation.
The purpose of this assignment is to focus student attention on audience assessment, in a practical format that they see the point of.

Week 2: Library research.

Students will have a library information session, in which they learn how to locate lab protocols, material safety data sheets, and databases of important molecular biology reagents. There will be a library search quiz, with specific questions relevant to biomolecular engineers that use databases learned about in the library information session.  Students will have to write up their search strategies, and not just the results of their searches.

Correct citations in a consistent style will be essential, though students will not be held to any particular style, as the field has an enormous diversity of preferred styles. Use of citation tools (such as Zotero or BibTeX) will be strongly encouraged.

The library puzzle questions will feed into the later assignments: data for the graphics assignment, lab protocols that can be blended together for the lab protocol assignment, and so forth.

Design questions to explore in the first couple of years: can we come up with suitable questions, similar in difficulty to those in each year?  How much can questions be re-used from year to year?  Can lab managers and librarians be enlisted to help update the questions frequently?

Weeks 3&4: Design of scientific graphics

Students will prepare at least three different graphics, including a scatter diagram, a line or box plot with error bars, and a block or cartoon diagram of a process. Figures for this assignment must be generated by the student, not copied from the web or other sources. Students will be allowed to use almost any graphics tool (gnuplot, R, MATLAB, matplotlib, Python, Inkscape, …) except Excel, which is often the only tool students have previously used, and which produces unacceptable graphics with the default settings.

Concepts taught will include some of the main concepts in Tufte’s Visual Display of Quantitative Information, though that book will not be required for the course (too expensive for the small amount the students will use). Important concepts include avoiding chart junk (especially fake 3D), proper scale and range of axes (including when to use log scales), “up is good”, people only understand straight lines, and making the graphics tell the story.

Also included will be the notion of floating figures with figure numbers and paragraph-long captions, as many students do not seem to have learned this standard style for scientific and engineering reports before their senior thesis.

Design questions for the first few years: What public data sets should we use? (Census data? RNA expression data?) Students need to be able to find the data as part of the library puzzle.  How should the material be broken up between the two weeks—two separate assignments or draft and final version?  For the first run, it would probably be easier to have separate assignments.

Week 5: Writing a lab protocol.

Many biomolecular engineers will end up with jobs as lab technicians, where they will have to read and write lab protocols. This assignment is intended to get them familiar with the format and conventions.

Design question: What lab protocol can students be asked to write? It must be simple enough that an undergrad can write it, but not just a copying task from some source of protocols.

Staffing questions: Will the instructors that we hire for BME 185 be able to read and comment on lab protocols appropriately (pointing out missing steps or incorrect units, for example)? Will we need a guest lecture explaining the protocol that the students will then write up?

Discussions among writing faculty and biomolecular wet-lab researchers have lead to a few ideas for the protocol to try for the first offering.  It looks likely that a guest lecture from a wet-lab researcher will be needed from someone familiar with the protocol to be written.

Week 6: Final project proposal

The students will write a proposal for the paper they will write as the final project for the course.  Note that this is not a research proposal, but a writing proposal, in which they will describe the topic, the intended audience, and the format of the project.

The project should be a survey article, prior-work section of a senior thesis, or other project that involves substantial library research.  Students should include at least five citations for work that they will be consulting in writing the project.

Key concepts for proposal writing include getting the precise definition of the research question or design goal into the first paragraph.  For this assignment the design goal is the paper to be written, and the specifications for that paper.

Week 7:    Oral presentation

Students do a 5-10-minute individual (not group) oral presentation with visual aids (PowerPoint, Keynote, HTML, or
PDF format).  Students will be taught the design of visual aids for scientific talks (which have a little more content than some other types of visual aids) as well as standard public speaking techniques for eye contact, gestures, expressive voice, pace of talk, and controlling nervousness.

It may be a good idea to have half a class period dedicated to voice projection, including going out into the woods to practice speaking loudly.  The course will not cover techniques for working with microphones, as that is a more specialized skill that would require extra equipment in the classroom.

Design questions to address in the first few years:

The oral presentations will have to be spread out over several class periods, and they represent a major constraint on the class size. At 10 minutes, the oral presentations for a 20-student class would consume an entire week of class time. How much class time can be spent on presentations?  Will 5-minute presentations suffice?

Video recording the presentations and having individual feedback on the presentations would be valuable, but the logistics of arranging for the video recording and scheduling feedback sessions may be too difficult to sustain.  Just rendering videos into a usable format can take 10 times as long as the recording.  Is there any campus-level support for doing this?

Week 8:    E-mail Progress Report and draft

Students write a 100-200-word e-mail memo explaining the status of their final project and attach a draft of their paper for detailed feedback.  This assignment practices professional e-mail style, the content of progress reports, and ensures that they do not put off starting their final report.

Class time will include discussion of professional e-mail and social media (such as blogs), and the differences from the informal social media they may be used to.

Week 9:    Poster presentation

Students design, print, and present a poster, preferably on a research topic they are pursuing in another course.  This will usually be related to their final project, but it may be a different project.

Students will be taught the visual flow of posters, the trade-off between detailed information and readability of a poster, font sizes, color choices, and the need for posters to be comprehensible as stand-alone documents.

Because of the time required to print a poster, students will probably be presenting their posters in week 10, or even during the scheduled final exam time.

Week 10:    Final project report will be due at the time of the final exam slot.

3. System-wide Senate Regulation 760 specifies that 1 academic credit corresponds to 3 hours of work per week for the student in a 10-week quarter.  Please briefly explain how the course will lead to the appropriate amount of work with reference to e.g., lectures, sections, reading and writing assignments, examination preparation, field trips, providing specific estimate of the number of hours devoted to each.
[Please note that if significant changes are proposed to the format of the course after its initial approval, you will need to submit new course approval paperwork to answer this question in light of the new course format.]

There will be 3.5 lecture hours a week, about 1.5 hours of reading, and 10 hours of writing and editing, for a total of 15 hours a week.

4. Include a complete reading list or its equivalent in other media.

The main text book will be Huckin and Olsen’s Technical Writing and Communication for Nonnative Speakers of English (ISBN 978-0070308251, which is out of print but is available used for under $30, see with particular attention to Part 5 (Readability).  Within Part 5, Chapters 21 (Readability: General Principles), 22 (Writing Paragraphs), 24 (Maintaining Focus), and 25 (Creating Flow between Sentences) are particularly valuable.

Individual students may be referred to chapters in Part 6 (Review of Grammar, Style and Vocabulary Building) as needed.  Chapters 29 (Indefinite Articles) and 30 (The Definite Article) are particularly valuable for non-native speakers whose native language does not use articles (Russian, for example, and many Asian languages).

Design question:  will sufficient copies of the book remain available at a reasonable price?  Is there any other text that provides the quality of parts 5 and 6 of Huckin and Olsen for readability and non-native grammar?

5. State the basis on which evaluation of individual students’ achievements in this course will be made by the instructor (e.g., class participation, examinations, papers, projects). Enumerate the minimum required learning outcomes for a student to pass this course. (Example: ability to do comparative analysis of a Western and a non-Western text.) Provide information on how these components are weighted.

Students will be evaluated on their writing and on their oral and poster presentations.  Each of the assignments will have roughly equal weight, with perhaps a little more weight on assignments towards the end of the quarter than ones toward the beginning (so that students whose writing improves during the quarter are suitably rewarded).

6. Final examinations are required of all undergraduate courses unless CEP approves an alternate method of comprehensive evaluation (e.g., a term paper). Note: final papers in lieu of final examinations must be due during final examination week, and not before. If the course does not have a final examination, indicate the alternative method of comprehensive evaluation.

There is no final examination, as the skills of interest in this class are those displayed when students have adequate time, not those testable in a 3-hour time slot.  The final report for the quarter, which is a culmination of several intermediate assignments, will be due at the final exam time.  Although the report itself only carries between 10% and 20% of the total grade, previous assignments that lead to the report make the total weight of the project closer to 50% of the grade.

The poster presentation session may be held during the final exam time slot, though it is clearly not a final exam.

7. Please describe the learning objectives that you would ascribe to this course: What do you expect the student to be able to do or understand that would not have been expected of them before taking the class? How do these outcomes support the larger goals of the program(s) in which the course is embedded? (Example: the learning outcome of ability to do comparative analysis of a Western and non-Western text support the Literature objective of cross-cultural inquiry.)

After finishing this course, students should be able to write comprehensible technical reports on biomolecular engineering topics, produce research posters, and prepare and give oral presentations with visual aids on technical topics.

8. List other UCSC courses covering similar material (if any) and how the proposed course differs from these existing courses.

The course is very similar to Computer Engineering 185, Technical Writing for Computer Engineers, after which it is modeled.  The main differences are in the background of the students and in the topics the students are expected to write about.  The biomolecular engineering class assumes more biology background and less programming background.  The “lab protocol” assignment, for example, is highly typical of the sort of writing biomolecular engineers may do in industry, but is not at all similar to what computer engineers write (user documentation and in-program documentation).

A major reason for creating this course is that CMPE 185 has reached capacity, and more variants of it are needed for different engineering majors.  This course is an attempt to provide that variant for biomolecular engineers, as they are the students currently required to take CMPE 185 who fit the course least well.

9. List expected resource requirements including course support and specialized facilities or equipment for divisional review. (This information must also be reported to the scheduling office each quarter the course is offered.)

No special facilities are needed for this course, but it needs a high instructor-to-student ratio, in order to provide the extensive feedback necessary for a writing class with large weekly assignments.  No more than 20 students per instructor or TA is feasible.

Poster printing (through Baskin Engineering Lab Services) will be needed, and the department is willing to pay for poster printing at the current rates (but not rush fees, which will be the student responsibility).

10. If applicable, justify any pre-requisites, co-requisites, or enrollment restrictions proposed for this course.  For pre-requisites or co-requisites sponsored by other departments/programs, please provide evidence of consultation.

Students must have already completed the C1 and C2 writing courses, so that the instructor can focus on discipline-specific writing requirements and not have to spend much time on the basics of writing.

Students must have completed enough biology or biotech courses to be able to read and write technical reports on biomolecular engineering. In order to write lab protocols, students need to have followed molecular biology protocols themselves, which they encounter in BIOL 101L (or the discontinued older equivalents BIOL 100K or BME 150L).

BIOL 101L is already a required course for the biomolecular engineering concentration of the bioengineering BS degree, so including it as a prerequisite does not increase the demand for the course.

One possible problem is that the prerequisite chain to BIOL 101L is already very long, and adding the whole prerequisite chain before BME 185 and having BME 123T require CMPE 185 or BME 185 as prereq may constrain when students can take BME 185 too tightly. Offering BME 185 multiple times a year (Fall, Winter, Summer, for example) would alleviate this problem, if we can afford that many sections.  Some students who have molecular biology lab experience before transferring to UCSC or from individual research may be able to take BME 185 without BME 101L.

11. Proposals for new or revised Disciplinary Communication courses will be considered within the context of the approved DC plan for the relevant major(s).  If applicable, please complete and submit: the Disciplinary Communication Statement Form—new proposals (Word or PDF) or Disciplinary Communication—revisions to approved plans (Word or

The current DC requirement for bioengineering centers on CMPE 185, Technical Writing for Computer Engineers, with more communication practice in the capstone requirement.

This new course is intended to be a compatible substitute for CMPE 185 for bioengineers, specifically tailored for the biomolecular concentration (for whom the current CMPE 185 is not as good a fit).

The revision to the current plan is trivial:  everywhere that CMPE 185 is mentioned, the new plan will say “CMPE 185 or BME 185”.

12. If you are requesting a GE designation for the proposed course, please justify your request by answering the questions listed in the attached guidelines. Please make reference to specific elements in the course or syllabus when answering these questions.

No designation other than DC is sought.

Next Page »

%d bloggers like this: