This article describes the introductory two-semester
course in electrical engineering that has been developed over a
period of five years at Princeton University. The aims of the
course are to provide an introduction to the field of electrical
engineering via the basic concepts of electricity and magnetism
(which are developed through Maxwell's equations in the integral
form), to apply these concepts in developing the fundamentals of
energy conversion and circuit theory, and ...

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This article describes the introductory two-semester
course in electrical engineering that has been developed over a
period of five years at Princeton University. The aims of the
course are to provide an introduction to the field of electrical
engineering via the basic concepts of electricity and magnetism
(which are developed through Maxwell's equations in the integral
form), to apply these concepts in developing the fundamentals of
energy conversion and circuit theory, and ...

© All Rights Reserved

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which is struck with a hammer. The resulting strain pulses higher frequencies takes care of most of the discrepancies

are amplified and presented on an oscilloscope, permitting that would otherwise appear. Incidentally, pressing dry ice

Polaroid photographs to be taken by the students. Not only against a red hot bar results in a noise that is somewhat

is it thus demonstrated that transients really do travel up disturbing to classes going on in the building at the time!

and down the bar, but it is also shown that there is distor- We hope to develop a number of additional non-electri-

tion of the pulse due to the difficulty of getting a good cal experiments in the future, and we have been very

square blow on the end of the bar, and that there is ex- pleased with the results of the two we have performed so

traneous reflection due to the mounting arrangements and far.

to the presence of the strain gauges themselves.

Another experiment utilizes an alternating heat wave. CONCLUSION

Thermistors are mounted in two positions on an alumi- The course in "Traveling Waves" offered in the second

num bar and are connected into bridge circuits. The end semester of the junior year at the University of New

of the bar is alternately heated with a torch and cooled Mexico successfully teaches the student the principles of

with dry ice. The result is a more-or-less square heat wave distributed-constant circuits and in addition introduces him

traveling down the bar. Because of the increased attenua- to the use of the transmission line technique in solving a

tion of the higher frequencies, it appears almost sinusoidal wide variety of nonelectrical problems ranging from

at the thermistors, which are about half a wavelength from acoustics to chemical diffusion. At least as much benefit

the source. This experiment takes quite a while, because a results from "undepartmentalizing" the mechanical, ther-

period of six minutes is required to get reasonable wave- mal, and diffusion waves as from the actual knowledge

lengths. It is easy to make the low temperature side square, imparted in the course. The results of offering this course

but it is not at all easy to play the torch on the end of the for two years are quite satisfactory, and we intend to keep

bar in such a way that a square high temperature side of this course in our curriculum and to attempt to extend the

the wave results. It is fortunate that the attenuation of the analogies to some of our other courses.

P. R. CLEMENTt AND W. C. JOHNSONt

course in electrical engineering that has been developed over a

period of five years at Princeton University. The aims of the N 1954 the Department of Electrical Engineering at

course are to provide an introduction to the field of electrical Princeton University began planning a major revision

engineering via the basic concepts of electricity and magnetism of its undergraduate curriculum. This revision was

(which are developed through Maxwell's equations in the integral prompted by pressures from several areas. First, the grow-

form), to apply these concepts in developing the fundamentals of ing emphasis on materials and the rapid development of

energy conversion and circuit theory, and to carry forward, in a

continuous and integrated way, a modern treatment of network solid-state devices make it important that the student have,

analysis. Thus, the treatment proceeds from field ideas to circuitsupon graduation, more than a mere speaking acquaintance

and physical apparatus, and to their mathematical models. With with this area. Several years before, the department had

the circuit relations formulated, attention turns to the analysis of

instituted a required course in physical and solid-state

networks, starting with network topology and extending through electronics for seniors, and had also introduced in the

pole-zero ideas. The treatment stops just short of the Laplace

transform. This course is intended to serve as a foundation for electronics courses for juniors the analysis of some tran-

subsequent courses such as electronic circuits, energy conversion, sistor circuits to complement the more traditional material

and advanced network analysis and synthesis, and has been de- on vacuum-tube circuits. But this was not enough.

veloped with the purpose of providing the student with a unifying Second, certain well-established and less rapidly chang-

point of view for these varied topics. ing fields such at network theory and feedback control

systems were becoming more and more a part of the under-

* Manuscript received by the PGE, August 7, 1959. This paper graduate curriculum, whereas in former years they had

was presented at the IRE Seventh Regional Conference, Albuquer- been restricted to graduate work. It seemed desirable to

que, N.M., May, 1959.

t Dept. of Elect. Engrg., Princeton University, Princeton, N.J. incorporate an introduction to these fields in the required

20 IRE TRANSACTIONS ON EDUCATION February

courses, and to offer elective courses for further work at cepts of electric and magnetic fields, and the application

the senior level. of these concepts in practical situations. We wish him to

Third, the students were arriving as freshmen with obtain a physical picture of phenomena within material

better preparation than before in mathematics and physics. media, and for this reason we discuss the behavior of con-

Thus the freshman courses in those fields were able to ductors, semiconductors, dielectrics, and magnetic ma-

proceed more rapidly, and the minimum science back- terials from a molecular point of view. This discussion is

ground necessary for engineering was becoming estab- not limited to the qualitative. In fact, the student is ex-

lished earlier. The students were eager to advance more pected to work many problems, and to stress the problem-

rapidly, and it was from discussions with them that we solving aspect of the course, we have set aside half of the

became acutely conscious of the necessity for a greater in- laboratory periods in the first term as calculation periods.

tellectual challenge at an earlier level in our own courses. At the beginning of the sophomore year, the student's

In addition to these pressures, there were certain con- mathematical background has not advanced to the point

straints. We were unwilling even to suggest a sacrifice in where he can make intelligent use of partial differentiation

the number of liberal arts courses required, since the 20 and the other mathematical apparatus generally associated

to 25 per cent of the engineering curriculum in that area with a sophisticated approach to the subject. We feel that

is small enough for an educated engineer. We could not this can be, however, a blessing in disguise, for too much

merely cut out great quantities of the more traditional mathematics at the beginning can obscure the physical

scientific material, since many of the principles are ex- concepts. Our aim is to present the physical ideas correctly

tremely important to the electrical engineer, regardless of in such a form that the student will not need to unlearn

the particular phase of the field he enters upon graduation. them at a later time. In such a presentation the student

And we could not easily change from a four to a five year can see that mathematics of a more advanced kind would

program even if we so desired, because this, in a resi- permit him to manipulate the physical ideas so as to solve

dential university, would create problems of housing not practical problems of a greater degree of difficulty. We

easily solved. use differential and integral calculus freely. We introduce

It was clear that the revised program would require an the multiplication of vectors and the line and surface

introductory course that 1) would present the material in integrals. We go no further into vector analysis, and are

a fashion that was stimulating to the student and 2) would therefore limited to the integral formulation of Maxwell's

be more efficient from the point of view of the entire equations, and to examples and problems which have a high

curriculum. We completely eliminated the old course and degree of spacial symmetry. Fortunately, many practical

instituted a new one which has now, after five years, problems can be solved within this limitation.

reached a reasonably stable state. It is this introductory The nature of the problems is such that they have engi-

course that is the subject of this paper. neering applications which are often obvious to the stu-

dent. To list a few, we expect the student to: 1) work

STUDENT BACKGROUND problems on condenser microphones and electrostatic pick-

The science content of the student's background which ups; 2) calculate the torque on the vanes of an electro-

is relevant to the first course in electrical engineering is static voltmeter, beginning with the equation for the

found in his mathematics and physics courses. The student, conservation of energy; 3) find the maximum voltage

upon entering the department in the first term of his that can exist before breakdown in various configurations

sophomore year, has had one year of college calculus and such as a coaxial cable with more than one dielectric; 4)

one year of college physics. The freshman calculus course calculate conductivity taking into account electron and

combines differential and integral calculus with analytic hole mobilities; 5) design a simple permanent magnet;

geometry. It does not include the topics of partial differ- 6) derive certain fundamental properties of plane waves.

entiation, line integrals, or surface integrals; these sub- The foregoing occupies about a half a semester. Further

jects appear in the first term of the sophomore year. The work in electricity and magnetism comes in a required

freshman physics course includes seven to eight weeks of physics course in the second term of the sophomore year,

electricity and magnetism in the second term. A few stu- and in a full year elective course in the junior year. We

dents with advanced standing have a better preparation, but feel that it is important for us to introduce the field of

the number is rarely more than 10 per cent. electrical engineering in this fashion, however, since it

eliminates the compartmentalization of the various areas of

COURSE CONTENT the field, such as machinery, electron ballistics, high-fre-

At the beginning of the first term of the sophomore quency circuits, and so forth. Insofar as the course is

course in electrical engineering, the principles of elec- concerned, the basic principles are used in the remainder

tricity and magnetism, which the student encountered as of the first semester in two ways: 1) the development of

a freshman, are reviewed and greatly extended. We wish circuit theory, with attention to the relation between the

the student to feel at home with the fundamental basis for physical concepts and their mathematical formulation, and

the interactions between charges, both at rest and in mo- 2) the development of the basic ideas of energy conversion

tion. We wish him to be thoroughly familiar with the con- and electrical transducers, including means of measuring

1960 Clement and Johnson: A First Course in Electrical Engineering 21

electrical quantities. We thus proceed from field ideas to electric or a magnetic field. In the laboratory he learns

circuits and physical apparatus and to their mathematical how to compute deflection sensitivities, how the focussing

models. In this part of the course, we expect the student and intensity controls interact, and so on. Later on in the

to work problems such as: 1) forces in relays and sole- course, the lecture provides him with the concept of the

noids; 2) the external characteristics of dc motors and transfer function. In the laboratory he puts his knowledge

generators in the analysis of systems involving those to use in determining what configuration of components

machines (dc machines are introduced as one specific ex- (up to a maximum of three in number) lie within his two-

ample of energy conversion which can be treated in some terminal "black box."

detail along with general considerations of energy trans- In the laboratories connected with the upperclass electri-

ducers) ; 3) developing the expressions for the parameters cal engineering courses the reports are generally informal

L and C as appropriate for simple geometries, and then in nature. The student keeps a notebook, with his original

by successive approximations determining more exact re- data and write-up, which he turns in from time to time

lationships between input voltage and input current as to be graded. There are no rigid formats for the report.

the frequency becomes higher. We experimented with this type of write-up in the sopho-

This approach leads, near the end of the first semester, more course, but discovered that the reports in the upper-

directly to the more mathematical aspects of circuit theory, class years are far superior when the student has had a

and these occupy the remainder of the year. In this por- background in formal report writing. Therefore, this year

tion of the course the student studies network topology, we have returned to the formal write-up.

transients and the steady state in linear and some nonlinear Next fall we plan to continue with the laboratory ex-

networks, the use of phasors for steady-state ac analysis, periments once every two weeks. On the alternate weeks,

reduction techniques and network theorems, Fourier there will be supervised calculation periods intermingled

analysis, elementary zero-pole ideas, the design of audio with informal talks by an experienced member of the staff

and power transformers and polyphase circuits. In this on various phases of electrical engineering. We hope that

portion of the course, as well as in the first part, we have these talks will provide the student with a more specific

used an unorthodox approach. To cite a few examples: the notion of what an electrical engineer might do and will

complete solution to the differential equation for the circuit stimulate him by specifically illustrating how the material

is presented first, with concentration on the transient which he is encountering in lecture relates to practical

portions and the steady-state portions coming later; the electrical systems.

concept of Q is introduced from the energy definition,

without need for specifying the location of the dissipation THIS COURSE AS PREPARATION FOR UPPERCLASS COURSES

of energy; the zero-pole description of a network is em- At the end of his sophomore year, the student is far

phasized. As in the earlier portion of the course, the enough along with ideas and techniques that his succeeding

problems constitute an important part. courses can proceed rapidly. As a junior, he has a semester

During the second term of the sophomore year, the of energy conversion and control, a semester of engineer-

student also takes differential equations in the mathematics ing analysis, and a full year of communication systems

department and a physics course in electromagnetic theory and electronic circuits. Also, he takes a required course

which uses vector analysis freely and carries the student in functions of a complex variable and often elects further

further into the mathematical aspects of the subject. courses in physics. This is all basic preparation for the

The time devoted to the course is three lectures and senior year, when he takes physical electronics, communica-

one class during the first term, plus a three-hour labora- tion and control circuits, and chooses among courses in

tory, giving a total time of seven hours per week. In the servomechanisms, microwave tubes and circuits, switching

second term, the three lecture hours and the three laboratory theory and logical design, digital computation, and in-

hours provide a total time of six hours per week. In the dependent work.

class sections of the first term, the sophomore group is

divided into small sections of perhaps eight to ten students. EFFECTS ON THE STUDENTS

Instructors discuss with them informally the physical and The sophomore course is a difficult one for the students,

mathematical concepts which, in the lectures, are coming and we intentionally use it as a filter for the upperclass

at them at a rather rapid rate. We do not have the class courses, since we wish no student to be in the position of

section in the second term because the nature of the work finding as a senior that he should not be an electrical engi-

is more mathematical than physical, and we feel that the neer at all. By and large, the response of the students has

student can best benefit by using the time to solve more shown that they enjoy the challenge, and in rising to meet

problems on his own. it, they are developing more rapidly than before. We cer-

The laboratory experiments are designed to supplement tainly do not offer our particular plan of study as the

the lecture material. For example, in the first part of the only, or the best, solution to our original problem with its

course, the student experiments with oscilloscopes which pressures and constraints. The approach that we have

are designed especially for the purpose. From the lecture described is, we feel, one of the logical ones, and we have

he can calculate the forces on an electron stream in an now tested its practical application to our own satisfaction.

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