Teaching undergraduate courses proves quite challenging—especially if the emphasis is on thinking and deduction rather than on memorization. With today’s young minds used to playing fast-paced video games and “clicking” on the Internet toward their destination, it has become increasingly more difficult to encourage them to concentrate for long periods of time and deal with abstract concepts. Drawing upon more than one decade of teaching, this article provides suggestions that instructors of microelectronics may find helpful.

Therapy    The students taking the first microelectronics course have typically completed one or two courses on basic circuit theory. To many, that experience has not been particularly memorable. After all, the circuit theory textbook is most likely written by a person not in the field of circuits. Similarly, the courses are most likely taught by an instructor having little involvement in circuit design. For example, the students are rarely told that node analysis is much more frequently used in hand calculations than mesh analysis is. Or, they are given little intuition with respect to Thevenin’s and Norton’s theorems.

With the foregoing issues in mind, I begin the first course with a five-minute “therapy session.” I ask how many liked the circuit theory courses and came out with a “practical” understanding. Very few raise their hands. I then ask, “But how ...

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