Cardboard Circuits Improve Students’ Understanding Of Automotive Electronics

Sections: Chassis, Powertrain

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Morgan Community College faculty member Ken Harrell

Faculty member Ken Harrell demonstrates a “Cardboard Circuit” automotive electronics project at Morgan Community College.

Fort Morgan, CO – Ken Harrell, a faculty member in Automotive Technologies and Collision Repair at Morgan Community College, recognized that automotive electronics was an area in which many of his students struggled.

Because modern automobiles are becoming increasingly complex, a firm understanding of electronics and the underlying principles like Ohm’s Law are a critical component of the automotive technologies program. Most students who enter automotive programs have very little electronics knowledge. Add to that, numerous electrical components are buried deep within the vehicles and hidden under dashboards making instruction and learning more challenging.

During the 2011-12 academic year, Harrell developed a new electronics exercise to provide a hands-on learning opportunity. The project requires student teams of two to develop a “Cardboard Circuit”. Each team received a 2’x3’ piece of cardboard on which they must design and assemble at least two 12-volt circuits using automotive components. Students draw out the wiring diagram and present their project to their class. Building on this project, students then perform electronics tests as a written exercise and then trade circuits with other teams to analyze and test a circuit board that they did not build.

“The process has definitely helped in our students’ basic understanding of automotive electronics. Following the introduction of the cardboard circuit board exercise, we noticed that regular test scores improved,” said Harrell. Evidence of the success of this project also comes from automotive faculty around the state that has not only shown interest in the project, but hope to replicate it in their own programs.

You read the full story about Mr. Harrell’s teaching project here.

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