This month’s “theme” I think can best be summarized as “Learning it by DOING it – a key aspect in EMC understanding.”
Many times comments are heard that the “young people of today aren’t willing to work”. I can report that this is not always the case. For this installment of The View from the Chalkboard, we will hear from a young person that was willing to work and learn, and to make things better for students that follow her.
That person is Lisa Linna, who actually wanted to work and find out about this stuff called EMC.
Lisa is a recent graduate with both her B.S. and M.S. degrees in electrical engineering. As a young person, she decided to go into engineering due to her interest in mathematics and physics, and then decided to take a graduate level EMC course after her father (who was a product design engineer) told her about the importance of EMC. She said this was intriguing to her that even though almost every electrical and/or electronic component or system has to at some point pass EMC requirements – there is actually very little knowledge about those requirements in the engineering discipline. Rather than just accepting that situation, Lisa decided to address this head-on, by not only learning herself, she also developed a learning by doing lab project to help others. Along the way – she discovered that this has opened new doors in her professional career (which is always a nice benefit). So with that – I am pleased to introduce Lisa’s thoughts to you about what makes a valuable educational experience and how she helped design one.
Beyond the Classroom
Structured education generally comes in two forms, traditional classroom learning, and then the hands on approach. In my personal experience, in order to fully grasp a subject, this combination is necessary. The difference between the two methods of education is highlighted in technical fields where topics can be quite complex and difficult for one to fully absorb based on a semester’s worth of lectures, practice problems and exams. This is what led me to expand my education beyond the EMC course I completed at the University of Michigan, Dearborn, with Professor Mark Steffka. My goal was two-fold, improve my understanding of EMC concepts, and also contribute to education of others by creating a lab which could demonstrate a complex topic on a basic level. Often times when we learn a subject only a portion is carried over into our professional life. In electrical engineering, EMC is one area that is of high priority for everyone in the field to have a basic understanding of. Therefore, we want to use labs as a way to impress core topics into the minds of students, so that it’s not left at the end of the semester and tucked away in the back of their mind.
Following my graduate course in EMC, I wanted to continue my studies and was given the opportunity to contribute to the existing undergraduate laboratory run by another former student, Christopher Semanson. Crosstalk was chosen as my primary focus. This is a subject that affects all areas of electrical engineering from power communications and industrial controls, to electronic control unit PCB designs and integrated circuits. Cables and PCB traces have different aspects due to conductor dimensions and insulation, but essentially crosstalk affects these in the same manner. The lab was developed based on an experiment by Clayton R. Paul which was published in the IEEE EMC Educational Manual (revised July 1992). It explores the concepts of electro-magnetic fields and how they can create capacitive and inductive coupling between neighboring conductors. The concept of common mode (conductive) crosstalk is also included. A pre-lab lecture is given in order to reiterate the concept reviewed in class, which is then expected to be used by the students to explain their findings. Students rotate between 4 lab stations which show examples crosstalk with non-shielded pairs, twisted pair, coaxial cable and common mode wires with a shared ground. Measurements are taken at each station, across a range of frequencies. These measurements are then plotted and compared. As a result, students are able to see the affects that distance, twisting wires and shielding has on radiated crosstalk, as well as the interesting fact that shared “grounds” or supply lines can cause interference at any frequency!
In closing, I am also pleased to report that Lisa has discovered that this work has greatly enhanced her knowledge AND has opened new doors in her professional career (which is always a nice benefit). Hopefully Lisa’s thoughts have helped in understating what makes a valuable educational experience and how she helped design one.
|Mark Steffka, B.S.E., M.S.
is a Lecturer (at the University of Michigan – Dearborn), an Adjunct Professor (at the University of Detroit – Mercy) and an automotive company Electromagnetic Compatibility (EMC) Technical Specialist. His university experience includes teaching undergraduate, graduate, and professional development courses on EMC, antennas, and electronic communications. His extensive industry background consists of over 30 years’ experience with military and aerospace communications, industrial electronics, and automotive systems.Mr. Steffka is the author and/or co-author of numerous technical papers and publications on EMC presented at various Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) and Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) conferences. He has also written about and has been an invited conference speaker on topics related to effective methods in university engineering education. He is an IEEE member, has served as a technical session chair for SAE and IEEE conferences and has served as an IEEE EMC Society Distinguished Lecturer. He holds a radio communications license issued by the United States’ Federal Communication Commission (FCC) and holds the call sign WW8MS.
started her career as a controls engineer where she worked in automotive paint finishing industry at Durr Systems, Inc. Following this, she began her current position at Robert Bosch LLC in Plymouth, MI, where she works as a hardware engineer in the chassis controls division. She recently completed her M.S.E. in Electrical Engineering from the University of Michigan-Dearborn. As a result of this achievement, she is expanding her career to include training in EMC design and testing. She may be reached at email@example.com.