Circuit tutor : a computer-aided learning package for electrical engineering

Master Thesis


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University of Cape Town

The development of Circuit Tutor, the subject of this dissertation, resulted from a conviction that computers can further enrich the Electronic Engineering curriculum. After an investigation into the different roles of the computer in education the use of modelling and simulation was selected as an effective Computer Aided Learning method. It was realised that the development of any non-trivial simulation program is however not an easy task. The programmer must not only model the circuit behaviour, but also write the man-machine interface (MMI). The main goal of Circuit Tutor was to provide a ready-made simulation environment which makes effective use of the graphics capabilities of the microcomputer for the simulation of a whole class of electrical circuit simulations. To facilitate rapid prototyping the installer is provided with: (1) a man-machine interface which provides the user with a graph, 3 meters, a circuit diagram of the circuit, a menu facility, windows to view circuit parameters and outputs: (2) a program scheduler; (3) a library of maths functions, including Gauss-Jordan elimination of complex matrices; and (4) Circuit Draw: a utility to draw a circuit diagram. Particular emphasis was placed on the design of the user's interface. It has been possible to restrict the effort to link in a new circuit model to 3 modifications to the man-machine interface (MMI) part of the program. Present software and MMI design were investigated. Circuit Tutor and Circuit Draw were developed using modular software design techniques. A modular design chart similar to that proposed by Wiener (1984) was found to be useful during the design stages of both Circuit Tutor and Circuit Draw. Available computer languages for the IBM PC were evaluated and Turbo Pascal selected, as it offered most of the features necessary for the implementation of a modern, modular software design. Four circuits were implemented to serve as examples. The documentation was structured in a manner appropriate to a software project: Part 1 gives an introduction to computers in education and provides the rationale for the use of simulation. A brief overview of Circuit Tutor and Circuit Draw is presented. Part 2 contains the User's Reference Manual for Circuit Tutor and the Circuit Draw Utility. Part 3 contains the Designer's Reference Manual for Circuit Tutor and the Circuit Draw Utility.