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Electronics outreach to inspire A-level Physics students through ‘music mixer’ tool

Published: 
15 February 2017
Illustration
The Music Mixer circuit board was evaluated at last year's Teachers Workshop

The next generation of engineers will engage with fundamental electronics concepts through an interactive teaching tool being rolled out in A-level classrooms later this year. Physics students across the country will experiment with electronic components and circuits with hands-on activities using a new ‘music mixer’ circuit board developed at the University of Southampton. The programme, which is being delivered in partnership between Electronics and Computer Science (ECS) at the University of Southampton and the UK Electronics Skills Foundation (UKESF), will reach up to 1,500 pupils at 36 schools in a two-year pilot scheme supported by an Institute of Engineering and Technology (IET) Engineering Education Grant.

The tool, which was created by ECS Lecturer Dr Daniel Spencer, is centred around a ‘music mixer’ circuit that combines two audio signals, for example music from their mobile phones, encouraging students to control the volume by experimenting with different electronic components. Its design exposes all components and demystifies electronics for the students.

A prototype of the tool was evaluated as part of a Teachers’ Workshop in summer 2016. The workshop, which shares hands-on activities and materials for educators in A-level Physics and Computer Science, will run again this summer from 17-18 July with support from the grant. For more information or to book a free place, see www.workshop.soton.ac.uk.

Dr Alex Weddell, Teachers’ Workshop Leader, said: “This tool was really well-received by the teachers last year. Many commented that they were eager to use it in the classroom, and their feedback helped us to secure this funding. We have a vibrant and growing electronics sector in the UK; however, there is significant shortage of graduate electronics engineers. We are looking forward to seeing this new hands-on tool provide a visual and practical way for teachers to deliver electronics concepts within the physics curriculum and inspire more pupils to take up the subject.”

A-Level students currently in year 12 can also find out more about degrees in Electronics and Computer Science by attending a week-long residential “Taster Course” in July 2017. More information at www.taster.ecs.soton.ac.uk

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