Electronics From the Bottom Up: Strategies for Teaching Nanoelectronics at the Undergraduate Level
Nanoelectronics is an emerging area of electrical and computer engineering that deals with the current-voltage behavior of atomic-scale electronic devices. As the trend toward ever smaller devices continues, there is a need to update traditional undergraduate curricula to introduce electrical engineers to the fundamentals of the field. These fundamentals encompass topics from quantum mechanics and condensed-matter physics, and they pose new teaching challenges in electronics education; specifically, unconventional ideas must be presented in a rapid and yet complete way so that engineering undergraduates can quickly yet satisfyingly absorb the key concepts, and then apply these concepts to emerging devices. This paper describes the strategies employed by the author in teaching the subject to large undergraduate classes at his institution. These strategies include the use of computer visualization, a careful introduction of quantum mechanics, and a constant demonstration of the relevance of theory by practical examples and calculations. The effectiveness of the approach is illustrated through survey results of the Universal Student Ratings of Instruction at the author's institution and by way of typical assignment and exam questions that demonstrate the level of sophistication that students can attain in what might otherwise be viewed as a purely mathematical and esoteric subject.