EN123    Grading Contract    Fall, 2012   by JD Daniels

I tell you in advance what is required to earn a C/S, B and what are the boundary conditions for earning an A.

For links to write-ups of the labs and quizzes, go to the Scorecard.

To pass the course (C/S), do Labs 0, 0.5, 1, 3, 4pre, 5, 7, 9, & LT-A, answer Quiz 2 correctly, complete writing assignments WRIT 1 & WRIT 2, and fill out evaluation forms on the last day of class.

To earn a B meet the requirements for a C plus Labs 2, 6, 8, and A16 and correctly answer Quiz 1.

What it means to "meet the requirements."
You'll notice the Lab Write-ups are in the form of specifications: "do this..., do that...", or measurements: "What is the common mode rejection ratio?" You must meet all specs by being able to demonstrate any measurements. There is no partial credit.

Invariably, you and your lab partner will have put together some circuit, created some LabVIEW virtual instrument, or built some mechanical arrangement of sensors and substrates. If what you designed and built works as expected, great. Otherwise I or my TAs are there to help you troubleshoot problems.

"You didn't build that!" One of President Obama's famous pronouncements from the 2012 presidential campaign may in fact be true for one aspect of EN123. If you're frustrated we can help you build any C/B-level lab from scratch. (A process whose details you may decide are too incommodious for enduring to completion...) Be advised that once we help you "build that" then we may ask you if you understand what we did, and if you say "oh yeah" or words to that effect, we may then tell you that we will take apart what we built so you can redo it yourself and be able truly to say, "I built that!"

Remember, what's important is demonstrating something that works: how you got there--all on your own, with the help of fellow students, or the TAs, or me--is not part of the grading process.

The Fault Tolerance Question. Once you and your lab partner have demonstrated successfully the requirements of a lab, You will be asked (individually) a question about what will be different if a wire is pulled out, or an input is changed, or a signal is rerouted, or a line of code is changed. Or perhaps we'll ask you about some calculation based on theory you have learned from lecture... it will be at our discretion as to what kind of question you will be examined with. You'll want to think carefully about the answer: if you're wrong then you must try another question, normally waiting until the next day before the next FTQ can be asked.

I or a TA will be the judge of whether your answer includes enough information to be correct. We estimate you may think for about 10-15 minutes before answering.

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"Proliferation of A's":
The Brown Daily Herald of Nov 20, 2008 quoted then-Provost Kertzer as saying at a faculty meeting, when asked his opinion about a survey that said over 50% of grades at Brown are A's, "I don't think it's a good thing. I think it's a problem." We here at EN123 take his remark to mean that the administration / faculty is planning something here like what the Princeton faculty voted for in Spring 2004, to limit A's to 35% of the grades at Princeton.

For 2012 we will attempt to limit the maximum number of A's in EN123 to 55% of the number of students in the course. By "number of students in the course" = N we mean the enrollment just after the add/drop deadline passes. If after that time someone drops the course, that drop will not decrease N. The maximum number of A's will be ceiling(0.55*N) where "ceiling" generates a rounded-up integer. For example if there are 31 students enrolled then the maximum number of A's to be awarded will be rounded-up: 0.55*31 = 17.05 =>18.

To be eligible for an A you need to meet the requirements for a B, pass one lab beyond that, from a choice { 0.8, Lab4Lam, 8T, 9Q, Fan Lab, LT-A, VT, ADA, LabZilla} and pass Quiz 3. (You may need to finish more labs or quizzes to insure you receive an A.)

There will be two ways to be graded for a lab or a quiz:
(1) In the matter of reaching credit for C or B, you meet the requirements spelled out above--there is no numerical score, just an initial on your scorecard and perhaps a hieroglyphic on the scoreboard. No lab reports need to be handed in--just keep up your IP (intellectual property) folder.
(2) There will be points associated with each lab or quiz; these points will matter only if you are on the path to an A. The points available are listed on the scorecard. But there may be points deducted--for example if you miss a fault tolerance question; if you require extensive help designing and building the lab; if you answer a quiz question wrong the first time; if you miss a measurement or are out of range from a reasonably correct answer and need help to adjust your "virtual instrument" or circuit or code. Or bonus points may be awarded: If you are first or second to finish a lab, for example.

On your scorecard, and on the 123 spreadsheet (kept on a computer in 095 AND on my memory stick) and on a name-encrypted page of the EN123 website your numerical scores will be kept. For those on the path to an A, occasionally we will post on the EN123 website or the score computer an update of the rank order of A-path students. Look for your 4-digit ID number and your total-to-now score. By "A-path student" we mean someone who has done one lab beyond B requirements, even if that student hasn't met all the B requirements yet.

CPR: Suppose you try for an A and don't make the 55% cut. I will be happy to write you a CPR stating that if Brown had +/- grades, you would have earned an A-.

All students must fill out evaluation forms for the course; this requirement will normally be met by attending the last lecture of EN123, where the course will be reviewed and refreshments served.

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Quizzes: Passing Quiz 2 is required for a C, passing Quiz 1 is required for a B; and Quiz 3 is needed to eligible for a A. Six other quizzes are listed: None are required for C or B; scoring on any of those 6 quizzes puts you on the A-path.

There are other quizzes, listed on the scorecard.

Each quiz will consist of one question, and you must find the correct answer to pass that quiz; you must also show some work other than just writing down the answer. For quizzes 1 or 2, if you miss the first question, a second question will be handed out--similar to, but different from, the first. If you miss the second question you will be offered a one-on-one oral question at a whiteboard...you will eventually figure out a correct answer and receive credit for the quiz. For the other listed quizzes, what you do on the first try will be your score--no second chances. Quizzes will normally be handed out or posted on a Friday. Signing off quizzes does not count against the one-lab-per-day limitation, and you will not need an index card for a successful quiz.

The good news: There are no problem sets, no midterm, no final exam and no lab reports to hand in. Hey, there's not even a textbook to buy... All your effort will be in the design and implementation of hardware, software and wet-ware solutions to the Lab problems, and correctly answering various quizzes.

Deadlines and diminishing returns
You can have Labs or Quizzes signed off until 3pm, Friday, Dec 14, 2012. In December numerical values of the labs will be half of the nominal values.

EN123 Exclusion Principle
("Time is Nature's way of preventing everything from happening all at once.")
You can have only one lab signed off per day. Furthermore, we institute the following scheme to limit the number of labs signed off per week:

Index card limit: At the beginning of each week we will place in a box in BaHo Lab 095 a set of 2*N index cards, where N is the number of student enrolled in EN123 (In 2005 N was 28, in 2006 N was 24, in 2007 it was 18, in 2008 and 2009 and 2010 N was 27 and in 2011 N was 29...). Each of N cards will have one of the current students names on it; the other N cards will be uncommitted floaters. Each time a student finishes a lab that student will receive one of the index cards, starting with the card which has his or her name on it. The N floater cards will be given out to students who, that week, finish additional labs. For a particular student, once his or her earmarked card is claimed, and all the floaters have been taken, the student needs to wait until the next week to have a additional lab signed off.

For the first week of the course, and Columbus Day Week, and Thanksgiving week, and the last week of the course, only N floater cards will be available.

A week begins on Monday.

Times to have labs signed off: As the course gets underway, we will fill in the Lab Schedule Calendar on the website with all your guaranteed appearance times. TAs will arrange their times around your GATs. The 095 lab can hold 4 teams at once during these times; otherwise, unless it is your GAT, you may use one of the 2 or 3 "overflow" setups in 097. I or a TA can help you (1) find parts (2) help you troubleshoot C/B labs (3) verify your lab meets specs (4) sign off a lab if you meet specs and perhaps answer a FTQ. The 095 lab will be unlocked automatically between 8:15a.m. and 4:15 M-F. I will be available at your GATs for you and others who may queue up.

The Future: If you finish a second Lab in one day you can have it signed off in the future--normally the next weekend... For the last week of the course there is no "future".

What happens on Friday?: The Friday lecture may be more informal, with more questions to or from students... perhaps more demos, fewer Power Point slides. A quiz may be vetted and handed out. The 095, 097 labs will be closed at 4:30pm on Friday.

What happens on the weekends?: I'll usually come in to the lab on Saturday or Sunday afternoons... and go over to the Coleman Natatorium to swim laps... Saturday there may be home football games. You are welcome to come in and "work ahead". If you have something finished I can sign it off; if you need troubleshooting help I may give you a "twitter's worth" of advice.

Who can sign your scorecard?: While the 2012 UG and grad student TAs are empowered to sign off any of the labs by approving your answer to your FTQ, on the scorecard you hand in at least half of the labs must be signed off by JD.

Lab Partners
You should team up with a lab partner. Some labs, such as Knob rotation, Lab 8, EMG, LT and VT, require two people. Normally a lab that meets specifications will be demonstrated with both lab partners present; then each of you will answer a "fault tolerance question" individually to have the lab signed off on your scorecards. There are no lab partners for Labs 0 or 0.5 or 6. You can try to form a trio, but my experience is that groups of 3 trying to work together tend to become unstable.

You and your lab partner may pick a team name (Colors, Greek letters or military alphabet terms (Tango Bravo...), or 3 words sense or nonsense such as Wild Blue Yonder or Emergent Jam Situation or Furious Green Ideas...) and sign up for a guaranteed appearance time (GAT) where once a week we meet in person in the lab and I note your progress in the course, and you have priority for my attention. On the website will be a weekly calendar listing all the allotted GATs. Additionally, we will urge you to consider three more two-hour sessions per week, since most of the work in EN123 takes place in the lab. Do not schedule yourself after 4pm.

If one lab partner is not present during the first presentation of a lab, the second partner will need to demonstrate everything again later at his or her convenience.

Keeping Score
Once you meet the requirements for a Lab I or a TA will
initial and date your scorecard, then hand you a signed index card. You can also enter your progress on the public scoreboard in the lab. After having a lab signed off you should go away and celebrate... Later I will enter your progress on the 123 spreadsheet, with a numerical score and a checkmark notation. When you finish the course you must hand in in person to me your scorecard.

Documentation
While it is not necessary to hand in your designs and notes about the various labs, it will turn out to be important to keep notes, data sheets, and good documentation, both for troubleshooting and for answering FTQs (see below). If you ask for help we may request to see your circuit design drawn out on paper. Yes, LabVIEW is basically self-documenting, but it will be useful to add notes to your panels and diagrams to remind you, me or my TAs what is going on with your design. If we ask you a question about your circuit diagram and your response is to fumble through scraps of paper, no one will be happy.

Another tip: If you wire a circuit with random colors of wire, or all the same color, or wires that are too long, or too short, confusion may arise.

And see website section on Saving Examples of Student Work for ABET.

Getting started.
Each of you must first complete Labs 0 and 0.5. Then you're qualified to
continue as you see fit. It's probably best to do the labs in sequence, since there may be issues with parts available. I estimate it may take anywhere from one to 10 hours to finish a lab. Lab partners should pair off after Labs 0 and 0.5.

The Fault Tolerance Question redux: I or a TA will be the judge of whether your answer includes enough information to be correct. We estimate you may think for about 10-15 minutes before answering.

Answers such as, "The same thing happened to a friend of mine," or "The circuit just won't work anymore," or "It depends on what you mean by 'what'," or "I've gotta go have lunch now," are unacceptable.

Over the course of the semester, you may spend a comparable amount of time with oral "fault tolerance questions" (FTQs) as you would sitting through a midterm and final exam.

Help. See this link for troubleshooting advice.

Revisiting C/B lab frustration: If you seek me out for advice, I may first ask you to show me your documentation, and we may go through a Socratic question-and-answer cycle. But (as mentioned above) if nothing works to fix your C/B level circuit/software I will rebuild the lab myself, while you watch. In fact if your work is a big mess to begin with, starting over may be the first step... You are guaranteed that eventually we will have a working lab for C/B levels. If you testify you understand what help I've given you, I'll delete the VI or pull the wires out of the breadboard and all you have to do is rebuild it correctly and answer correctly a FTQ.

The best way to invoke this clause is to state to JD or a TA, "Hey! I'm on the far side of the Yerkes-Dodson curve! I've been working on (fill in name of lab) for (insert integer greater than 1) days and I can't seem to meet the specs!"

For A-path labs you can be given advice about how to alleviate your frustration, and questions can be answered about wording in the write-ups, but we do not guarantee we will build the lab for you from scratch.

Bio-Lab soft deadlines: The blaberus labs, Lab 8 and 8T, will be available at reasonable hours during the month of October. After October we will probably have enough spare blaberii for you to do the lab by appointment, but for half the nominal points. The frog length-tension lab LT (to take place in Arnold Lab B-20) should be done in November, before Thanksgiving, for full credit.

After Thanksgiving: There will be less immediate help available, and no more "guaranteed appearance times," and earlier lab closings. After Nov. 30th points for Labs and WRIT and Filter Quiz will be half of their nominal values (listed on the spreadsheet).

On the first Friday after Thanksgiving (at 4pm) The top six students on the A-path numerical-sort of the spreadsheet will receive 24, 20, 16, 12, 8, 4 bonus points respectively.

The last week: During the last 5 business days of 123 there will be help on an as-needed basis. While we will be around BaHo to sign off working labs, there will no guarantee of thorough troubleshooting for labs that fail to meet specs.

Finishing. When you've finished enough labs and quizzes for the grade you want, and have filled out student evaluation forms, turn in your scorecard to me in person, likely right after the last lecture. I will subsequently check your scorecard for proper signatures and dates. The scorecard has precedence over the spreadsheet.

No incompletes: The structure of EN123--as an all-lab course--does not permit the issuing of INC grades at the end of the term. Equipment is put away, the space is needed for other purposes, JDD has other responsibilities, and animals for experiments are gone. If you don't reach the finish line as specified by this Contract, try again 9 months later when the next fall semester begins.

Qualifications and Authority. I guarantee that the requirements for the various grades will not be increased during the semester, although various lab requirements may be clarified, fine-tuned or tweaked along the way. I will be the authority for granting any variances from the requirements, and will listen to protests that certain labs are "too hard."