Monday, October 15, 2012

NSF-ATE Project Launches Field Test of Virtual Electronics Resource

The NSF-ATE project Simulations for Performance Assessments that Report on Knowledge and Skills (SPARKS) has launched the SPARKS Portal to offer your students access to a virtual lab where they can turn knobs, blow fuses, and receive feedback before they step foot in your electronics lab. You're invited to participate in a field test of software that teaches introductory electronics with a virtual breadboard, components, and test equipment.

SPARKS includes an array of activities that simulate AC and DC circuits with randomized values starting with the basic digital multimeter and series/parallel circuit designs and progressing to AC circuits with an oscilloscope and function generator. The SPARKS software monitors, records, and interprets student performance and generates scored reports with visual indicators of success. Both individual student and class progress is recorded, allowing instructors to monitor each student's performance on distinct skills.

The SPARKS activities are presented in a game-like environment, encouraging advancement to higher levels with greater scores. The online system monitors students' actions and provides feedback, helpful hints, and online tutorials to support skills needing improvement.

A field test of the SPARKS materials is being conducted October 15 - December 15, 2012 during which time the materials will be available at To participate, we invite you to watch the short video, preview an activity or two, then click the "Portal" button to sign up your class and get started. The SPARKS project team at CORD is available to answer questions, offer guidance, and assist instructors in setting up their classes. To take advantage of the field test opportunity, instructors can use as many (or as few) of the SPARKS activities as they would like. Students can work through the online activities at their own pace - at home, or in a classroom or lab. There is no cost to schools or community/technical colleges to participate.

SPARKS is a project of the Concord Consortium, the Center for Occupational Research and Development (CORD), and Tidewater Community College.

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