OpEL > Policies > GTA Orientation

Where is the OpEL?

  • The CEL is located in room 219 of Whittemore Hall.
  • Weekend Lab hours - enter Whittemore with card swipe on east end of 2nd floor (under the bridge to Durham Hall)
  • Use the Keypad to open 219

Policies and Procedures may change as needed to insure that the OpEL operates effectively and efficiently.

Opening the OpEL

  • Use the keypad for 219 entry.
  • Prop the 219 entry door open while there is someone in the lab.

Closing the OpEL

What is expected of GTAs?

  • GTAs will read their email regularly.
  • GTAs will use their 1-2 hours of prep time to become familiar with the validation procedures for each class.
  • GTAs will be responsible for navigating the OpEL web pages to find the information they need to perform their duties.
  • GTAs will follow OpEL Policies.
  • GTAs will send their class schedule and list of other commitments to the Lab Manager.
  • GTAs will perform tasks for the Lab Manager prior to the official lab opening day.
  • GTAs will not loan tools, books, kits, boards, or equipment to Students, Faculty or Staff. Contact Lab Manager for any loan requests.
  • GTAs are directly responsible for their assigned hours .
  • GTAs will open and close the lab according to the Schedule.
  • GTAs will walk around and be aware of activities in each of the CEL rooms.
  • GTAs will divide their time wisely among their OpEL responsibilities and their own coursework and research.
  • OpEL users are responsible for all items they bring into the OpEL.
Which GTA helps which class?
  • GTAs will help any student in any OpEL-supported course (ECE 2054, 2074, and 3074).
  • GTAs should use phrases like, "Let's see what I can do to help you".
  • GTAs should encourage a student to solve his or her own problem.
  • Use the queue to manage questions and validations - the queue logs are used to determine loading for coverage.
    GTAs may be reassigned to balance the load when the labs are busy.
Guidelines for Helping Students
  • It is important that the GTAs have worked out the solutions to any homework or labs themselves, so that they have a firm understanding of the issues involved.
  • GTAs should never solve problems for a student. 
  • In response to general questions such as “why doesn't my circuit work” it is not appropriate for the TA to figure out what is wrong and tell the student how to fix it.  Rather the GTA should suggest ways for the student to find the problem.  The student should know what is working and what is not working. Begin with power and ground, and then proceed. Many students, especially at the sophomore level, need help with troubleshooting skills and one-on-one interaction with a GTA is a great way to teach these skills.  It will always be much easier to just fix the student’s problem for them, but this does not promote significant learning and does not develop the skills necessary for the student to fix the next problem.  It is also appropriate for the TA to suggest reasons why the circuit may performing as it does so that the student has a general idea of where to look for the problem.
  • In response to specific questions it is best to help the students work through the question to find the answer themselves rather than just telling them what the answer is.  This takes longer, but promotes learning and helps students learn how to solve problems themselves.
  • In response to general questions regarding how perform a certain task, avoid directing the student down a narrow path leading to the cool way you figured out to do it when you solved the problem.  Get the student to suggest approaches and go along with their ideas to help them find a way to perform the task, even if it is much less elegant than your solution.  This approach will help students learn to solve a problem themselves and to better appreciate and learn from elegant solutions when they see them in class or in discussions with others.
  • Helping the students learn will always take longer than just telling them the answer and it will only make the OpEL more crowded initially.  But ultimately it should reduce the amount of help we must provide to the students by enhancing their ability to solve their own problems.
  • GTAs are not substitutes for attending class. The lectures are posted on scholar for the students to read, and there is no need to repeat a lecture.
GTAs provide first-tier hardware support for lab kits.
  • ECE Kit Parts
    • Verify that the part, tool, or probe is bad
    • Exchange the bad item for a replacement.
    • Dispose of the bad item.
  • A&D board or power supply
  • Velleman scope or Digilent scope
  • Digital multimeter
Signs and Reserved Spaces
  • GTAs may post temporary signs to clarify instructions, procedures, or warnings
  • Students may not post signs on walls, windows, doors, bulletin boards, lockers or partitions.
  • Students may not reserve spaces in any of the OpEL rooms
  • If the Lab Manager posts signs or rearranges furniture or reserves space, GTAs will receive an email.
    The Lab Manager will not scribble on the back of a homework assignment and post it as an official sign.

What is expected of students?

  • See Student Orientation
  • Students are expected to bring their own laptop and lab kits to the lab.
  • Students who must borrow a probe or part to complete validation shall receive a 10 point deduction on their validation score.

What resources does the OpEL provide?

  • An emergency phone is located in the hallway outside 234 Whittemore.
  • GTAs will help a student in any CEL-supported course.
  • For the best help, visit when your course-specific GTA is on duty.
  • GTAs provide first-tier hardware support for lab kits.
Computer Security
  • GTAs should never use a student's computer. Students should never use a GTA's computer .
  • A student may attempt to use credentials stored on a GTA's computer to access sensitive information, like grades.
  • If a GTA uses a student's computer, and the student has a keystroke logger installed, the student may capture the GTA's username and password.
What's in the cabinet in 219 Whittemore?
  • Stuff for GTAs to help Students
    • Lab Kit Warranty Parts
    • Warranty replacement ANDY boards, scopes, and meters.
    • Tools, supplies, textbooks
  • A complete set of Lab materials for GTAs who wish to practice the labs.
  • Feel free to explore the contents.
  • Make sure you lock the cabinet after access.
What if my professor wants me to have a lab kit so I have experience with the assigned projects?
  • Contact the Lab Manager to check out a lab kit. Lab kits must be returned at the end of the semester. We expect that you will use some of the components.
  • GTAs should not loan their personal or borrowed project board or lab kit parts to students.
What if I want to change my Course Assignment or Lab Hours?
  • To change your course assignment, contact the Assistant Department Head.
  • To change your OpEL hours, contact the Lab Manager.
What are some known limitations of the OpEL?
  • A typical validation takes 5 minutes, if a student is prepared. Therefore, each GTA may be able to perform 12 validations per hour. If a student waits until the last day or last hour, his or her project may not get validated by the deadline.
  • There are only 40 seats available in the OpEL to service approximately 600 students, enrolled in OpEL-supported courses. Students should do most of their work at home.
  • GTAs have their own homework, projects, and tests. GTAs are paid only for assigned hours. Students should not ask a GTA to stay after the lab closes.
  • The OpEL is open according to the Schedule.
Lost and Found
  • There is no "Lost and Found" service in the OpEL.
  • OpEL users are responsible for all items they bring into the OpEL.
  • The bottom shelf on the right side of the cabinet in 219 may contain items left in the OpEL.
  • GTAs may choose to place items on this "lost and found" shelf, but they are not required to do this.



Page updated: July 28, 2015