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A Hands On Introduction To Electronics

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2004 Annual Conference


Salt Lake City, Utah

Publication Date

June 20, 2004

Start Date

June 20, 2004

End Date

June 23, 2004



Conference Session

Pre-College and ECE Education

Page Count


Page Numbers

9.46.1 - 9.46.10



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Paper Authors

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James Bales

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Session 3532

A Hands-on Introduction to Electronics

James W. Bales

Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Abstract We have created a seminar subject (primarily for freshmen) that gives a hands-on introduction to electronics. Initially, the test instruments are limited to a voltmeter and LEDs used to indicate the presence and direction of current in a circuit. Concepts presented this way include voltage dividers, bridge rectifiers and RC charge/discharge. Then, we introduce the function generator and oscilloscope as tools for viewing frequencies too fast to view by the unaided eye. The middle section of the subject is spent building and testing circuits, and observing how their performance can be tailored by changing the values of select components. These experiments are followed by in-class discussion to solidify understanding, with additional explanatory material presented as needed. Active components are covered in a "black-box" fashion, along with discussion of how to read data sheets. Devices covered include transistor switches, comparators, operational amplifiers and elementary timing circuits. Most experiments include indicators, sensors, and/or actuators (e.g., solenoids and motors). The subject concludes with a service-learning design project applying the material learned. A recent example involved adding a solid-state on/off timer to electronic toys used to teach autistic children. We believe that this approach helps students gain an intuitive understanding of current and voltage, as well as giving them the satisfaction of immediately visible results. Our expectation is that some of our students will continue building and hacking circuits on their own, and will encounter situations where the simple rules they know fail. Some of these students (we believe) will be motivated to enroll in more advanced courses to learn the more detailed theory required to make more complex circuits work.

Rationale and Goals We recognized a need at MIT for a subject offering students a pragmatic, hands-on introduction to electronics. The pool of students for the subject includes • Freshmen who wish to experience enough electronics to decide if they wish to major in EE. • Freshmen with no prior electronics experience who intend to major in EE, and feel that some familiarity with circuits and test equipment will help them in their sophomore EE subjects. • Upperclassmen and new graduate students from other departments who want to learn rudimentary electronics to fill a perceived gap in their education.

Proceedings of the 2004 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright © 2004, American Society for Engineering Education

Bales, J. (2004, June), A Hands On Introduction To Electronics Paper presented at 2004 Annual Conference, Salt Lake City, Utah. 10.18260/1-2--13894

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