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A New Laboratory Curriculum Focused On Teaching Mixed Signal Testing Concepts Using Low Cost Test Equipment

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2001 Annual Conference


Albuquerque, New Mexico

Publication Date

June 24, 2001

Start Date

June 24, 2001

End Date

June 27, 2001



Page Count


Page Numbers

6.70.1 - 6.70.8



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Michael Warren

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Jay Porter

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

Session 3547

A New Laboratory Curriculum Focused on Teaching Mixed-Signal Testing Concepts Using Low-Cost Test Equipment

Jay R. Porter and Michael R. Warren Texas A&M University


As the density of integrated circuit technology continues to increase, many commercial devices are combining both analog and digital electronics onto a single chip. As the complexity of these chips increases, familiarity with testing mixed-signal devices is essential for the successful entry-level engineer. This paper discuss a laboratory curriculum being developed at Texas A&M University designed to introduce these concepts to students before they graduate. The curriculum emphasizes the use of standard electronics bench equipment combined with additional low-cost personal computer technology to ensure that all interested academic institutions can afford to offer these labs.

I. Introduction

With the increasing use of digital signal processing in modern electronics, the role of mixed-signal components such as analog-to-digital converters (ADC) and digital-to-analog converters (DAC) is becoming more and more important. These devices are typically combined onto a single, highly dense integrated circuit1. As these chips become more complex, familiarity with testing these devices is essential for the successful entry-level engineer. With this in mind, semiconductor design and manufacturing companies are looking to educational institutions to provide this experience as an integral component of an undergraduate curriculum. Industry has even sponsored a textbook specifically about mixed-signal testing2 to facilitate this. The text, by Mark Burns (Texas Instruments) and Gordon Roberts (McGill University), covers all aspects of mixed-signal test from actual measurement techniques to the economics of production testing.

Presently, the Electronics Engineering Technology program at Texas A&M University offers two courses in mixed-signal test based on this book. The original intent of these courses was to teach test concepts using a standard production tester donated by Texas Instruments and Teradyne 3. The use of a commercial tester allowed students to become familiar with industry-grade automated test equipment (ATE). However, the cost of an ATE, which can easily be in excess of one million dollars, makes it prohibitively expensive for wide spread academic use. For this reason, a laboratory-based mixed-signal curriculum is currently being developed that allows students to experiment with mixed-signal test concepts using low-cost equipment.

Proceedings of the 2001 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright ©2001, American Society for Engineering Education

Warren, M., & Porter, J. (2001, June), A New Laboratory Curriculum Focused On Teaching Mixed Signal Testing Concepts Using Low Cost Test Equipment Paper presented at 2001 Annual Conference, Albuquerque, New Mexico. 10.18260/1-2--9607

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