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Enhanced Suitcases For Upper Division Electronics Laboratories

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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

6.447.1 - 6.447.6

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Paper Authors

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William Berg

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Morris Boughton

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

Session 2649

Enhanced Suitcases for Upper Division Electronics Laboratories

William M. Berg, Morris W. Boughton University of Texas at Brownsville


Inexpensive ($200 - $350) attaché cases filled with equipment pertinent to a basic electronics test laboratory have revolutionized basic electronic laboratory courses. These are called electronics trainers or mini labs by two of the manufacturers. At a minimum, the cases contain a prototyping board, power supplies (± 5v, ± 12v, and variable), function generators, potentiometers, and switches, LEDs, and clocks, for analog and digital circuit laboratories. More elaborate cases include coaxial connectors and DB25 connectors for connection to computers or oscilloscopes, enhanced function generators, AM and FM signal generators, and multimeters. These suitcases allow students to prepare for (or perform) laboratory experiments at home. In addition they are excellent for speeding students to success in circuit building and analysis in lower division courses. However, in upper division courses, such as communications and controls, circuits get so complex (greater than 100 connections) that laboratory experiences become troubleshooting and continuity experiences rather than investigations into circuit and system behavior. Thus, the suitcases lose value in the upper division. At the University of Texas at Brownsville, we are adding printed circuit modules to the cases. These modules contain the support circuitry for circuits to be investigated. This permits investigation of relatively small circuit units in the context of larger systems. This paper discusses the use of suitcase laboratories in lower division circuits courses and then explores the needs for “suitcase enhancement modules” for upper division courses. Finally, the design concepts and applications for some of the enhancement modules are presented.

Introduction The University of Texas at Brownsville (UTB) is the newest component of the University of Texas System. Established by the state in 1992, UTB currently enrolls more than 9,000 students, of whom greater than 95% are Hispanics, mainly of Mexican-American descent. As part of an ambitious expansion to better serve an underrepresented community, UTB received state approval four years ago to start new programs in Chemistry, Computer Science, Engineering Technology, and Physics.

Introductory courses in electronic engineering technology have been presented four or five times, upper division courses have been presented once or twice. Some elective courses have not been presented yet. Early on, we saw the advantage of using Mini-Lab prototyping trainer systems that come packaged in attaché cases. We call them suitcases. Each suitcase Mini-Lab comes complete with a solderless prototyping board, power supplies, a function generator, and LED indicators and

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

Berg, W., & Boughton, M. (2001, June), Enhanced Suitcases For Upper Division Electronics Laboratories Paper presented at 2001 Annual Conference, Albuquerque, New Mexico.

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