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Rascl: A Portable Circuit Prototyping Laboratory

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2007 Annual Conference & Exposition


Honolulu, Hawaii

Publication Date

June 24, 2007

Start Date

June 24, 2007

End Date

June 27, 2007



Conference Session

Innovations in ECE Education II

Tagged Division

Electrical and Computer

Page Count


Page Numbers

12.1220.1 - 12.1220.14



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Paper Authors


Angel Martinez Kansas State University

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Angel Martinez received his B.S. and M.S. degrees in Electrical Engineering from Kansas State University in May 2005 and May 2007, respectively. His areas of research interest include embedded systems, analog & digital electronics, and system-level design.

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Steve Warren Kansas State University

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Steve Warren is an Associate Professor of Electrical & Computer Engineering at Kansas State University. He teaches courses in linear systems, computer graphics, biomedical instrumentation, and scientific computing. Dr. Warren manages the KSU Medical Component Design Laboratory, and his research focuses on plug-and-play, wearable systems for telemedicine.

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

RASCL: A Portable Circuit Prototyping Laboratory Angel Martinez, M.S. and Steve Warren, Ph.D. Department of Electrical & Computer Engineering Kansas State University, Manhattan, KS, 66506, USA


Circuit theory, signals & systems, and digital design courses in electrical engineering curricula are predominately lecture based and are often separated in time from laboratory courses that provide students with hands-on design experiences. While open laboratories have been proposed as a means to insert hands-on analysis and design into traditional lecture courses, this approach requires that students return to campus to complete their assignments. In addition to resource allocations associated with maintaining equipment laboratories, open laboratory traffic can be problematic, e.g., in instances where classes are offered as service courses for large numbers of students in other departments. This paper addresses the creation of a hands-on learning toolkit called the Rapid Analysis and Signal Conditioning Laboratory (RASCL), a portable analog/digital prototyping unit that provides a student with the capability to attend to hands-on assignments at home. While a few semi-portable prototyping tools exist on the market, they are generally expensive and provide functionality that does not map well to the needs of electrical engineering students. A RASCL unit, at a cost of around $250, consists of a carrying case that contains a National Instruments USB–6009 data acquisition module, a function generator, a large breadboard, a desktop power supply, and a parts/tools storage area. The data acquisition module communicates via a Universal Serial Bus interface with a LabVIEW virtual instrument running on a personal computer or a laptop. While this low-cost alternative to a regular laboratory workspace has technical limitations such as sampling frequency and instrument fidelity, it offers the potential for students to address hands-on homework assignments in their own living environment and is suitable for both on-campus and distance learning students.

I. Introduction

In electrical engineering (EE) curricula, circuits and signals courses rely primarily on lectures and handwritten homework. This is partially driven by the fact that most of the corresponding textbooks are written to satisfy a handwritten work (plus possibly software analysis) paradigm. Hands-on laboratories that reinforce these concepts usually rely on this lecture material for prerequisite knowledge, primarily because it is more efficient to organize groups of students in laboratory-only environments than to try to intersperse occasional hands-on assignments with their corresponding lecture topics. Both professors and students acknowledge that students would become more engaged in engineering education if professors could consistently assign circuit experiments that accompany the lectures.[1, 2] Open laboratories have been proposed and implemented in response to this awareness,[1, 3-6] but effective open laboratories require space, additional equipment resources, and possibly staff if they are to be scalable to meet the needs of, e.g., circuits classes that are offered as service courses for large numbers of students in other departments. Engineering curricula could benefit from tools that allow students to build and test

Martinez, A., & Warren, S. (2007, June), Rascl: A Portable Circuit Prototyping Laboratory Paper presented at 2007 Annual Conference & Exposition, Honolulu, Hawaii. 10.18260/1-2--2691

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