Teaching basic Analog and Digital Electronics at undergraduate level consists of theory classes with hands-on-training conducted in an electronics laboratory equipped with Oscilloscopes, Function Generators and Regulated Power Supplies. Students are taught the characteristics of basic components like diodes, BJTs, FETs, OPAMPs and Digital devices.
Carrying out practical laboratory experiments by students reinforces classroom teaching of theory. Standard laboratory equipment is often beyond the reach of several educational institutions worldwide because of the large cost element involved. Practical laboratory experimentation is therefore curtailed.
To overcome this drawback I set about the task of building a low cost teaching aid for basic analog / digital electronics. This would enhance the availability of laboratory test equipment to educational establishments and the student community.
My primary goals were the following:
- Should be a stand-alone system
- Keep the hardware cost to less than $40.
- Use readily available components
- Keep the fabrication simple so that students could fabricate it themselves.
- Cover all experiments related to basic components like diodes, BJTs, FETs, OPAMPs and Digital devices.
- Hardware built around a dsPIC30f4011 micro-controller
- Serial interface to a host PC
- Six ±10V, 10Bit analog input channels with an input impedance of typically 1MΩ and a maximum sampling rate is 2 mega-samples/sec.
- Three ±10V, 10Bit, analog output channels with a throughput rate is 20 kHz, two with a drive capability of ±10mA and the third power amplified to provide a drive of ±200mA.
- Four buffered digital I/O channels
- For ease of availability and in order to provide power to the circuits under test, a standard PC SMPS used as the power supply.
- Micro-controller operations commanded by a Host PC using a GUI developed in Visual Basic. With the database manipulation and graphing properties of .Net 2 being fully exploited.
- The hardware cost was $35.
By providing technical data and executable software free for non-commercial use I wish to encourage the computer aided teaching of basic electronics.
View a demonstration of one of the electronic experiments:
I look forward to any questions or feedback, contact me at:
Step 1: Hardware Block Diagram
The ATE-Unit is connected to any available serial port on a PC with Windows XP / Windows 7 operating system. It is also possible to connect the unit to the PC USB port using a USB-Serial port adapter. This serial port connection along with the “Universal Analog Hardware Test Bench” Ver1.0 software provides communication with the ATE-Unit.
The circuit under test can be rigged up on a standard breadboard and powered from the power sockets provided. Power to the ATE and to the circuit under test comes ON only when the power switch on the ATE unit is activated.
The ATE unit provides three ±10V, 10Bit, analog output channels Vout1, Vout2 & Vout3 to the circuit under test. While Vout1 & Vout2 are Op-Amp outputs with a drive capability of ±10mA, Vout3 is power amplified to provide a drive of ±200mA.
Six ±10V, 10Bit analog input channels (Ain1 – Ain6) with an input impedance of typically 1MΩ are provided to read back analog data from the circuit under test.
Four buffered digital I/O channels (Dout1-Dout4 & Din1-Din4) are also provided for connection to the circuit under test.
A ‘Microchip’ DSPIC30F4011 micro-controller which interfaces with the Analog/Digital I/O and is connected to a PC through a serial interface forms the heart of the ATE system. The micro-controller operations are commanded through the serial link by the Host PC using the dedicated ATE software.