Basic Digital Electronics at CCA, Spring 2012

Basic Digital Electronics

Instructor: Michael Shiloh
Wednesday, 8-11 AM
: high school algebra

Class Blog:

Class Wiki:

Textbook and other Materials:

Depending on choices you make regarding your projects, you may require materials and parts beyond these provided materials. While I will do my best to guide you towards inexpensive solutions, some parts and tools in this field can be quite expensive. Furthermore, it is common for plans to change, leaving you with unused parts for future projects.

Class Orientation

This class is based on lecture, hands-on lab exercises, and a final project.

Lab Exercises

The purpose of each lab is to discover electrical principles and get a feel for the behavior of certain components, values, and quantities. Each lab exercise ends with short, individual written reports, to include observations, conclusions (or guesses), and ideas for further learning


Your project may require you to research and learn concepts beyond what is taught in class. This is encouraged and supported. Projects will be displayed in an end-of-semester show.

Homework and tools

Homework includes exercises and projects. An adequate project will require substantial work outside of class. If you lack the tools at home, you may be able to do all the work requiring tools during class, and save all other work for outside of class. You may also elect to purchase some of these tools. I am happy to offer guidance.

Complexity and time estimates

Unless you have a fair bit of experience working with these materials and mechanisms, you may find that physical implementations often don’t behave the way you imagined they would. Furthermore, you may find that work takes a lot longer than you expected. Even professionals in this field often underestimate these issues. I strongly encourage you to prototype early and often.

Helping each other

I am always looking for evidence of your understanding and comprehension. You are encouraged to answer each others’ questions in class and in general to help each other, to demonstrate, test, and deepen your understanding.

Rough Schedule

Week 1: Experiment

Lecture: Voltage and Current


  1. Review basic algebra, especially solving equations for unknowns and working with fractions. Find your own source in books or on the Internet
  2. Review scientific notation here
  3. Buy books and kits today so we have them next week

Homework due Wednesday, January 25:

  1. Read from the very beginning (About This Book), and then from Page 1 through 33 in “There Are No Electrons” (TANE).
  2. Read all of Basic Concepts of Electricity in All About Circuits (AAC), a free online text book
  3. Write, in your own words, the definition of “voltage” and “current”. You are encouraged to research these concepts on the Internet or in other books. Pictures are encouraged. Be prepared to discuss these concepts in class.
  4. Exercise 73 of Basic Electronic Exercises
  5. Exercises 27 – 49 of Basic Math Exercises
  6. Join the class mailing list
  7. Meet in room GC4, which is a larger classroom

Week 2 Resistance, conservation of matter, conservation of energy

Join the class wiki at

Lab: LED

Week 3 Ohm’s law, Power and Heat

Lab: Current limiting resistor and LED, resistor ratings

Week 4 Transistors

Lab: Transistor amplifier, transistor switch

Week 5 : Binary Arithmetic and Digital Logic

Lab: Gates, Comparators, Shift registers and LEDs

Week 6: Microcontrollers

Lab: Arduino

Week 7: Controlling higher current

Lab: Controlling higher current

Week 8: Sensors

Lab: Sensors


Week 9: Sound

Lab: Sound

Project introduction

Week 10: Electromagnetism

Lab: Relays

Project brainstorming

Week 11: Project details

Lab: Prototype riskiest part of your project

Week 12: Topic as needed by projects

Lab: Work on projects

Week 13: Topic as needed by projects

Lab: Work on projects

Week 14: Topic as needed by projects

Lab: Work on projects

Week 15: Topic as needed by projects

Lab: Work on projects

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