(Last Update: 2014 May 25 17:49 PDT )

What to buy
Software needed
Text books
Lab handouts

Instructor and Assistant(s)


The course is intended for sophomores and juniors in bioengineering with priority given to bioengineering majors, but is open to anyone who meets the prerequisites:

Students considering the bioelectronics concentration should take BME 101/L early (before EE 101/L), which may be difficult to schedule because of the prereqs. Students who did well in high-school physics may request a waiver of the physics prereq, which may be granted if there is room in the course and the student is sufficiently convincing about their ability to handle the material.

The theme for the course is "connecting real-world signals to computers using analog electronics", and we will be working with interfacing thermistors, microphones, electrodes, photo-detectors, capacitance sensors, and strain-gauge pressure sensors to microprocessors (Arduinos or Freescale's KL25Z). The final lab will be the design, implementation, and testing of a small single-channel electrocardiogram (or electromyogram).

The Bioengineering major will accept this course as fulfilling the EE101/L (circuits) requirement, but EE will not be accepting it as a prerequisite for further electronics courses. It is possible to take both the Applied Circuits course and EE 101/L for credit, though there is substantial overlap in content. The proposed new curriculum for bioengineers requires BME 101/L for all concentrations, and EE 101/L in addition for the bioelectronics and assistive technology: motor concentration.

Currently, the best description of the course is on Prof. Karplus's blog:
but most students probably don't want to read the hundreds of pages of notes there on the design of the course. A tentative outline for the course is posted at http://gasstationwithoutpumps.wordpress.com/2014/03/17/revised-plan-for-circuits-labs/

Students will learn to use standard electronics equipment (multimeters, oscilloscopes, function generators, power supplies) and tools (pliers, wire strippers, breadboards, soldering irons). The course is an engineering design course—I tried to make the labs require design, not just cookbook procedures. The complexity of the design tasks should ramp up through the quarter.

Although is is no longer a prototype but a regular course, I will seek frequent feedback from the students in the course about improvements that can be made. There are substantial changes from the prototype run last year, the most notable of which is a doubling of the lab time from 3 hours a week to 6 hours a week. This means that the labs will be reworked this year, and some of the changes will need further refinement.

What to buy

Tools and Parts

This year the parts and tools are covered by the course lab fees. There are about $80 worth of tools, parts, microcontroller board, and USB cable. These tools and parts need to be obtained by the first lab meeting, as we will be using them immediately. Dropping the course does not result in a refund of lab fees if you have already gotten the tools and parts.

Warning: the KL25Z and KL26Z boards and some of the Arduino boards are sold without headers (for people who want to solder them directly into projects), but you will need the headers to plug wires in temporarily. We will be soldering headers onto the KL25Z boards in the first week.


All the software you need to use is installed on the lab computers, but you may want to get your own copies for use on your laptop. All the software is free:

download for data acquisition software
Python (either 2.7 or 3.3)
PySerial installation instructions

Data acquisition software was developed specifically for this course, and is available from http://bitbucket.org/abe_k/PteroDAQ/downloads under the "Tags" tab. Select the "default" branch under the "branches" tab and download in zip, gz, or bzip2 archive format. A version is installed on the lab machines at C:\ProgramFiles\PteroDAQ. Documentation is downloaded with the source.

To run the data logger, you will need Python2.7 or Python3.3 with PySerial for communicating with the board.

Either Python 2.7 or Python3.3 can be used with the Data Logger code, but you need to install the PySerial module—this is the only non-standard module needed (Tkinter, which is also used, is part of the standard Python library). Note: Mac OS X often comes with an ancient version of Python, so you are likely to need to update your Python. See the documentation at python.org

We'll be doing plotting and model-fitting examples with gnuplot. You can choose to use other tools if you are more familiar with them and have sufficient mastery of them to fit complex functions and produce good-looking graphs. Gnuplot can be downloaded from the http://www.gnuplot.info/ website, but installation on Macs is sometimes tricky. See the post and comments on Karplus's blog about installing gnuplot on a Mac. The comment by Chuy is probably the most useful.

Text books

To offset the high parts cost, we'll be using only free on-line material for the textbook.

All About Circuits
This is supposedly a somewhat slow-paced introduction to electronics that makes few assumptions about what you already know. The format, as 100s of HTML files, is a bit awkward to read, but fairly easy to search with Google (by adding "site:allaboutcircuits.com" to the keywords in the search box), so indexing is not really an issue. The book starts at about a middle-school level, but gets up to the beginnings of circuit theory. The Operational amplifier chapter looks usable, though it does not have a design focus—circuits are presented as almost magical rather than carefully analyzed from first principles (as is done in more theoretical circuits books) or from design rules of thumb (as is done in books like Horowitz and Hill).

Last year students found this the most useful of the on-line sources, as the tutorials assume no prior knowledge.
Socratic Worksheets
The author of All About Circuits has also made available a number of worksheets with electronics problems on them at the Socratic Electronics Project Not all the problems are relevant to this course, but it should b fairly evident which are and which aren't. I may assign some of these, but you are encouraged to try them on your own whether or not they are assigned.
Wikipedia pages
I've identified a number of useful Wikipedia pages and collected them at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/User:Kevin_k/Books/applied_circuits
Of course, Wikipedia often has several different pages on a given subject, and I may not have found the most appropriate ones for the class—so I'd appreciate any pointers to other Wikipedia pages that are relevant to the class that you think we should share. We'll generally be using these pages as the primary textbook, but because they are encyclopedia articles, not a coherent textbook, there will often be times when the available articles are not tutorial enough (or not detailed enough). When that happens, you'll want to consult other on-line (and paper) resources.

Last year, many students found the Wikipedia articles too difficult for them, though they are often a better reference than All About Circuits, allowing you to go deeper into the material.
Wayne Storr's Electronics Tutorials
http://www.electronics-tutorials.ws/ has a number of tutorials that are supposedly faster paced than the All About Circuits ones.
MIT's circuits course
If you prefer video lectures and lecture notes to books, you may find the lectures in the circuits course at MIT to be useful. Based on the course description, this is a rigorous traditional circuits course, having a bit more material than EE101 at UCSC. We'll be doing less theory and more hands-on stuff, and our order of material is quite different, so it is not a great fit for our course, despite the prestige of the MIT branding.
Texas Instruments' Op Amps for Everyone
TI's Op Amps for Everyone duplicates some of the material in the Wikipedia book, but provides more detail and a cleaner presentation of some of the op-amp material. TI publishes it for free, in order to encourage engineers to design using the parts they sell.
Analog Devices' Op Amp Applications Handbook
The Op Amp Applications Handbook by Walter Jung, is published free by Analog Devices. Most of it is far too advanced for this course, but Sections 1-1 and 1-4 may be useful.
Complex number tutorials
If your understanding of complex numbers is rusty, and you get confused by our frequent use of them for talking about sine waves, then you might want to check out Wise Warthog's recommended complex number tutorials.
Other free on-line books
E-books directory has a collection of pointers to free on-line electronics books. If you find that one of these is at the right level for the course, let us know—a quick look suggested that several might be suitable, but none were a perfect fit.
Horowitz and Hill
A classic electronics text that fits the flavor of this course (though it covers much more) is Horowitz and Hill's Art of Electronics. Horowitz and Hill have one of the best explanations of op amps that I've read. The chapters relevant for this course are mainly Chapters 1 and 4.
Although the book was published in 1989, it is still a popular book, and even used copies are fairly expensive. The theory and design tips are still good, but the specific parts mentioned are mostly long gone. The authors have been promising a 3rd edition for years, but don't hold your breath—they claim now that it will be released in May 2014.
Other books
Wise Warthog reviews a number of other practical analog electronics books. His list is a good place to start if you want a hard-copy book.


  1. Temperature measurement—thermistor (released 2014 Mar 28) The script we developed in class on 2014 Apr 2 is at bme101-s14-therm1.gnuplot, with the output in bme101-s14-therm1.pdf. Last year's more detailed script is steinhart-hart.gnuplot.
  2. Electret microphone—DC characterization and AC on oscilloscope (released 2014 Apr 2)
  3. Hysteresis and capacitance touch sensor (released 2014 Apr 5)
    Sampling and aliasing (released 2014 Apr 7) delayed
  4. Electrodes(released 2014 Apr 13)
  5. Loudspeaker impedance (released 2014 April 20)
    nFET current vs. voltage (cancelled—replace with Sampling and aliasing)
  6. Low-power audio amplifier (released 2014 April 29)
  7. Optical pulse monitor (Released 2014 May 6)
  8. Pressure sensors and instrumentation amplifiers (Released 2014 May 11)
  9. Power amp (class D) (Released 2014 May 19)
    Power amp addendum (Released 2014 May 25)
  10. one-channel EKG (Released 2014 May 25)

Lab reports will be due in class every Friday. I will endeavor to have them graded and returned with detailed feedback in the next class (Monday).

Each lab will be done with a different partner (and occasional singletons). There should be no repeat pairings (unless the lab section has fewer than 11 students). Pre-lab work should be done separately, but postlab work can be done together or separately.

Read each lab handout (twice) the day before the lab—there will often be pre-lab design work to do, and there won't be time during lab to do the design work. Some weeks have two handouts—it is probably a good idea to read both lab handouts the weekend before the labs, so that you can ask questions on Mondays.


DueReadTurn in
Tues Apr 1 Lab report guidelines. Lab 1 handout (and associated Wikipedia pages). Review Ohm's Law and voltage divider.
Thurs Apr 3 Prelab: optimizing resistor value for maximum sensitivity at Top. Homework: Design a circuit to convert a 1kΩ–3.3kΩ variable resistance sensor to a 1v–2v voltage output, with 1v for the 1kΩ resistance and 2v for the 3.3kΩ resistance. Use standard resistor values that you have in your kit.
Sat April 5 @ 8 p.m. Lab 1 report as PDF file by e-mail
Mon Apr 7 Lab 2 handouts.
Fri Apr11 Lab 2 report
Mon Apr 14 Lab 3 handouts
Fri Apr 18 Lab 3 report
Mon Apr 21 Lab 4 handouts.
Fri Apr 25 Lab 4 report.
Mon Apr 28 Lab 5 handouts
Fri May 2 Lab 5 report.
Mon May 5 Lab 6 handout
Fri May 9 Lab 6 report.
Mon May 12 Lab 7 handouts.
Fri May 16 Lab 7 report.
Mon May 19 Lab 8 handout.
Fri May 23 Lab 9 handout. Lab 8 report.
Mon May 26 Memorial Day, no class
Fri May 30 Lab 9 report.
Mon Jun 2 Lab 10 handout
Fri Mar 15 Lab 10 report.
Mon Jun 9 Last call for redone or late lab reports.

Academic Integrity

Anyone caught cheating in the class will be reported to their college provost (see UCSC policy on academic integrity) and may fail the class. Cheating includes any attempt to claim someone else's work as your own. Plagiarism in any form (including close paraphrasing) will be considered cheating. Use of any source without proper citation will be considered cheating. If you are not certain about citation standards, please ask, as I hate having to fail students because they were improperly taught how to cite sources.

Collaboration without explicit written acknowledgment will be considered cheating. Collaboration on lab assignments is expected, even required—but that doesn't remove the requirement to acknowledge the collaboration.

Classroom Accommodations for Disabilities

If you qualify for classroom accommodations because of a disability, please submit your Accommodation Authorization from the Disability Resource Center (DRC) to Prof. Karplus in a timely manner, preferably within the first two weeks of the quarter. Contact DRC at 459-2089 (voice), 459-4806 (TTY).

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Biomolecular Engineering
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