Arduino Forum

Using Arduino => General Electronics => Topic started by: JoeN on Nov 26, 2012, 10:06 pm

Title: Best way to get a general electronics education.
Post by: JoeN on Nov 26, 2012, 10:06 pm
Oh boy, here comes a really broad question.  How does a guy who is already through with college and has a CS degree get a broad education in general electronics?  There's a lot of stuff I don't understand well, like passives (beyond using resistors to limit current and capacitors to decouple ICs).  I can program (or is it "design on"?) a CPLD now and I don't know how to design an RLC circuit.  That can't be right, can it?  Do I just keep on doing this as a hobby and move Art of Electronics to the top of the reading list or try some community college courses?  Or what?  Join a maker's guild?  Here is what we have at Waubonsee Community College:

Introductory Electronics (ELT101) - This course introduces laboratory instruments, circuit components, basic measuring techniques and basic circuits used as building blocks in any electronic system.

DC-AC Circuit Analysis (ELT110) - This course provides students with the basics of Direct Current (DC) and Alternating Current (AC) circuits. This is knowledge fundamental to all other electronics courses and is used by those working in the electronics field.

Introduction to Solid State Devices (ELT120) - This course provides an introduction solid state devices. The topics covered are those most essential for modern technicians working in the electronics field.

Digital Fundamentals (ELT 130) - The course presents the fundamental principles of digital electronics that apply to integrated circuits. It prepares students to work on digital electronic devices, which constitute the most dynamic segment of the electronics industry.

Advanced Solid State Devices (ELT220) - This course is a continuation of Introduction to Solid State Devices. It looks into analog electronics in more depth, and uses more advanced methods of analysis. The class concentrates on the integrated electronics used in instrumentation and control, with emphasis on sensors and their applications.

Microprocessors (ELT235) - This course provides students with a practical working knowledge of microprocessors and microcontrollers. This in turn prepares students to work on a wide variety of electronics systems that range from electronic appliances to automobiles and sophisticated robotic systems.

Data Acquisition and Measurement (ELT250) - In this course students learn to use electronic test devices which include multimeters, oscilloscopes, function generators, spectrum analyzers, and more. This prepares students to perform electrical/electronic inspection, troubleshooting and repair functions in a variety of settings, many of which are in various segments of the manufacturing industry.

Introduction to Modern Telecommunication (ELT260) - In this course students learn the fundamental principles underlying modern telecommunication systems. The topics range from antenna systems to Ethernet computer networks and fiber optics.

Anyone know of any other education opportunities in Northern Illinois?  NIU seems out of the question.  Classes are generally day classes aimed at resident Engineering majors seeking four-year degrees.  I can't do day classes and they wouldn't want me anyway.  Some other colleges might be worth considering.  I have taken masters level classes at DePaul which caters to adult students and I would recommend DePaul, but they have no engineering / electronics technology program (three physics department classes concerning electronics!).  They have a HUGE comp-sci department but computers are just magically available as far as they are concerned.
Title: Re: Best way to get a general electronics education.
Post by: oric_dan on Nov 26, 2012, 10:30 pm
It's very nice that you've listed all those courses, because it indicates that to get
a "thorough" education in electronics, it may take more than just one day, :-).

I'd say jump right in and start taking the 1xx courses, this coming term. They'll
be a breeze since you already know maths, having a CS degree.

Title: Re: Best way to get a general electronics education.
Post by: DVDdoug on Nov 26, 2012, 10:47 pm
Community college would be ideal.   If you are highly motivated, you might be able to get the textbooks and "teach yourself", but you wouldn't have access to the labs (or the instructor, or the other students, etc.).   The labs would be useful, because they would allow you to get your hands on an oscilloscope, and some other equipment that you probably don't have at home.  (You can buy a multimeter, and you should.)

There's enough information on the Internet to learn just about anything (if you know what to look for), but most of us learn better with the structure, guidance, and feedback we get from taking a class.

As you can see from the course sequencing, you generally learn all of the basics before getting into microprocessors.  But, there are plenty of people here playing around with Arduinos who have little or no electronics background, so it's not absolutely required.

Probably the most important things to learn are Ohm's Law, Kirchoffs Law, and the basics of how the basic components work (resistors, capacitors, inductors, diodes, transistors).  Once you have that background, you should be able to "pick up" the understanding of more complex circuits & integrated circuits.
Title: Re: Best way to get a general electronics education.
Post by: MarkT on Nov 26, 2012, 11:51 pm
Its possible MIT will re-run the online 6.002 course again next year, recommended: https://6002x.mitx.mit.edu/ (https://6002x.mitx.mit.edu/)
Title: Re: Best way to get a general electronics education.
Post by: oric_dan on Nov 27, 2012, 01:07 am
Quote
But, there are plenty of people here playing around with Arduinos who have little
or no electronics background, so it's not absolutely required.


I'm obviously more conservative than this. I don't think that's a very good rationalization,
especially for someone like Joe who sounds like he wants to actually gain some level of
competence. Maybe it should read "there are plenty of people here playing around with
Arduinos who have little or no idea what they're doing whatsoever". People see some smiley
guy on a Sparkfun video, and think electronics is trivial, then they come to this section,
and it's clear they don't even know Ohm's Law, or the difference between voltage and
current. So, please don't say things like "so it's not absolutely required".

This being said, someone of Joe's background could buy the textbooks, and work through
them on his own, and probably learn the material 5X faster than going to class.

There's actually a 60-YO medical doctor doing this at the local Barnes&Noble right now. He
sits there for 5-6 hours every day [literally], and is currently working his way through the
400 pages on electricity+magnetism in a Sears&Zemansky physics textbook. OTOH, as smart
as he is, he still gets into lots of quandaries because he hasn't quite grasped all the
fundamentals really well.




Title: Re: Best way to get a general electronics education.
Post by: westfw on Nov 27, 2012, 01:46 am
It looks like your community college has a good set of classes...
It'll depend somewhat on how much physics-like you'd like your education to be.  My EE degree involved a lot of calculus, little of which is used in "practical" circuit design. (Of course, I ended up going into software, so what do I know :-) )
Title: Re: Best way to get a general electronics education.
Post by: DVDdoug on Nov 27, 2012, 02:31 am
Quote
....I don't think that's a very good rationalization....  and think electronics is trivial, then they come to this section, and it's clear they don't even know Ohm's Law, or the difference between voltage and current. So, please don't say things like "so it's not absolutely required"...


I'm not saying electronics trivial, but you don't need 2 or 3 years of electronics clases before you start having fun or doing useful things.    I think my microprocessor class was a 4th-year university class.   But, I was playing around with electricity and electronics in grade school (in the dark ages before microprocessors were invented).   I started-out with some grade-school science and a couple of "science fair" projects.  (I assume I knew Ohms' Law at the point, but I really don't remember when I learned Ohm's Law...) Then I built a couple of kits.  Maybe I was in Jr. high by the time I got a soldering iron and built my 1st kit.    I took an Electronics class when I was in my 2nd year of high school, and sometime during high school I started building stuff "from scratch".   

Title: Re: Best way to get a general electronics education.
Post by: Goofballtech on Nov 27, 2012, 04:18 am

I'm not saying electronics trivial, but you don't need 2 or 3 years of electronics clases before you start having fun or doing useful things.    I think my microprocessor class was a 4th-year university class.   But, I was playing around with electricity and electronics in grade school (in the dark ages before microprocessors were invented).   I started-out with some grade-school science and a couple of "science fair" projects.  (I assume I knew Ohms' Law at the point, but I really don't remember when I learned Ohm's Law...) Then I built a couple of kits.  Maybe I was in Jr. high by the time I got a soldering iron and built my 1st kit.    I took an Electronics class when I was in my 2nd year of high school, and sometime during high school I started building stuff "from scratch".   


Agreed. I don't have any college and i like to think i know a bit. Might not be able to recite formula's like i would if i had to cram them for a exam but i know where to find them and can usually put pieces together to make fun stuff happen.

Find a project that uses the components you want to concentrate on learning at this point. Then get reading... followed by building. Fun times.
Title: Re: Best way to get a general electronics education.
Post by: retrolefty on Nov 27, 2012, 04:37 am
The US military has trained a zillion enlisted people in general electronics as part of their specific selected electronics training programs. In the Air Force all 'electronics jobs' utilized the same fundamental modules (broken up into 1, 2, and 3 week modules) before branching out into equipment specific training. Way back when I went through it the fundamental part were taught in 13 weeks of 5 day/8 hour classes and about a 50%/50% split between theory and hands on lab. It was very good and effective training and I only bring it up to give you one 'datapoint' on possible duration of one well tested method. Washout rate was about 20% with students allowed one repeat of any failed module, after the second module failure they would train you to be a cook or an air policeman.  ;)

Lefty
Title: Re: Best way to get a general electronics education.
Post by: be80be on Nov 27, 2012, 05:36 am
There one thing for sure learn the basics first and then try to keep up with the rest by reading. This stuff changes so fast you could waste 4 years learning about stuff you'll never see agin. I remember when I made a tube radio and radio shack sold the tubes. Point to point wiring those was the days. But it was like a year later that I started reading about transistors and then by the time i got up to speed what happen? Well what you think dang here come's IC with lots of parts in them
one chip and a handful of caps and resistors bang you got a amp and a receiver.

So lot's of reading to stay on top. I took a 3 day test to get a job in a plant working
with PLC for temp and motor and valve controls and if it was not for trying so stay up to date I wouldn't have passed it.    

Looks like JoeN is off on a good start and with a lot of good reading he could get where he want's to be. College is great I went back to finish my EE but my Wife died and I now have Two kids to take care of it was to much at one time to deal with. Good luck JoeN which  way you go.  
Title: Re: Best way to get a general electronics education.
Post by: oric_dan on Nov 27, 2012, 05:46 am
Quote
The US military has trained a zillion enlisted people .......
the fundamental part were taught in 13 weeks of 5 day/8 hour classes and about a 50%/50%
split between theory and hands on lab.


13*5*8= 520 hrs sounds like quite a lot. A typical 3-unit college course is probably about
45-50 hrs in class, and they expect 2-3X as much effort out of class. Maybe the military
and the colleges just drag things out so long to justify a lot of cost. Could that be true?
Title: Re: Best way to get a general electronics education.
Post by: westfw on Nov 27, 2012, 05:47 am
Another thing that will teach you some practical electronics basics without too much preliminary math or physics is a Ham Radio class.  These are oriented to learning enough to pass the radio license exams...
Title: Re: Best way to get a general electronics education.
Post by: retrolefty on Nov 27, 2012, 05:28 pm

Quote
The US military has trained a zillion enlisted people .......
the fundamental part were taught in 13 weeks of 5 day/8 hour classes and about a 50%/50%
split between theory and hands on lab.


13*5*8= 520 hrs sounds like quite a lot. A typical 3-unit college course is probably about
45-50 hrs in class, and they expect 2-3X as much effort out of class. Maybe the military
and the colleges just drag things out so long to justify a lot of cost. Could that be true?


I can't speak of college courses and what they prepare one to be able to do once the college course is completed, but can say the military training was of the correct length for the results they were looking for. After the 13 weeks of fundamentals you went into the equipments specific training which depending on the equipment could be another 7 to 40 weeks of 5 day/8 hour courses. You have to realize that the military needed these trainees as qualified as possible as soon as they graduated their training as they were only guaranteed the use of the trained people for another 3 years or so when they were free to request discharge.

Lefty
Title: Re: Best way to get a general electronics education.
Post by: oric_dan on Nov 27, 2012, 07:16 pm
Quote
Maybe the military and the colleges just drag things out so long to justify a lot of
cost. Could that be true?
.........
You have to realize that the military needed these trainees as qualified as possible ...


I was being facetious of course, that's a significant education. I think you get what you
pay for, and it takes a certain amount of time and commitment to get anywheres near
being competent.
Title: Re: Best way to get a general electronics education.
Post by: JoeN on Nov 27, 2012, 09:34 pm
Can I sign up for that military class and the go AWOL afterwards?   ]:D

I was giving serious thought to those community college classes.  Yes, we do actually have a very good local community college, several other good ones in the Chicago are exist also (Harper, Elgin CC, College of DuPage, the City Colleges of Chicago, etc.).  However, the way we district them this is the better one in my district.  Go out of district and the class price triples.  Anyway, my main concern was that they would dumb down the material.  To be honest, I would prefer a real university level class held at night.  If DePaul actually had any real electronics engineering classes, I would be there again.  Maybe I should check out the other universities and see if any do evening classes in this discipline.
Title: Re: Best way to get a general electronics education.
Post by: retrolefty on Nov 27, 2012, 10:04 pm

Another thing that will teach you some practical electronics basics without too much preliminary math or physics is a Ham Radio class.  These are oriented to learning enough to pass the radio license exams...



Unfortunately in recent years the typical 'ham radio class' has morphed into just teaching the test for whatever class of licence you are going for. There is not longer a morse code test requirement for any class of licence. The 'official' FCC ham tests and the answers are now fully published and available to anyone, and there are several on-line exercise web sites that one can practice taking the actual test questions and see your score. Basically you can easily pass any ham test these days without learning anything other then memorizing the test questions. It's quite a change but I guess falling ham population lead to this to try and keep the hobby relevant for the times. That is not to say that some physical ham licence classes don't try and attempt to teach some basic electronics, but I would not advice taking that path unless you also want the ham FCC licence to get on the air.

Lefty
Title: Re: Best way to get a general electronics education.
Post by: oric_dan on Nov 27, 2012, 11:28 pm
Quote
Anyway, my main concern was that they would dumb down the material.


This can be answered by checking out the textbooks for the CC courses, and see how
much maths is in there. You can expect the university-level courses will require a working
knowledge of calculus, rather than just algebra.

When you get to AC analysis, this involves transfer functions plus Fourier and Laplace
Transforms, so you need to know complex variables and integral calculus.
Title: Re: Best way to get a general electronics education.
Post by: westfw on Nov 28, 2012, 12:45 am
Quote
my main concern was that they would dumb down the material.

Dumbed down material is still useful.  You really don't want (or need) to all your electronics at the "physics" level.
I was ... annoyed ... when a lot of AC Analysis was based on phasors and Smith Charts; clever ways to avoid actually having to do real math.  (OTOH, it would be close to "black magic" if you hadn't learned calculus and complex variables and such.)  We never did much in the way of Fourier transforms, other than the basic concept of all periodic functions being expressible as sums of sinusoids...
Title: Re: Best way to get a general electronics education.
Post by: jackhall on Nov 28, 2012, 11:24 am
This is good to read that. You have mentioned all the courses about this. In this studies law's are so important to understands.
Title: Re: Best way to get a general electronics education.
Post by: oric_dan on Nov 28, 2012, 08:02 pm
Quote
This is good to read that. You have mentioned all the courses about this. In this studies law's are so important to understands.


As people have mentioned, for just hooking up Arduinos you only need to know the basics,
like voltage, current, loading, grounding, Ohm's Law, a little bit about capacitors charging,
etc, but the OP expressed an interest in getting a real education, only he knows why :-).
Title: Re: Best way to get a general electronics education.
Post by: JoeN on Nov 28, 2012, 08:42 pm

As people have mentioned, for just hooking up Arduinos you only need to know the basics,
like voltage, current, loading, grounding, Ohm's Law, a little bit about capacitors charging,
etc, but the OP expressed an interest in getting a real education, only he knows why :-).


Because knowledge is power.  Also, I am interested in high-speed circuits such as FPGAs and high speed ADCs and DACs and as soon as we are talking about crossing that threshold to analog all of the sudden I need to know more than how to count to one.  I didn't take those samples just to look at them longingly.
Title: Re: Best way to get a general electronics education.
Post by: oric_dan on Nov 28, 2012, 08:54 pm
My favorite quote is, "A little knowledge is not so much dangerous as useless" - from
The Beast That God Forgot to Invent, by Jim Harrison.

Joe, for good measure, you'll also eventually want to add a digital signal processing
course to your repertoire.

Also, for reference, this is a truly great book on high-speed matter,

http://www.amazon.com/High-Speed-Digital-Design-Handbook/dp/0133957241