Advertisement

Blog

Lab in a Box: Good for the USA, Good for India

There's a growing focus on increasing the number of students in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics fields. At the University of Massachusetts Lowell (UMass-Lowell), we are working to provide first-year electrical and computer engineering (ECE) students with meaningful, hands-on project exposure.

Sophomore and freshman electrical engineering majors collaborate on an engineering design problem using the Analog Discovery Design kit.

Sophomore and freshman electrical engineering majors collaborate on an engineering design problem using the Analog Discovery Design kit.

We've opted for a hands-on learning approach, with what we called a lab in a box — an Analog Discovery kit. This is a complete, low-cost electronics workbench that is portable and flexible. With this lab, every student gets an individual setup and completes projects individually.

UMass-Lowell teaching assistant Erin Webster helps undergraduates use the design kit to solve a challenge. Helping design curricula for the school's engineering program has been integral in UMass-Lowell's establishment of programs for female engineering students in India with portable kits.

UMass-Lowell teaching assistant Erin Webster helps undergraduates use the design kit to solve a challenge. Helping design curricula for the school's engineering program has been integral in UMass-Lowell's establishment of programs for female engineering students in India with portable kits.

Our curriculum is not just for ECE programs in the US. We have used this kit and approach to establish similar programs in India. We worked with the Shri Vishnu Engineering College for Women in Bhimavaram, Andhra Pradesh (about 100 students); the coed BV Raju Institute of Technology (BVRIT) in Medak, Andhra Pradesh (also about 100 students); and the new BVRIT Hyderabad College of Engineering for Women, with a first-year class of 240 students.

Engineering lab facilities for students in India are even more constrained than those in the US. Up to 10 students may share a test bench, and hands-on exposure to flexible, open-ended engineering design is limited.

The program leverages the realities of the student situation and infrastructure in India. Power outages are a common, unavoidable occurrence there, but this lab kit is entirely USB powered and can continue to function with a laptop during those periods. Indian students tend to have more exposure to theory but lack access to equipment, because textbooks are cheaper than equipment. Therefore, cost and USB-only power are key considerations.

The lab in a box is not a virtual lab, with PC-based simulations of circuits and presumed results. This is a real, hands-on electronics lab. Students build basic circuits, exercise them with waveforms and switch closures, collect analog and digital data, control outputs, use oscilloscopes, and analyze the results.

The Analog Discovery Design Kit is the real-world analog and digital input/output interface. Working with a USB-connected PC, it provides oscilloscope, spectrum analyzer, voltmeter, and waveform generator functions.

The Analog Discovery Design Kit is the real-world analog and digital input/output interface. Working with a USB-connected PC, it provides oscilloscope, spectrum analyzer, voltmeter, and waveform generator functions.

As we prepare to head back to school, we're developing open designs for first-year ECE students. If you have ideas or suggestions, we'd be interested in hearing them.

Acknowledgements
Erin Webster, a graduate student in computer engineering at UMass-Lowell, assisted Weitzen in preparing this blog. Webster recently received her undergraduate degree from UMass-Lowell. She is also a teaching assistant for the ECE program. She and Weitzen are developing a curriculum and teaching program that will provide first-year and second-year ECE students with hands-on learning experience using the lab in a box” based on the Analog Discovery Design kit plus auxiliary components. Webster may be reached at .

Related posts:

9 comments on “Lab in a Box: Good for the USA, Good for India

  1. samicksha
    September 16, 2013

    This really is good initiative, i totally agree with author, we indian are tend gain more theoritical knowledge than practical and reason is obvious books are cheaper than equipments but with same fact is you can learn lesson without you experiance it..i remember my college days, wherein we had project on CMOS Analog IC design to learn biasing, noise, single stage amplifiers, differential amplifiers, but with it only ended with limited knowldege and practical exp.

  2. antedeluvian2
    September 16, 2013

    Whilst it is no substitute for woking woith real analog circuitry with the ramifications of oscillations, decoupling and all the other issues, a PSoC development board actually allows easy reconfiguration to try different analog circuits out, as well as the ability to bring the inner points to output pins to make measurements,

    Try these two videos on the use of the PSoC at MIT

     

     

     

    http://video.cypress.com/video-library/video/Web-Series/PSoC-Today-Advancements-in-Education-Part-I/1813354158001

    http://video.cypress.com/video-library/video/Corporate/PSoC-Today-Advancements-in-Education-Part-II/1821421092001

     

  3. Davidled
    September 16, 2013

    Sharing information remotely is beneficial for both education institutes in the engineering education viewpoint. I am wondering if education institute could access remotely all testing tools and manual among school and Labs. Also, networking among engineering school is the most important parts to educate effectively the students. I knew that there is a virtual lab to let all students access it.

  4. eafpres
    September 16, 2013

    As the blog rightly points out in the opening sentence, “There's a growing focus on increasing the number of students in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics fields”

    This looks like a wonderful program.  I hope it can be implemented at low budget community colleges, and even into some high schools, where a lot of bright minds are competed for by various disciplines, especially the allure of software or internet careers.  I built kits as a kid and the hands-on attitude that formed shaped much of my early career.  I always loved lab courses.  Perhaps if some students get excited by “building things” from a program like this they will go into engineering.

  5. samicksha
    September 18, 2013

    #eafpres: You are right, even i hope it should not cost much as most of the part will include remote access…sounds like cloud getting new significance.

  6. etnapowers
    September 18, 2013

    Eafpres, It's an high-promising program,high school students can be initiated to the basics of engineering having fun in laboratories to apply the theory that they study. Great idea!

  7. kvasan
    September 23, 2013

    Jay,

    This is wonderful. This reminds me of the days when I was learning valve radio assembling. We had a large board with valve socket positions and each component is solderable on pins. This way, one could demonstrate what happens if a wrong coupling capacitor is chosen and so on. We could even simulate problems and document the symptoms against each of these failures and possible solutions.

    Very interesting as a a student. Missing it a lot.

  8. jkvasan
    September 23, 2013

    Jay,

    This is wonderful. This reminds me of the days when I was learning valve radio assembling. We had a large board with valve socket positions and each component is solderable on pins. This way, one could demonstrate what happens if a wrong coupling capacitor is chosen and so on. We could even simulate problems and document the symptoms against each of these failures and possible solutions.

    Very interesting as a a student. Missing it a lot.

  9. Vishal Prajapati
    September 23, 2013

    I still feel that for the learning part of programming or network configuration in the routers it is good to use cloud. But if someone wants to actually learn the practical analog circuit design, it is still advisable to go for the kits mentioned in the blog. It provides real practical exposure to component selection, design specification match and physical problems related to actual circuits, which can not be learned online or virtual labs.

     

    I like the lab in the box idea very much.

Leave a Reply