PHYS 432: Digital Electronics (Spring 2014)

Instructor: Daniel A. Steck
Office: 277 Willamette      Phone: 346-5313      email:
Office hours: walk-in and by appointment
Teaching Assistants:
        Erik Keever     office: WIL 441     office hour: Th 1-2 pm         email:
        Dylan Mead     office: WIL 410     office hour: TBA         email:
        Vinny Roma     office: WIL 315     office hour: Th 2-3 pm         email:
Course home page:

Schedule: MW 1:00-2:20, 318 Willamette, plus a 3-hour lab section (11 WIL)
Course reference number: 37477
Credits: 4
Prerequisites: PHYS 203 or equivalent; MATH 253

Links: news, lab sections, course notes, labs/homework sets and keys.

Course overview

As a scientist, your goals in studying electronics are somewhat different than, say, an electrical engineer studying the same subject. Without delving into too much of the details of how electronic components work, you need to have simple conceptual models that will allow you to understand schematics well enough to troubleshoot a misbehaving instrument, design a simple circuit to filter a signal, or track down and eliminate noise in a lab measurement. Basically, things that will help you do physics in the laboratory. We will study digital electronic components and circuits at this basic level, from basic logic gates to interfacing analog and digital circuits to basic microprocessor operation. We will also cover some of the more “realistic” features of digital components that you need to understand to design and work with more precise circuits, as well as the tricks and techniques you need to make circuits work.

See the tentative syllabus below for a preliminary list of topics we will cover.

Lab: The whole point of electronics is to put theory to work and make (working!) electronic circuits. Thus, the lab component of the course is critical. The goal of the labs is to give you a functional knowledge of electronics and to get you comfortable working with electronic devices.

You will need to attend one 3-hour lab component most weeks (see syllabus below for schedule). There will be multiple lab sections, and we will arrange these during the first week of class.

You should also obtain a laboratory notebook (i.e., as you would use in a real laboratory), permanently bound with quad-ruled pages (like this). This is the primary record of your lab work, and you should record all your notes and measurements in this book.

Texts: There is no required textbook to purchase for this course. The main reference for this course will be Ray Frey's notes posted here.

I will also post course notes on this site as the term progresses.

There are a few books that are good introductions to electronics, and you might consider picking up one or more of these:


Grades for the course will be based on homework, two mid-term exams, and a final exam. The relative weights will be as follows:

Homework: will be assigned weekly and each assignment will be due in class one week after it is assigned. Thereafter, late homework will be accepted, but at a 25% penalty for each 24 hour period it is turned in late. Partial assignments may be turned in, and only the late portion will be penalized.

Mid-term exam 1: in class, Wednesday, April 23.

Mid-term exam 2: in class, Wednesday, May 21.

Final exam: The final exam will be held Wednesday, June 11, 3:15-5:15 pm, in 318 Willamette.

Labs: There are 7 total lab projects. For each lab, you should turn in a brief report on your work. This is not the same as what you record in your lab notebook. The report should summarize the work you did in the lab. Provide headings for your entries that correspond to the sections in the lab instructions. Clearly indicate the location of required material in your report. Note any unusual or unexpected results. You should turn in your reports in the box in room 11 by 5 pm each Monday.

Pass/fail grading option: a passing grade requires the equivalent of a C- grade on all coursework (homework, labs, and exams).


Monday Wednesday Lab
31 March
Digital Basics (meet in 472 WIL)
2 April
Logic Gates

7 April
9 April
Karnaugh Maps
Lab 1
Binary Numbers and Logic
14 April
16 April
Lab 2
Decoding, Multiplexing, and Sequencing
21 April
Counters and Registers
23 April
Midterm Exam 1

28 April
Analog-to-Digital Conversion
30 April
Digital-to-Analog Conversion
Lab 3
5 May
State Machines
7 May
Pulse Generation
Lab 4
Counters and Registers
12 May
14 May
State Machines and Memory
Lab 5
Analog-to-Digital Conversion
19 May
Phase-Locked Loop
21 May
Midterm Exam 2

26 May
No Class: Memorial Day
28 May
Microprocessor Basics
Lab 6
Phase-Locked Loop
2 June
Circuit Fabrication
4 June
Circuit Fabrication
Lab 7
Circuit Fabrication

Other important dates:
Last day to drop without a W: 7 April
Last day to register: 9 April
Last day to withdraw: 18 May