Although the design of the circuits course is still not finished, it is almost time to turn in the course approval forms. We’ll probably want to copy other engineering courses that have both lecture and lab, and split into two courses: a 5-unit lecture course and a 2-unit lab course that need to be taken concurrently. Note that the 7-unit load should correspond to 20–21 hours a week of work, of which 6.5 will be in scheduled classes or labs.

The directory Catalog and Course Approval has the blank forms, and we’ll need to fill out at least

- Course Approval, Major Revisions, Prereq. Changes, and Gen. Ed. Changes
- Undergraduate Course Approval Supplemental Sheet

and maybe

- Crosslisted Course Approval if BME wants to list the course as well as EE.

The forms have changed a little since the last time I filled them out, and some of the three-letter acronyms are unclear. What is the difference between “LAB Primary Laboratory” and “LBS Secondary Laboratory”? For that matter, what is the difference between a “primary code” and a “secondary code”? These are supposed to “appear in the Schedule of Classes for student information,” but if no one knows what they mean, how does that help? I looked at some existing courses, and found no examples of secondary codes, so I think that is just bureaucratic bullshit that doesn’t exist in the real world, and will ignore it. Only 3 codes seem to be used in the examples I looked at: lecture, lab, and seminar. I suppose that independent studies make sense also, though what the distinction is between an independent study, an independent field study, a laboratory independent study, and a studio independent study mystifies me—luckily I can just ignore those codes.

The Faculty Instructional Activities Type Code Table is even more mysterious. What is the difference between “06 Laboratory—Research I” and “07 Laboratory—Skills/Techniques T”? Where does an engineering lab, which teaches students to design things fit—it is neither “research” nor simply skills/techniques. For that matter, most undergrad lab courses are a mixture of acquiring skills and doing new things: how are they classified? What is the distinction between “08 Lecture T” and “09 Lecture plus Supplementary Activity T”? Does running a discussion section count as supplementary activity? What about those faculty who “flip” their classes and do something other than lecture in the “lecture” time? I’ve been unable to find with Google any existence for these codes outside this form—they seem to be bureaucratic red tape that is required then ignored.

I understand the General Education codes, but none of them seem to apply. We could get an “MF mathematical and formal reasoning” code or an “SI scientific inquiry” code, though neither is a perfect fit to an engineering design class. Luckily, all the students taking this course will have had so many MF and SI courses already that no general education code is needed, and I can simply ignore these check boxes.

For pre-requisites, I think that the appropriate ones are single-variable calculus (Math 11B, 19B, or 20B or AMS 15B) and electricity and magnetism (Physics 5C or 6C).

I’m not sure whether a course covering complex numbers and linear algebra (like AMS 10 or AMS 10A) should be included. We will certainly be using complex numbers and may be using some linear algebra, but a full course on them would be overkill for what we need—a good precalculus class should have covered all that they need (but how many had a good precalc class, and how many had a stripped-down one that left matrices and complex numbers for “later”?).

The bioengineers are required to take either (AMS 10 and AMS 20) or (Math 24 and (Math 22 or Math 23A)). The AMS courses guarantee them getting complex numbers, linear algebra, and differential equations, while the math courses do multivariable calculus and differential equations, with no guarantee of either complex numbers or linear algebra. In fact, there is no mention of complex numbers in the math catalog between their “college algebra for calculus” remedial course and the upper-division complex analysis course. We can’t reasonably require AMS 10, since some of the bioengineers will have foolishly taken the math series instead. (Not only does the AMS series cover more appropriate material, but it is generally better taught also.)

Perhaps the hardest thing for me on the main form will be coming up with a 40-word course description for the catalog (longer would be easier). Other courses generally have a list of noun phrases giving the topics covered. Here is a 32-word attempt at the main course description:

Basic electronics, Kirchhoff’s laws, Thévenin equivalence, bridge circuits, phasors, impedance, op amps, instrumentation amps, sensors (electrodes, microphones, thermistors, pressure sensors), digitization, filters, Bode plots, electrocardiograms

Here is an attempt at the lab course description.

Electronics lab skills: oscilloscopes, multimeters, function generators, breadboards, soldering.

Sensor characterizing and interfacing: thermistor, electret microphone, Ag/AgCl electrodes, phototransistor, medical pressure sensor.

Design: audio amplifier, capacitive touch sensor, strain gauge amplifier, EKG.

I’ll probably take several days trying to write up the “supplemental” form for course approval, which has all the meaty questions, like

*In concrete, substantive terms explain how the course will proceed. List the major topics to be covered, preferably by week.**Systemwide Senate Regulation 760 specifies that 1 academic credit corresponds to 3 hours of work per week for the student in a 10-week quarter. Please briefly explain how the course will lead to sufficient work with reference to e.g., lectures, sections, amount of homework, field trips, etc. [Please note that if significant changes are proposed to the format of the course after its initial approval, you will need to submit new course approval paperwork to answer this question in light of the new course format.]**Include a complete reading list or its equivalent in other media.**State the basis on which evaluation of individual students’ achievements in this course will be made by the instructor (e.g., class participation, examinations, papers, projects).*

The “complete reading list” is always a difficult one, since I often am not following a specific text. I suppose I could give the Wikipedia book, a list of the data sheets for all the sensors and integrated circuits we plan to use, chapters from other on-line books, recommended reading from Horowitz and Hill, … . Of course, some of the required reading has not been written yet, such as assignments with detailed design goals, tutorial materials that we can’t find adequate versions of on the web, user’s manual for the data logger my son is writing, … . Luckily, my experience in the past is that the Committee on Educational Policy (CEP) doesn’t really want “a complete reading list”, merely “a detailed reading list”, so minor omissions are unimportant.

I’ll try putting up drafts of the supplemental sheet on my blog to get feedback from readers.

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