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2017 December 17

Book released for Winter 2018 course

Filed under: Circuits course — gasstationwithoutpumps @ 22:57
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I’ve released a new version of the textbook Applied Electronics for Bioengineers, on the LeanPub website: https://leanpub.com/applied_electronics_for_bioengineers and sent the students registered for the course a coupon to get their free copy.  People who have previously bought the book (even if for $0 with a coupon) were also informed of the release, so that they could pick up a new copy.

This version is 481 pages including 38 chapters, preface, appendices, and index.  There are 10 tables and 199 figures (239 distinct images, since some figures have multiple subfigures).  I added a lot of new tutorial material, fixed some errors (including some serious ones), added more exercises, and modified the labs to use the Analog Discovery 2 USB oscilloscopes rather than the expensive bench equipment we used to use.  The book is not “done”—I still have over 50 to-do notes in the margins, but I believe it is significantly improved over last year.  Improvements would be faster if students would tell me when they find errors or confusing writing, but they rarely do, and I have to guess what needs fixing from mistakes they make weeks later.

The use of the Analog Discovery 2 enabled me to offer a larger course this year—I managed to equip a 25-station lab for 50 students for under $10,000—less than the cost of a single station in the old lab. Because the space I’m using for the two 50-student sections is used as a classroom by other courses, I need to wheel everything in on a cart 20 minutes before labs start and clean it up and pack it away after the labs.

I still have a little work to do before next quarter starts:

  • recording the serial numbers and setting the names of the 25 Analog Discovery 2 units.
  • checking the 25 soldering stations and tinning the tips.
  • soldering 25 pressure sensors onto breakout boards.
  • packing everything into tubs that I can wheel to the other building on the cart.
  • cleaning up the electrode holders that did not get cut cleanly by the laser cutter.
  • getting reimbursed for over $3000 worth of parts and tools that I ordered for the students (UCSC can’t buy from AliExpress, and US vendors were over 3 times the price).

But I think that tomorrow I’ll take a break—maybe even see if I can get anything working on the robot I didn’t finish for the mechatronics course.

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2016 November 27

Cyber Monday sale 2016

Filed under: Circuits course — gasstationwithoutpumps @ 12:01
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My Black Friday sale was a moderate success (12 copies of my book sold for total royalties of about $25).  The sale continues through Cyber Monday (end date 29 Nov 2016), with the same coupon reducing the price to $2.56:

https://leanpub.com/applied_electronics_for_bioengineers/c/Black-Friday-2016

I’m not going to get rich off of this textbook, but I’m hoping that a few other teachers of electronics will pick it up and use it for a course.

2016 October 8

Release notes for book (Oct 2016)

Filed under: Circuits course — gasstationwithoutpumps @ 17:10
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I’ve just finished doing a rewrite pass over the part of the textbook needed for BME 51A, which I’ll be teaching starting in January. I’ve been working on this rewrite pass since June, so a little over 4 months. I’ll be spending the next couple of months doing a rewrite pass for the part of the book needed for BME 51B, but that should go a little quicker, as there are about half as many pages in the second “half”, and I think they are in somewhat closer to the desired form than the part I just finished.

There are still a lot of “to-do” notes in the margins of the book, even in the part I just “finished”, but they are all fairly small things, I think. This blog post will be my release notes for this version of the book, summarizing what I changed.

The biggest change was a rearrangement of the order of the labs, so that there are now two amplifier labs in the first half, and all the audio labs are in the second half.  Lots of things (like the table of equipment for labs and the schedule of lectures) needed to be revised to fit.  I still have some work to do on the lecture schedule.

I moved the sampling and aliasing lab after the thermistor lab, so that there is more time in lecture to talk about time-varying signals before the lab.

I expanded the  op-amp chapter into a more general amplifier chapter, and now discuss multi-stage amplification from the beginning, because the instrumentation amp lab for the pressure sensor is now the first amplifier lab. I also added active low-pass filters to the op-amp chapter.

I rewrote the optical pulse-monitor lab, which now calls for a more robust design using logarithmic current to voltage conversion.  I’m still experimenting with different ways of holding the phototransistor, so I may need to redo all the photographs, if I come up with a better design. The optical properties of blood section of the optoelectronics chapter now discusses melanin and fat, and the effect they can have on optical pulse monitoring.  I added a new chapter on transimpedance amplifiers, and added log-transimpedance amplifiers to the chapter. The difficult sensitivity analysis for the pulse monitor has been removed, as the log-transimpedance design does not require great care in setting the gain.

I added more coverage of expected background material, so that students who had not had physics electricity and magnetism courses could still follow along.  I found that a lot of the students didn’t remember anything from physics anyway, so I had to cover the essentials over again, and so I reduced the prerequisites for the course to calculus and high-school physics. I also added a section on logarithms.

I added a bunch more figures, bringing the numbered figures up to 145 (and several of those are multi-part figures). I also improved the typesetting of the captions, so that they are better distinguished from the main body text. Several of the block diagrams were redrawn with draw.io, and I added some new block diagrams and a bit more discussion of how to use block diagrams effectively. I cleaned up a few of the schematics also.

I added a few more exercises, added autonumbering, and converted the somewhat vague prelab assignments into numbered exercises, so that I can assign blocks of numbered exercises without worrying that students may have missed part of the prelab assignment. The oscilloscope probe exercise that caused a lot of problems last year has been rewritten with more scaffolding.

I added “equipment-needed” lists to the beginning of each lab.

I changed some of the labs that had used potentiometers to sweep voltages to use function generators with a slow triangle wave instead. This should save quite a bit of time, particularly for the hysteresis lab, where I described how to trigger on the output of a Schmitt trigger changing to record the input thresholds.

I created a new appendix for some of the PteroDAQ details, which I removed from the DAQ chapter.

I added more index terms and fixed a number of glitches in the index.  Index entries with subindexing now stay together in one column, rather than being split between columns and pages.

I’ve started boxing “important” things (and I may change to highlighting them), but choosing the right things to box will probably take another full pass over the book.

I fixed all the overfull-hbox errors through Chapter 24.

 

2016 January 7

Counting pages

Filed under: Circuits course — gasstationwithoutpumps @ 20:30
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I just read in Dan Graur’s blog, his post about how publishers report the sizes of his textbooks:

On the Numbering of Pages in Textbooks

American students are apparently afraid of books with too many pages. The solution that publishers have came up with to is to number different sections of the book separately.

Thus my previous book, the second edition of Fundamentals of Molecular Evolution was listed as xiv + 481 pp. That is, 14 pages of front material (title, acknowledgements, dedication) plus 481 pages of text. This was a significant increase in pages from the first edition, which was listed as xv + 284 pp.

My newest book, Molecular and Genome Evolution, which was published with the same publishing house, is listed as xvii + 612 pp + 54 LC + 34 I, in other words 17 pages of front material, 612 pages of text, 54 pages of references, and 34 pages of index. It seems that 612 is significantly less terrifying than 690 (or 707 if one includes everything in the book).  

Under this system, the current draft of my book is xxiv + 270 pp + 6 LC + 4 I—not counting the colophon, which is after the index.  Should the appendix have been in the 270 pp, where I put it, or in the “LC” count? Should the blank pages that exist only so that chapters start on a right-hand page be counted, as I did, or not?

Obviously, my book is much lighter weight than Prof. Graur’s (if weight means anything in an e-book-only publication), and I clearly need to beef up the index (though maybe not to four times the current length, which is what it would take to be comparable to his index/text ratio).

But 54 pages of references seems excessive for a textbook—even one with 612 content pages. No student is going to look up even 1% of those references. That depth of references is more appropriate for review article or a research monograph than for a textbook. Of course, many scientists don’t really distinguish between research monographs and textbooks, so perhaps it really is a research monograph, in which case the level of citation seems appropriate.

Perhaps Prof. Graur’s book, probably aimed at grad students or postdocs, is not typical of books aimed at college freshmen and sophomores. Looking at a textbook I happen to have on the floor by my desk, Matter and Interactions, which I haven’t put away since teaching/learning physics from it 3 years ago, I see xxiv + 1080 pp + 19 I, not counting the endpapers, which add another 3 pages of text (useful reference material).  This book seems to have no references—not at the end, not in each chapter, and not even occasional pointers to more information for curious readers. The indexing rate is 1.76%,which is only slightly more than my 1.48%, so I may not be as far off the mark in the amount of indexing I’ve done as I feared.

2015 December 22

Small updates to book

Filed under: Circuits course — gasstationwithoutpumps @ 13:56
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I released a couple more small updates to my book today:

  • revised Chapter 25 (Electrodes) and electrode lab
  • small additions to loudspeaker lab to remove several TODO comments
  • cleaned up many (but not all) overfull-box LaTeX errors

I’ll try to get Chapter 27 (EKGs) and the EKG lab redone by the end of 2015, completing the rewrite that I started in June 2015.  After finishing this pass, I’ll raise the minimum price on the book (probably to $3.99 from $2.99), though the book still won’t be “finished”—I’ll still have 46 TODO comments to resolve.

If anyone is waiting for me to finish the book before buying it, remember that as long as I’m publishing it with leanpub, buying a copy entitles you to all updates for free, so you might as well get it now, before I raise the price.

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