Gas station without pumps

2021 October 1

Edition 1.3 released today!

Filed under: Circuits course — gasstationwithoutpumps @ 21:50
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I finally released the new version of the textbook Applied Analog Electronics today at The book is a little longer than the previous editions:

Edition 1.1 Edition 1.2 Edition 1.3 type
659 673 691 pages
337 342 348 figures
14 14 14 tables
515 523 528 index entries
162 162 169 references

The newest edition adds a new section in the active-filters chapter, some additional explanation at the beginning of the FETs chapter, a constant-current circuit for electroplating the Ag/AgCl electrodes, and a few pieces of advice in the design report guidelines.

The chapter on design report guidelines is available free as a separate publication:

The minimum price is still $7.99, but I’m doing a special one-month coupon that lowers the price to $5.99, just for my loyal blog readers! One nice thing about selling through Leanpub is that purchasers get all future editions published through Leanpub as part of the price—the company is trying to encourage authors to publish book drafts through them, rather than waiting until the book is completely polished. That means that people who bought (even with free coupons) earlier versions of the book will get this release for free, and anyone who buys now will get the benefit of future releases. I will still provide coupons for free copies to instructors who are considering using the textbook for a course—contact me if you need a copy!

As before, I am still offering 25¢ rewards for the first report of each error (no matter how small) in the book.

I have recorded video lectures for the book. Playlists are at for the first course and–khjVV52ZWU_Usc3e6KV9J for the second course. The first playlist of 122 videos runs about 27:16 and the second playlist of 50 videos runs about 12 hours, so the average video length is under 14 minutes.

There may be one or two videos added and existing ones may be updated, but the set of lectures is essentially complete. Many still have only automatic closed captioning, but the captions will (slowly) get hand edited.

2020 August 23

News from Santa Cruz

Filed under: Uncategorized — gasstationwithoutpumps @ 14:15
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I’ve not been posting lately—mainly because I’ve not been doing anything worth posting about.

I’ve been keeping up with my video creation schedule, and I’ve split the playlist into Part A and Part B, corresponding to the BME 51A and BME 51B courses.  Only about 2 hours have had the captions edited so far, and there are still 10 hours to edit on the BME 51B videos.  I have a total of about 12 hours of video of BME 51B and 4 hours for BME 51A, but I need to create about 10–12 more hours of videos for BME 51A. With 39 days until classes start, I need to record 18–20 minutes of video a day to meet my self-imposed schedule.

Other than the videos for the course, I’ve been doing a little work for the Committee on Courses of Instruction (which meets over the summer this year, for the first time) and a little student advising as undergrad director.  Neither of those take up much time (about 20 hours so far this summer for CCI and probably about the same for student advising).

Mostly I’ve been following air-quality maps and fire maps for the CZU Lightning Compex fire that is about 5 miles from my house. That fire is currently about 71,000 acres (111 square miles, 287 sq km) and 8% contained. The fire is record-breaking for our County, but is only the third largest in the state at the moment, and doesn’t make it onto the top 20 all-time list for the state.  The Sunday YouTube video provides a good update on the current status—the audio is not great, but it is much better than the really terrible audio for their Twitter and Facebook feeds from the morning and evening briefings.

It is looking now like we will not have to evacuate (unless the winds pick up and the fire roars over the contingency fire lines cut across Wilder Ranch State Park and UCSC campus).  Our air quality has been ok, or even good, at night when clean air comes in from Monterey Bay, but has gotten quite bad at times during the day.  I have found the map the most useful for air quality, though the map is also good.  The most useful fire map has been the NASA one, which can be set to show how intense the hot spots are.  In the first day of the fire, there was a huge mass of red, but it has cooled now and there is a ring of blue around the edge of the fire, with no hot spots showing in the center.

They’ve finally (just today) gotten air support up for our end of the fire—smoke had been too heavy in previous days and they were only able to do flights over the northern end of the fire.

We had made reservations in Hotel Paradox, across the river in Santa Cruz for Friday night through Monday night, just in case we had to evacuate, but we cancelled the reservation Saturday night, as we no longer felt imminent threat.  If we do have to evacuate, it will probably not be within the period we had reservations for.  It is not clear to me how much they will charge us for the room we didn’t use.  If they follow their 24-hour cancellation policy, we’ll have to pay for Friday and Saturday night, but nothing has been charged to the credit card so far.

I’ve not been mowing the lawn or clearing out blackberries and ivy lately—first it was much too hot, then it was much too smokey.  I’ll get back to doing yard maintenance once the smoke clears.

Friday was a bit strange for me, because, while I was showering, the water to the house stopped.  It turns out that the City was doing emergency repairs to the water main at the bottom of the block, and we were without water for one hour.  They didn’t give us any notice until after they had restored the water.

In another water problem, I had to replace one the hoses under the bathroom sink—it started spraying water on Thursday.  I went to the hardware store for a replacement early in the morning Saturday, when I thought the air would be fairly clean.  It wasn’t (the air quality is best at night, and jumps up as the sun rises and the direction of the ocean breeze reverses), but I wore an N95 mask (left over from purchases a couple of years ago when we were downwind from fires further north), so I don’t think the risk was too high.  The under-sink repair itself took about 10 minutes. The air quality within our house has been pretty good, as we’ve been running a HEPA air filter all day in the breakfast room (where we spend most of our time) and all night in the bedroom.

Other than obsessing about COVID-19 and the fire, I’ve mainly been reading and commenting on Reddit (r/Professors and r/UCSC), re-reading old fantasy and science fiction books, and sleeping. It has been hard for me to focus on doing work (like the 11 to-do notes I still have for edits to the book, or edits to department web pages).


2016 July 8

Flipped Learning

Filed under: Circuits course — gasstationwithoutpumps @ 23:39
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In A call for flipped learning experiences – Casting Out Nines, Robert Talbert has asked for help finding examples of flipped learning outside math and statistics:

Flipped Learning is a pedagogical approach in which first contact with new concepts moves from the group learning space to the individual learning space in the form of structured activity, and the resulting group space is transformed into a dynamic, interactive learning environment where the educator guides students as they apply concepts and engage creatively in the subject matter.

If you teach a face-to-face in-seat class (not online) then “group space” = “in class” and “individual space” = “outside of class”. (This definition is a recent modification of mine, based on the one at and I may have more to say about it in another post.)

What I’d like to hear from you, is

  • The reasons why you chose to use flipped learning in your class;
  • What students in your class do during the “group space” and the “individual space”; and
  • Any evidence of effectiveness of flipped learning you may have, including anecdotal (student comments, etc.)

Also: I especially would like to hear from people not in mathematics or statistics. Back in November I tweeted out a request very similar to this and got several responses, only one of which was from someone outside of math or statistics. I know that flipped learning is used in a variety of disciplines and I want to showcase that variety as much as I can.

I have not done a lot of “flipped learning” in the most commonly used sense of preparing video lectures that students watch on their own. I did add one video (voiced and acted by my son) on using oscilloscopes to the Applied Electronics course this spring, but that isn’t really “flipped learning”, because the intent is not for the students to watch the video before class, but to watch it in the lab and step through the process of setting up the oscilloscope while running the video.

In general, I don’t find videos a good way to help students learn new concepts—they are too slow and too passive, even worse than lectures, where students can at least ask questions.  Videos are useful for certain limited tasks (such as demonstrating how to use a tool, as long as students can follow along and use the tool at the same time), and I do plan to make a few more this summer for training students in using other lab tools (different model of oscilloscope, function generators, power supplies, multimeters, maybe calipers and micrometers).  The key here is that the students are expected to use the tool as they watch the video—the video is a substitute for me standing beside them guiding them (which is still a better approach, but is hard to scale up—a 13-minute video for setting up the oscilloscope would take me 2.6 hours to do with a class of 24 students, working with a pair of students at a time—with 66 students, it would take over 14 hours of my time).

I do use “flipped learning” in my classes is in a more old-school way: I require students to read the textbook, and often even do homework before I lecture on the subject in class.  (See, for example, my early blog post on live-action math.)

My value as a teacher is enhanced if the students have made some attempt to understand the material before class, so that their questions can be more focussed on the things that confused them. I can then spend time in class on the boundary between what they understand and what they don’t understand, maximizing the learning, rather than on covering stuff that they could have learned in the same amount of time on their own, or on stuff that they don’t understand even after my explanation.  (When students don’t ask enough questions in class, I tend to err on the side of giving them stuff beyond what they understand, rather than re-iterating basics, so questions are super-important to keeping my lectures at the right level.)

To use a textbook for “flipped learning”, it needs to be very well matched to the course—either the course is designed around the book, or the book is designed around the course.  For my applied electronics course, I wanted the course to center around the labs, which need to be carefully ordered to build up design and debugging skills, so I ended up writing my own book.

Students are motivated to read the book, because each chapter provides just-in-time material they need to solve the design problems they are facing in the lab.  Students need to learn something new for each lab, adding it to the material they have already learned.  The old material is used over and over, so that students aren’t tempted into cram-and-forget learning.

Requiring students to read how to do something and work problems on the new concepts before being given a carefully worked example helps them learn how to learn from written references—a skill that all engineers need to develop, but that students often have not developed (particularly not in lower-division biology, chemistry, and physics courses, which tend to spoon-feed them just what they need for the problem at hand, encouraging cram-and-forget strategies) .

Getting explanations and corrections after students have struggled with a new concept helps the explanation sink in—they aren’t just memorizing a meaningless series of steps, but seeing how to get around barriers that they’ve been struggling to bypass. Having to demonstrate a working design and write a design report on it further deepens the learning.  Students have to not only learn the material, but use it and explain how they have used it.

So the electronics course uses some flipped learning, but it would probably work just about as well with no flipped learning.  The key to the course is having design tasks that students are motivated to complete, and that require them to use, demonstrate, and describe the concepts they are learning, and using the same set of concepts over and over in different concepts, until they seem second nature. Having students struggle with some material on their own before lecture makes the lecture time a bit more efficient, but the effect is probably pretty small.

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