ASU Spring 2016 Session B Week 3 Update

Well, I spoke too soon… Physics 121 & 122 definitely got more challenging. So much so that I had to make a very hard choice today and withdraw from both of those courses. The decision was not made easily. Over the past 10 days, I had been spending just about every waking moment trying to just complete the assignments and had been completely neglecting my family.

The kids and my wife were home on spring break last week so my normal study routine was greatly thrown off and before I knew it, I was not in a good place academically or mentally and the family was mad. I did a horrible job balancing the demands placed on me, but the family demands right now warranted dropping down to part time school.

I’m not sure when I’ll be able to get back to a full time course load. I’m at the point academically where all the physics and math classes are critical path items before I can taken any more electrical engineering courses. There isn’t anything else I could take or double up on that moves the ball forward faster until I can complete the physics gauntlet.

After seeing the amount of time that the PHY 121 and 122 course require, I’m really hesitant to try and retake it summer session. This summer, I’ve already committed to taking MAT 343 – Linear Algebra and MAT 275 – Modern Differential Equations. Fall, provided I am success at my summer courses, I’ll have MAT 267 and that will complete all the math courses required. That will be a very good thing.

Sometimes, slowing down isn’t a bad thing. At least that is what I keep telling myself. I’ll be able to give 100% of my academic attention to mathematics over the next few months and likewise for Physics late this year and the first half of 2017.

So at the earliest right now, PHY 121 and 122 look like they will have to wait until Fall 2016 Session B. Spring 2017, Session A PHY 131 – Physics II and PHY 132 – Physics II Lab, followed by PHY 241 – Physics III in Session B.

In retrospect, I probably should have taken advantage of the local libraries around Elk Grove last week. Having uninterrupted time to focus on the Physics work probably would have gone much better. PHY 121 and PHY 122 are no joke. Both are wicked fast and you can’t just blindly memorize formulas and expect good results. The lab course required a lot of time to put together the data, analysis and conclusions. You’ve got to be able to model the problems and apply the principles to solve problems. It’s a different animals than the other courses I’ve had to date and requires a much different mindset.

So all that on Physics… let’s talk about MAT 266. This week our first two weeks of homework is due. Luckily I have all of that work completed well in advance of the deadline tomorrow at noon. We have to have our first exam completed by Thursday at noon and I’m planning to take that Wednesday morning. It is unproctored but will still be a good reality check to see how well I’m able to apply what we’ve learned.

The exam is covering the Integration Techniques we’ve been focused on- substitution, integration by parts, trig integrals, integral approximation and partial fractions. I’ve been working a lot of problems over the last few weeks and using Anki to help memorize the various integrals and derivatives. The spaced repetition program I think is really helping. Trig substitution I still need a bit of work on though.

The course doesn’t stop though for one to focus on the exam. This week in MAT 266 we’re studying:

  • Improper Integrals
  • Area Between Curves
  • Volumes

Outside of studies, I definitely need to get back to exercising and daily meditation. I did a much better job the first semester and this semester not so good. Hopefully the changes I’ve made today and a hard lesson learned will help get me better balanced and able to complete my objectives successfully.


ASU Spring 2016 Session B Week 2 Update

MAT 266 is by the far the most challenging course at the moment and consuming most of my waking hours. I’m even seeing integrals and derivatives in my dreams so that can’t be good? The calculus makes sense, but the arithmetic is challenging. The substitution rule, integration by parts and trigonometric integrals require that you pull together so much from the past lessons and successfully apply that knowledge to solve very complicated problems.

I set up Anki to help me on the derivative and formula memorization and that program seems to be helping. I had been keeping a Word document with all the formulas or important derivatives and integrals so that I could refer to them quickly if needed and I was able to take a screen snip of the formulas and paste onto the back of the digital flash card. Anki gives you only so many cards a day to learn and has some other fancy algorithms to focus in on the cards you struggle with. After three days, I seem to be recalling the information better.

Other than that, practicing a lot of problems both from Webwork and the Calculus book. The Wolfram Alpha Windows 10 Store App is proving very helpful for the book problems to check my answer since only the odd answers were given in the back of the book. Hopefully by 3/31/2016 I’ll be ready for Exam 1 if I can keep chipping away at this challenging material.

This week in MAT 266 we’ll be turning our attention to

  • Partial Fractions
  • Integrations with Tables and Computer Algebra Systems
  • Approximate Integrations
  • Exam 1 Review

PHY 121 seems to be moving slower and is a bit more straightforward than MAT 266 at the moment. Hopefully I’m not underestimating it. Our first homework set was given out on Wednesday and I was able to get both assignments completed with 100%. There were a few tricky problems that I struggled with, but the course discussion board and emails back and forth with a fellow student helped get me pointed in the right direction.

I haven’t taken the weekly quiz or test yet, but plan to do so Monday and Tuesday so will report back on how those goes.

Week 2 topics for PHY 121 will be:

  • Acceleration to position
  • Generic equations of motion
  • Free fall
  • Vector arithmetic
  • 2D Kinematics
  • Rotation motion

Lots of good stuff there!

PHY 122’s lab class is a ton of work. I spent most of the weekend going through the lab exercises. Work mostly centered around learning the tools and getting used to reporting values properly though. It took me a fair bit of time to type out all the equations and the calculations. Still not 100% sure I’ve got them all correct with significant figures so I need to go back through and double check them. The data gather and calculations are complete and tomorrow I hope to finish up answering all of the questions so I can submit it well in advance of Wednesday’s due date.

ASU Spring 2016 Session B Week 1 Update

Session B started up today. This session I’m continuing on where MAT 265 – Calculus I left off with MAT 266 – Calculus II for Engineers. In addition, I’m getting started on the Physics required for Electrical Engineering with PHY 121 – Physics I and PHY 122 – Physics I Lab. Overall, a total of 7 units for this session.

MAT 266 picks up right where MAT 265 ended. Again, homework is done via WebWorks. The lecture format has changed for MAT 266. So far, wishing the student and teacher discussion format that was used for MAT 265 was being used for 266, but hopefully will still be okay. This week, we are working on:

  • The Substitution Rule
  • Integration by Parts
  • Trigonometric Integrals and Substitutions

I’m struggling a bit with the Substitution Rule and Integration by Parts this week, but given it’s the first day, hopefully a bit of time for the materials to sink in will help.

I did find an app in the Windows 10 Store called Wolfram Alpha that will allow you to enter an expression and it shows you the steps needed to arrive at an answer. I’m finding this program very handy for the problems in the text book that don’t have the answers in the back of the book.

PHY 121 begins with:

  • Motion Diagrams
  • Velocity-Acceleration
  • Coordinate Systems and Graphs
  • Sketching Problems
  • Instantaneous Velocity
  • Instantaneous Acceleration

So far, only the lectures are available for PHY 121. Looks like every Wednesday we’ll get access to the weekly homework assignment, quiz and test so I’ll have an update next week after the first round becomes available.

PHY 122 is the lab portion for PHY 121 and students receive a grade in the lab portion of the course as well as the lecture component. For the lab we received access to KET Virtual Physics Labs. In addition, we’re using LoggerPro software for data set analysis and graphing. I’m curious to see how the labs work being done via a simulation website.

ASU EEE 120 – Simulation Labs

In addition to the hardware labs for EEE 120, there were five simulation labs. All work was done in Logisim, which was a free download. I thought Logisim worked out very well, although it was weak in regards to timing diagrams.

Logisim has all the gates and flip flops and other components that were discussed during the lecture videos. It was a great tool to use to be able to throw together a circuit and experiment with. In addition, there is an Analyze Circuit function that will give you truth tables and Karnaugh Maps for your equation. I used this feature a lot to check my work. You can either start putting the various components on the workspace or you can enter in an equation and have Logisim build out the circuit for you.

Another very helpful feature that we used a lot was the subcircuit and library capability. Over the 5 labs, we built the various components needed to build our microprocessor. Subcircuits were used to breakdown more complicated circuits into small components that could be used as needed. Very similar a function or a method if you’re coming from a programming background.

The five simulation labs we worked on were as follows:

Simulation Lab 0 – Using Logisim

Intro Logisim tutorial which had us build a few circuits, practice with sub circuits get some practice with binary numbers.

Simulation Lab 1 – Half Adder, Increment and Two’s Complement Circuit

Sim Lab 1 introduced the Microprocessor project we were going to work on building throughout the course. The circuits we needed to build were laid out of us although we needed to start to think about how to perform enough tests to make sure our circuits worked properly. With each of the circuits we built, we needed to package them up into subcircuits for use in the subsequent labs.

Simulation Lab 2 – 4-Bit Adder, Multiplexer, Decoder and Buffer

Sim Lab 3 in my option was probably the hardest lab. This one felt like I was tossed into the deep end and was sink or swim time. The TA and instructor were very helpful though. All of the circuits we needed to build had to be done with NOR gates and there were 8 circuits to build. All of which would play very important roles in the Microprocessor. Definitely start early on this lab.

Simulation Lab 3 – Arithmetic and Logic Unit

I really enjoyed Sim Lab 3 – all of the components we’d built in the prior simulation labs were put together to build our ALU. A lot of the concepts we’d been studying came together during this lab. While only four bits, it could easily be expanded to more which I had fun tinkering around with on my own.

Simulation Lab 4 – The Microprocessor

Everything came together in Sim Lab 4. For this lab we put together different types of memory and wiring up all the components together. The lab manual gave solid examples of how to wire up everything. In addition we were tasked with figuring out an instruction set and entering a program into memory to execute the program. That part is where I spent most of my time. Everything we’d built over the course of the sim labs was used here in addition to a few new memory items.

Here is a picture of my microprocessor:

Complete Microprocessor Unit

By far the most challenging part of this lab was figuring out the instruction set. I found I was trying to make the opcodes much more complicated at first than they needed to be. I even went so far as to make an excel spreadsheet to help sort everything out. Here is a cleaned up version that has a template to help calculate the values to enter into the EPROM in addition to a sample of what one of the operations looks like. Op Code Template. I found this helpful to check my math and to refer back to as more opcodes were added.



ASU EEE 120 – Hardware Labs

For ASU’s EEE 120 – Digital Design Fundamentals course during the Spring Session A of 2016 there were 10 lab assignments. 5 Hardware and 5 Software Simulation labs. Initially, the labs started off walking students step by step through the various tasks and there was a lot of hand holding. By both hardware and software lab 3, students were expected to be able to more on his or her own.

In addition on the first labs there were videos as well to walk through setting up your breadboard, Digilent Analog Discovery Kit and Logisim as well.

A few weeks prior to the start of the course the professor sent out an email with a shopping list of parts that we’d need to pick up.

  • Digilent Analog Discovery
  • Breadboard
  • Breadboard Wiring Bundle
  • 74LS00 (Quad NAND)
  • 74LS02 (Quad NOR)
  • 74LS04 (Hex Inverter)
  • 74LS05 (Hex Inverter O.C.)
  • 74LS08 (Quad AND)
  • 74LS11 (3-input AND)
  • 74LS32 (Quad OR)
  • 74LS74 (D flip flop)
  • 74LS112 (J-K flip flop)
  • 74LS126 (3-state buffer)
  • 74LS175 (Quad D Register)
  • 1K Ohm resistors

Throughout the labs we used just about every single type of part but a few extras were included in case you accidently released the magic blue smoke. I think I ended up ordering everything from but the part numbers were provided for Digikey and a couple of other online vendors. I did order the Analog Discovery kit from Digilent directly. Back in December, they had a student special where you could get a parts kit for free saving I think close to $45 dollars. I didn’t use much from that parts kit this course, but looks like it is used for the EEE 202 – Circuits I course I’ll be taking in the Fall of ’16.

Overall the labs comprised 440/1000 points so were a pretty big part of the overall course grade. The earlier labs that were less involved were worth less and as they got more complicated increased in value. Additionally, each lab had a couple of extra credit points possible for answering a feedback form.

I would definitely recommend starting early on the labs. Hardware problems happen sometimes. In my case, my Surface Pro 3 died so I lost two days waiting on Microsoft to replace (which they did). In addition, on one of the labs, I was getting some very bizarre readings and it took time to figure out what was going on over the course of day.

The TAs and professor were very quick to respond to lab questions and responses were usually received well under four hours. Often times within a few minutes of posting.

The five hardware labs were as follows:

Hardware Lab 0 – Using a Prototype Breadboard and Checking Logic Circuits using a Voltmeter

This lab walked us through getting the software for our Digilent Analog Discovery Kit (ADK) setup. Explained a breadboard, how to connect an integrated circuit and how to power it up and check the voltage at each pin.

Hardware Lab 1 – Building a Half and Full Adder

In the second lab, we built a 1 bit half and full adder on our breadboards. Each step was pretty well spelled out.

Hardware Lab 2 – TTL Characteristics, Open Collectors and Three State Buffers

No more training wheels so to speak here! A little bit in the first part of the lab, but this lab had experiement a bit more to figure out how the Open Collectors and Three State Buffers worked. This was the only lab I messed up on by thinking I could rush through. Definitely take your time and read through all the fine print!

Hardware Lab 3 – Latches, Flip Flops and Counters

Up until now, the labs were very straightforward, but latches, flip flops and counters take a little bit to get used to. In addition, ideas like Active Low come into play. Definitely start early on this lab. At the end of the lab, we did built a counter which was pretty neat.

Hardware Lab 4 – Capstone Design Project

Hardware lab 4 gave us a problem to solve and we were to come up two different solutions, determine which would be the “best” and then build one solution in hardware. Basically we had to design a Moore and Mealy machine to solve a Gas Pump Controller problem.

The problem we were given was that a client wanted a gas pump controller that would shut off after two over pressure conditions. Once in the shut off state, a gas station attendant would be required to reset the pump.

We were able to use any of the parts we had ordered initially to solve this problem.

The problem statement was a bit vague so we had to document our assumptions. As part of the design, state definition tables were put together, state transition diagrams, state transition tables, Karnaugh Maps to minimize the equations and Logisim simulations were done.

This lab pulled together just about everything we had done to come up with a working solution and really pushed students to think and analyze a problem. I can’t stress how important it is to start early. I had some trouble when building my solution where the JK Flip flops I was using weren’t working properly. After rebuilding once and taking voltage measurements at each pin, I finally figured out that I needed to wire the preset inputs to +5 volts. Once I did that, the circuit worked properly, but it took a few hours to troubleshoot. Had I waited until the last minute, I might not have made the deadline.

ASU Spring 2016 Session A Week 7 Update

Finals are done! Two more classes complete and now ready to enjoy spring break. Tuesday 3/1 I had my final for MAT 265 and this morning my EEE 120 final. MAT 265 was fairly straight forward although cumulative so I had to go back through and review a number of items from earlier in the course. I got tripped up a little bit on a Linear Approximation problem, but still ended up with 97.8% on the exam. Added with the other tests scores, I walked away with an A in MAT 265!

EEE 120’s exam today was a bit more challenging. I had some trouble on timing diagrams for flip flops and need to go back and review those a bit. We didn’t work with them a lot unfortunately and I’m just not very comfortable with them. All of the other material though was what we’d worked with over the course. Overall I ended up with 1015/1000 points and an A+ in Digital Design Fundamentals! This was a great course and I really enjoyed it.

We are now on “Spring Break” although no trips to Mexico or any place exotic is planned. Looking forward to catching up some TV shows and a little bit of relaxing. Can’t rest too much though, Session B will start up 3/14 and the courses are usually online 2-3 days in advance of the start date. Session B, I’ll be continuing on with MAT 266 – Calculus II and PHY 121 & 122 – Physics I and Physics I Lab.

My plan is to write up a few posts on the projects we worked on in EEE 120 so check back soon!