ASU Spring 2016 Session A Week 5 Update

Hard to believe we’re at the end of Week 5 already. Last week, I was very busy preparing for a big MAT 265 midterm. Happy to report was able to score 100% on the exam. Exam consisted of 18 problems, 2 from each section since the last exam. We were allowed a calculator (TI-84+), paper and pen. No notes. Next week we’ve got our Mastery of Derivation test.

Topics in MAT 265 included:

  • Indeterminate Forms and L’Hospital’s Rule
  • Maximum and Minimum Value
  • The Mean Value Theorem
  • Derivatives and Shapes of Graphs

EEE 120 we moved into Sequential Logic: Latches, Flip Flops, Registers and Counters. These new sequential circuits were accompanied by a simulation lab and a hardware lab. The simulation lab had us combine many of the components we had built in sim lab two to make an Arithmetic Logic Unit. The ALU handles 4 bit numbers, adds, subtracts, negates, perform XOR and XNOR operations. In the hardware lab we worked with different types of latches and gates and flip flops.

We’re heading into the home stretch and nearing the completion of this session. In EEE 120, we’ve got a big Hardware Capstone project to complete where we’ll be looking at two different types of state machines to solve a problem and then on the simulation side, finishing up our microprocessor.

Once the session is complete, I hope to have an opportunity to write a bit more on the various EEE 120 projects I’ve been working on. Stay tuned for more information on those!

In addition to all the matters related to the current session. I was able to get registered for summer session. I’ll be continuing the mathematics studies and will be taken MAT 343 – Applied Linear Algebra and MAT 275 – Modern Differential Equations.

ASU Spring 2016 Session A Week 4 Update

MAT 265 finds us preparing for a Midterm on 2/10/2016. I’ve been spending a lot of my time going back through practice problems and working to get through all of the lecture videos and homework.

This week’s topics included:

  • Exponential Functions
  • Inverse Functions and Logarithms
  • Derivatives of Logarithmic and Exponential Functions
  • Inverse Trigonometric Functions

I put together a PDF file – Calculus I Formulas that contains all the formulas and derivatives I need to have memorized for the Midterm next week. I’ll probably continue to add to it as the rest of the class progresses. On the midterm no pressure, it’s only 35% of our grade for the class! No notes, closed book, proctored. We’re allowed scratch paper, a calculator (trusty TI-84 Plus CE) and a writing utensil.

EEE 120 we dove (got pushed?) into Multiplexers and Decoders, Programmable Logic, Programmable Devices and Output configurations. In addition to those topics we had two labs and a quiz.

The simulation lab had us continue to build components needed for our Microprocessor. We were limited to only NOR gates though which added to the fun. Initially I was struggling a lot with the NOR gates, but once I figured them out, they worked really well. We built a 4-bit full adder, multiplexer, decoder and buffer.

Hardware lab wasn’t as complicated as the simulation lab this week. We looked at TTL Characteristics, Open-Collector Buffers and Three State Buffers.

Hard to believe, but also next week the summer schedule of classes comes out and we can register for summer session on Wednesday. I’m anxious to see what will be offered.

Back to the books and the calculus problems!

ASU Spring 2016 Session A Week 2-3 Update

Ended up coming down with a cold for part of week 2 and 3 and missed an update. Had a bit to catch up on my courses after being out of action for a few days. Also through in a DSL model going bad and losing time dealing with my ISP. I’m caught up now and have a new mobile phone that can work as a mobile hot spot if my Internet goes down again.

Week 2 in MAT 265 focused on

  • Derivatives and Rates of Change
  • The Derivative as a Function
  • Basic Differentiation Formulas
  • The Product and Quotient Rule

There was a fair amount of homework assignments. The Calculus part was pretty straightforward, but the arithmatic seems to be tripping me up more times than not. I’m still not a huge fan of the WebWork program, but somewhere between Week 2 and Week 3 a new feature that generates additional problems was turned on that has been very helpful.

Week 3 we had our first exam covering Limits and all the Differentiation topics covered to date. 14 questions, 2 hour time limit, not proctored. 2 problems from each section were given for us to solve so it wasn’t too painful. Lecture wise our attention turned to:

  • The Chain Rule
  • Implicit Differentiation
  • Related Rates
  • Linear Approximations and Differentials

Homework was a little bit lighter, but took a little bit to get my head wrapped around Implicit Differentiation.

Week 2 in EE 120 focused on Boolean Algebra, Sum of Products and Karnaugh Maps. These topics took me a bit to get the hang of. I found some great videos by Jim Pytel out of COlumbia Gorge Community College that really help me understand the topics. I highly recommend him to help supplement learning. We also had our first hardware lab due in Week 2 getting to work with the Digilent Analog Discovery Kit and a few ICs.

Week 3 moved into Number Systems, Adders and Two’s Complement. I remembered the number system conversions from my time at UC Riverside. The video lecture material and practice problems were a nice review. Week 3 we had both a hardware and simulation lab due. The training wheels in the labs were starting to come off though and are starting to get more complicated.

In the simulation lab we started putting together the pieces for our Microprocessor in Logisim. We built a half adder, increment and two’s complement circuit and then worked on writing up test plans.

In the hardware lab we built a half adder and a full adder using AND, OR, NOT and XOR gates on our breadboard and the Digilent Analog Discovery Kit (ADK) for power and digital input and output control. So far, the ADK has been working well.

 

 

ASU Spring 2016 Session A Week 1 Update

My MAT 265 (Calculus I) and EEE 120 – Digital Design Fundamentals courses officially started up last Monday although the course content was available Friday 1/8 by the afternoon. I got started that Friday afternoon and have been glad for a few days head start.

This past week in MAT 265, the lectures have been focused on Limits. I’ve found the video lectures to be helpful and have been supplementing the lectures with Khan Academy videos. The math video lectures are longer than I’m used to usually with 2 videos per topic running anywhere from 15 minutes to 30 minutes. Week 2 we move on to differentiation.

Homework is done through WebWorks for MAT 265. I have to say that I really miss the MyMathLab site from MAT 170. WebWorks is okay, but MyMathLab had an awesome “Show Me How” button where if you were stuck, it would walk you through step by step. In addition you were able to get a lot of math problem practice. Not so much with WebWorks. The syntax to enter answers is a bit different as well in WebWorks so that has taken a little getting used to. Hopefully WebWorks will grow on me. Rumor has it that is used for MAT 266 next session as well.

EEE 120 so far has been a lot of challenging fun. The lecture videos aren’t too long, but there are usefully a handful to watch each week. In addition to lectures, there has been sample practice problem videos where the instructor works through various problems.

Last week we were focused on Truth Tables and Logic Gate Circuits. This week onto Boolean Algebra, Equation Minimization and Karnaugh Maps. This week definitely got challenging! The lectures have been pretty good and I found a number of lectures by Jim Pytel out of Columbia Gorge Community College to be an awesome supplement. He’s got some great tips that he sprinkles in. I was struggling a bit on simplifying Boolean expressions late last week, but with Mr. Pytel’s videos, I’m much more confident. I’m convinced the more you practice with Boolean Equations and Karnaugh Maps the better off you’ll be.

Labs have been pretty straight forward for EE 120 so far. We’ve got 5 simulation labs and 5 hardware labs. Our first was a simulation lab and we were presented with a number of tasks to work through in Logisim that gave us a chance to explore the tools in Logisim we’ll be using for the rest of the labs. Gave a good foundation to build on but feels like we’ve barely just scratched the surface of the simulation program. This weeks is a hardware lab using our Digilent Analog Discovery kit, breadboard and an IC.

Instructors and TAs have been very helpful and pretty quick to respond to questions posted to the course Piazza discussion board for both classes.

Oh and a nice perk! Last semester we had to pay for exam proctoring fees through Proctoru.com. ASU picked up the tab for those this semester which is great! Saved closed to $60 bucks! Hopefully that continues!

Well, I better get back to the books. Until next time!

ASU Spring 2016

I made it through my first semester of ASU Online EE program and Spring 2016 I’m doubling the number of classes and will be taking my very first electrical engineering class. This semester I’m taking:

Session A
MAT 265 – Calculus I
EE 120 – Digital Design Fundamentals

Session B
MAT 266 – Calculus II
PHY 121 – Physics I

It’s been over 15 years since I’ve done any Calculus or Physics. Over the break I’ve been watching more videos on khanacademy.org about Calculus. I haven’t done a lot of the exercises though so we’ll see how that works out.

On the physics side, I haven’t done a lot of prep work yet. I’ve got a little over three months until that starts up. I saw that Khan Academy has some videos on Physics and read that a former MIT professor named Walter Lewin has recorded his Physics lectures and those are supposed to be a good supplement. Not sure I’ll need those, but having multiple sources to pull from I think will be beneficial.

My professor for EE 120 sent out a shopping list of parts needed shortly after registering. On the shopping list we needed to procure the following:

  • 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

Rumor has it that the Analog Discovery All-In-One USB Oscilloscope and instrumentation system will be used in a number of upcoming EE classes. Digilent had some tutorials on the device so I started tinkering with a few of those.

Book wise, no textbook was required for EE 120, but I did pick up the one used in the campus course. The professor gave a number of other books that were available through the ASU library or for purchase so I started flipping through those.

Not too much else to report but will post updates as the courses progress.

 

Basic Tools for Success

When I first started college back in 1997 I had a desktop computer running a Pentium II processor with 32 GB of RAM, Windows 95 and a 4GB hard drive. I think it had Office 97.

Times have changed.

My computer of choice now is a Surface Pro 3 tablet with Windows 10 and Office 2016. I went with the i5, 256GB, 8GB model. Naturally Microsoft announced the Surface Book and Surface Pro 4 a few months after I made the purchase but in all honesty the Surface Pro 3 is a great unit. I did pick up the newer Surface Pen and I really like it.

In addition to the Surface Pro 3, I have an older desktop setup with a 24″ monitor. I find myself pulling up assignments, slide decks or videos on the desktop and then using the Surface Pro 3 and OneNote to take notes with the Surface Pen. Having my handwritten notes on my computers and backed up helps me sleep a bit better at night.

All of my school files are saved up to OneDrive and sync across both devices. So far that has worked well.

There is a bit of fruit in my technical diet in the form of an Apple iPad but I find I don’t use it all that much short of checking email or catching up on a game via the WatchESPN app.

Other tools I use are your standard issue pens, pencils and notecards, file folders and binders and a backpack. I am trying to keep everything digital especially since all assignments are submitted online via blackboard.

For a calculator, I use a TI-84 Plus CE. On the iPad I do have the TI-NSpire CAS app but I tend to use the TI-84 unless I get stuck or have something with a radical in it that I want to double check how to simplify.

All exams to date are proctored via ProctorU and require a web camera. I have a small Logitech HD Webcam 310 attached to the desktop that does the job and came in handy for FSE 100’s video calls with my team members.

Believe it or not, I may be the only college student without a mobile phone these days. After my position was eliminated I gave back my company mobile phone and didn’t bother to replace it. My wife has a phone though so if I’m venturing into unchartered territory and she’s staying in, I just borrow her phone. So far that’s working out well for us and keeping expenses down.

ASU MAT 170 – Precalculus

I had spent Summer 2015 working to get into a math mindset. I think my preparations paid off well and at the completion of Session B for Fall 2015 I was very happy with the results. At the start, I was very nervous to be jumping back into College level math and my earlier struggles with Trigonometry haunted me. To have the greatest chance for success I felt starting my math journey with MAT 170 at ASU would help ensure I had a solid foundation. I feel much more comfortable now and am looking forward to tackling MAT 265 – Calculus I.

MAT 170 covers a lot very quickly. To me the course felt like a marathon at a very fast pace. It was very much self paced, but there were deliverables due weekly in addition to a proctored midterm and final. Students needed to complete 105 mastery points which were earned through short quizzes. I figured out that I needed to complete at least two mastery points per day to be finished with a few days time to spare to study for the final and meet the course due dates. You can not get behind in this course or you will be in a world of hurt. Students must work daily completing the mastery points.

I am very visual and the former project manager in me likes to see fancy charts. I made up an Excel spreadsheet and burn down chart to track my progress. It took a few minutes in the beginning to layout what needed to be accomplished, but helped me stay on track. Here is the burn down chart tracking my progress.

MAT170 burndown chart

The course was primarily delivered through Pearson’s MyMathLab site which I was pleased with. There were plenty of practice problems with examples and the site provided immediate feedback which was extremely helpful. In addition to what seemed like an endless supply of practice problems there were lecture videos, presentation decks and an online version of the textbook available. Blackboard and Piazza served for a gradebook and class discussion board.

Topics covered in MAT 170 were:

  • Chapter 1 – Functions and Graphs
    • Basics of Functions and their Graphs
    • More on Functions and their Graphs
    • Combinations of Functions, Composite Functions
    • Inverse Functions
  • Chapter 2 – Polynomials and Rational Functions
    • Complex Numbers
    • Quadratic Functions
    • Polynomial Functions and their Graphs
    • Dividing Polynomials, Remainder and Factor Theorems
    • Rational Functions and their Graphs
  • Chapter 3 – Exponential and Logarithmic Functions
    • Exponential Functions
    • Logarithmic Functions
    • Properties of Logarithms
    • Exponential and Logarithmic Equations
    • Exponential Growth and Decay, Modeling Data
  • Chapter 4 – Trigonometric Functions
    • Angles and Radian Measure
    • Trigonometric Functions, Unit Circle
    • Right Triangle Trigonometry
    • Trigonometric Functions of Any Angle
    • Graphs of Sine and Cosine Functions
    • Graphs of other Trig Functions
    • Inverse Trigonometric Functions
  • Chapter 5 – Analytic Trigonometry
    • Verifying Trigonometric Identities
    • Sum and Difference Formulas
    • Double-Angle, Power Reducing and Half Angle Formulas
    • Trigonometric Equations
  • Chapter 6 – Additional Topics in Trigonometry
    • Law of Sines
    • Law of Cosines
    • Vectors
    • The Dot Product

The midterm consisted of problems from the first three chapters and the final was the last three. 10% of our grade came from practice midterm and final exams. The practice exams took a couple of hours to work through, but the midterm and finals had problems that were very similar.

We were able to use a calculator for the homework and exams although it could not be a fancy CAS (college algebra system) calculator. I used a TI-84 Plus CE. I chose that unit because it had a backlight and was easier to read the screen. Battery life isn’t too bad and charges up pretty quickly. I spent half a day reading through the calculator manual which I think really paid off in the long run.

My professor was very responsive to emails and discussion board posts. On the final exam I made a mistake on one of the problems and the exam docked me a lot of points for missing the negative sign. My instructor gave me partial credit on that problem after I emailed her which was really awesome. I highly recommend keeping in touch with your instructor throughout the course.

On the final we were given all of the Trigonometric formulas needed, but we were not given a unit circle. I spent time memorizing the degree and radian measurements as well as the (x,y) values. I drew that out on a sheet of scratch paper once the exam was underway and referred to it on a number of problems.

One area I didn’t take advantage of was ASU’s Tutoring services. My coach reminded me that those services were available but at that point during the session I didn’t feel a strong need to reach out for help. That will most likely change as I get deeper into Calculus over the next few sessions.

Overall, another positive experience with an ASU Online course. I’m feeling like gaps I had in my knowledge have been filled and the 1000 practice problems and over 100 hours spent have me well prepared.