News Release

Hands-on approach to learning analog electronics opens design to more students

New approach to teaching analog electronics with minimal prerequisites opens electronics as a medium for teaching engineering design to students who are not EE majors.

Book Announcement

World Scientific

Applied Analog Electronics: A First Course in Electronics

image: Cover of "Applied Analog Electronics: A First Course in Electronics" view more 

Credit: World Scientific

For decades, electronics has been taught in a "bottom-up" fashion, with students spending years on calculus, physics, linear algebra, differential equations, circuit theory, and device modeling before doing any engineering design work. This heavily theoretical approach has resulted in students who come to their senior capstone courses with almost no lab skills, design skills, or debugging skills. It has also closed access to electronics design to students in other disciplines, who do not have enough time in their curricula to take all the foundational courses the EE students are required to take.

But electronics is an excellent medium for teaching many sorts of engineering, as it allows rapid prototyping, low-cost test equipment, and useful designs from fairly simple building blocks. Students can use mathematical models to design their systems, but the mathematical models are rough approximations that do not capture all real-world phenomena, so the debugging that students do shows both the value and the limitations of modeling. Other engineering fields either have much longer build-test-debug cycles (such as bioengineering, mechanical engineering, civil engineering) or have nearly perfect models, so that all errors are design errors, not model limitations (such as software engineering and computer science).

In 2012, Prof. Kevin Karplus started developing a course in analog electronics for bioengineers (mostly biomolecular engineers) to teach modeling, design, and debugging. After teaching the course a few times, he encapsulated the course design into a textbook, so that others could teach the course without needing as much development time. The textbook has gradually evolved with the course and is now ready for general release as Applied Analog Electronics: A First Course in Electronics.

This textbook is for a first course on electronics. It assumes no prior electronics experience, but does assume that students have had calculus 1 (single-variable differential calculus). There is a review in Chapter 2 of the small amount of mathematics assumed.

A key idea behind the course design is that students need a lot of design experience and hands-on work, rather than a lot of theory. The course is centered around the labs, which are a mix of design labs and measurement/modeling labs. The lectures are provided as just-in-time education for the concepts needed to do each lab, rather than the conventional approach of providing all the fundamentals with just an assurance that "you'll need to know this later—much later".

The three main concepts used over and over in the course are voltage dividers, complex impedance, and negative-feedback amplifiers using op amps. These concepts are easily learned as they are needed and provide students with a powerful toolset for doing analog design.

This unique textbook takes students from knowing no electronics to being able to design, build, and debug amplifier and filter circuits for connecting sensors to microcontrollers within 20 weeks. With this textbook, students will design a digital thermometer, a blood-pressure meter, an optical pulse monitor, an EKG, an audio preamplifier, and a class-D power amplifier. They will also learn how to measure and characterize components, including impedance spectroscopy of a loudspeaker and of electrochemical electrodes.

Some students in the analog design course took the standard EE circuits course before the design course, some took the EE circuits course after the analog design course, and many never took circuits at all. Taking EE circuits before the design course resulted in no improvement in their performance in the design course, and there was no correlation between the grade in the prior circuits course and the grade in the design course, but taking the design course before circuits did improve their performance in circuits. We believe that having an intuitive grasp of many of the concepts made the rather abstract math of circuits easier to learn, while the ability to manipulate the math did not add substantially to their intuitive understanding and ability to apply the concepts.

Applied Analog Electronics: A First Course in Electronics retails for US$88 / £70 (paperback) and US$178 / £140 (hardcover) and is also available in electronic formats. To order or know more about the book, visit


About the Author

Dr. Kevin Karplus is Professor Emeritus of the University of California, Santa Cruz, where he taught a wide variety of engineering topics for 35 years, including (among others) VLSI design, technical writing, applied discrete mathematics, bioinformatics, and (most recently) analog electronics.

About World Scientific Publishing Co.

World Scientific Publishing is a leading international independent publisher of books and journals for the scholarly, research and professional communities. World Scientific collaborates with prestigious organisations like the Nobel Foundation and US National Academies Press to bring high quality academic and professional content to researchers and academics worldwide. The company publishes about 600 books and over 140 journals in various fields annually. To find out more about World Scientific, please visit

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