# 1.3 Book organization and approach

This book is organized differently from most textbooks written for the Intro-to-EE-for-non-EE-majors course. Most texts focus substantial time on the theory and analysis of linear circuits, i.e., circuits comprised of components such as voltage and current sources, resistors, capacitors and inductors. The treatment typically evolves from mathematical analysis starting with algebra, then moving to matrices (solving systems of linear algebraic equations), then moving on to setting up and solving first and second order differential equations. Standard treatment then moves on to the Laplace transform as a way to study the frequency behavior of linear systems. The study of electronic devices, such as diodes and transistors comes next, followed by digital circuits and, in some cases, the behavior of motors. Intro-to-EE-courses-for-non-EE’s based on such texts rarely have a lab component.

In my own experience learning electronics, both as an EE student several decades ago, and when self-teaching in areas where I needed to learn something new, I have found that I rely on a combination of theory and hands-on practice to understand new concepts. I need the theory in order to form some kind of concept in my head. And I need the practice in order to both make sense of the theory and to test and validate my understanding of it. Some of my best, most satisfying learning has taken place when I was able to study the theory, practice it by working through pencil-and-paper problems, and then build something tangible to test things out. It is in this sprint that I have written this book. Theoretical concepts are introduced, pencil and paper problems are assigned, and lab experiments are conducted. The lab experiments involve circuits that do things: glow and blink lights in different colors, spin motors, sense room variables such as light level and temperature, measure medical vital signs like temperature and heart rate,  etc…

This theory plus hands-on agenda necessitates changing the order and flow of this course compared to the traditional theory-only Intro-to-EE course-for-non-EE majors. Some of the bells and whistles of electronic circuits come from electronic devices such as LED’s, transistors and microcontrollers. Rather than waiting till near the end of the course to introduce these devices, we introduce them from the get-go. We alternate between theory and practice and assign pencil-and-paper problems along with hands-on circuit building and design problems beginning on day 1. Is this the correct pedagogy? That’s a difficult question to answer, but experience suggests it works. I’ve taught this course this way since 2013, to nearly 1500 students during 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2020. Most students indicate they appreciate the approach. Many students have reported they initially approached the course with trepidation, fear, and a nagging uncertainty about electronics; but they gained confidence as they progressed through and successfully built a series of increasingly complex circuits. Let’s see how it works for you. Don’t hesitate to let me know: write me at dmclaugh@umass.edu