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We may find related interesting problems in Physics 123 electronics course taught by Tom Hayes at Harvard University. Tom Hayes is an author of Student Manual for the Art of Electronics - a student version of the famous The Art of Electronics. He has said kind words about our undertaking >>>.
Dear Cyril,

  I am happy to give what you describe as "moral support" for your very good and energetic teaching.  I admire your method of continually asking "what if...?," questions (such as "may we connect the virtual ground to the real ground?...").  (I did look through the list of questions that you pose in the link called "op-amp negative feedback circuits")...
  Thank you for letting me know what you're up to, and good luck with your continuing imaginitive work.

         Tom Hayes

I think Lessons In Electric Circuits maintained by Tony Kuphaldt (Bellingham Technical College, Washington) is the best written electronics tutorial for students on the web (if you know another let me know). Here we may find wonderful materials, powerful explanations, an innovative approach to teaching electronics ... I highly recommend this site to you.
Browsing also Topical worksheets from his great project of Socratic electronics; you may find a great number of interesting questions. Here Tony has presented a "manifesto" he has written on the subject of learning to learn. He has also said kind words about the building approach we have put into practice >>>.

As both a student and as a teacher, I have learned that one of the most important skills to acquire in school is the ability to think independently and creatively.  It is not enough to simply follow someone else's instructions, or to mimic the work of others.  Many challenges we face in life -- technical and otherwise -- can only be overcome if we approach them with courage and with creativity.

The best teachers are those who inspire and challenge their students to think on their own.  The best education is one where students emerge fully equipped as problem-solvers and as leaders.  How do teachers best inspire their students to reach these goals?  How does education become something more than a mere transmission of facts, into institutions where students are liberated to develop into their full potential as human beings?

I believe this is possible only where teachers respect and regard students as thinkers.  In my classroom, I expect my students to apply their natural abilities to learning new information, and to solving new problems.  My job is to sharpen those natural abilities, to act as a coach, as a mentor, and as a friend.  Following the same philosophy, I refuse to simply "spoon-feed" information to my students, treating them as children and reinforcing the notion that they cannot think for themselves.

Asking good questions is one of the best ways to stimulate intelligent thought in the classroom.  Creating a vibrant dialogue between students and their instructor not only inspires deeper thinking, but it builds confidence in students that they can think on their own, and that their thoughts matter.  Another way to stimulate students' intellectual growth is to have them apply their natural creativity to designing new things.  The thrill of creating something new adds a dimension of excitement to learning, and builds student confidence even further.

It does not matter what subject is being taught.  Critical, creative thinking is the same no matter what topic students may be studying.  This is good, because it means teachers of any subject can make an incredible difference in the intellectual development of their students that will benefit them throughout their lives.  It is possible for all teachers to help their students become independent and creative thinkers, but unfortunately not all teachers do so.

Cyril's approach to teaching electronics honors these principles.  Rather than simply telling his students how all the different kinds of circuits work, he teaches them "building blocks," which his students may then use to create new and interesting circuits for a wide variety of applications.  Teaching in this manner builds precisely the kind of creative, problem-solving attitude needed in life to overcome complex problems, whether they be related to electronics or not.  Students would be wise to invest themselves deeply in this type of learning, and seek to apply their new-found skills to other areas of study.

Cyril, I wish you the very best in your endeavor.  Keep up the good work!

- Tony

Dear students, let me now introduce Charles Perard - a young american from Brooklyn, New York - to you. I think his story will be very interesting and maybe edifying for you. Here is one of his first e-mails to me >>>.

November 4, 2003

... I will be patient!!

I am working as an AmeriCorps promise fellow in a non-profit organization. I am not working on anything related to circuits, but I do have a strong interest in the subject. I did some undergraduate study in Electrical Engineering but failed out of the program. I had trouble understanding some concepts and the math and theory seemed too abstract for me. I had trouble seeing how the math and concepts met. My limited math background also made it difficult. I've been working on that and I am just about ready to start with circuits. Now that I am out of school I'm really looking to learn it maybe from a hobbyist or inventors perspective. I'm really concerned with understanding and an ability to design myself. I would recommend treating me like a novice who can handle complex ideas, especailly in the long run. I have a good work ethic and will put much effort to this. I love reading and studying. I was drawn to your visual aids becuse it helped me see v(Out) in relation to v(In) in some circuits. I was also drawn to your heuristic approach because although I could identify the components in some simple and complex circuits, I could not tell why one place this resistor as a opposed to that. I did not understand the reasons and directions behind the component building blocks. I am also reading a calculus book that uses a heuristic approach and I have found that I learn better this way. This was another reason why I thought your site spoke specifically to my needs and provides a great service that many should take adavatage of. I'm also interested in design and inventing. I am 26 and as I mentioned above I have some college experience. Please feel free to ask me additional questions if need be.

I know I have stated much. Hopefully you can continue to help me or help me get on the right path.


I have invited Charles to join our "building" class exercises on the web; he has enthusiastically responded. Charles has even sent samples from his biography. Reading these sincerely written words, I was deeply surprised as I had the feeling I read ... my own bio. Look at and compare the two bios ...


March 5, 2003

Dear Cyril,

I have and still sincerely believe in your teaching method. I truely believe that when realized it will give students an ability to not only understand but to construct circuits themselves. Your approach, I believe will help them develop the thinking needed to become expert designers. I also believe that this will be an exciting challenge and will gladly offer any assistance you need.

Also, I would love to get back on board and participate in the forum. I'm not certain on what I now need to do to check out class 1.

I have included my brief bio below in order to motivate and inspire your students.


Cyril's bio

1968. As an eight grader I was fascinated by the mystery of electronics and that passion hasn't left me since ... My professional choice was definitely set -- I had thrown in my lot with electronics! ...
1969. I enrolled in a high school (an electrotechnical college) with enthusiasm. I liked all kinds of automatic and cybernetic devices behaving like living beings -- light-and temperature-activated electronic circuits (a light-sensitive cybercar following a white path on the floor).

Charles's bio

My name is Charles and ever since I was young, I wanted to be and electrical engineer. I remember learning from a friend how a motor worked and this simple discovery amazed me. No appliance or toy would be safe from my probing mind and experimental fingers. I often left my radio-controlled car or electronic alarm clock coverless, because I felt the inner circuitry was a true work of art. My plans were then to study Electrical Engineering and become one of the electrical wizards that designed the many gadgets and gizmos, I experimented with in my youth.

I graduated high school at the top of my class and ...

... It was around that time I began feeling disappointment because I didn't like the formal way I was taught physics, electrotechnics and electronics.
At the end of 1975 I entered the Technical University of Sofia where I was even more disappointed by formal education. I learnt my lessons diligently and passed all my examinations; and yet I had the feeling I didn't understand the essence of things which I in fact needed. Finally, I refused to have anything to do with mathematics and began to rely only on my imagination ...

... then went on to study engineering at a prestigious university. Despite the prestige of this school, understanding was not necessarily thought. Unfortunately, this is a common problem in education. Students are often thought formulas and ideas and are then expected to regurgitate them back to teachers or professors. Rutgers University has researched and documented a variety of these cases. Morris Kline was a professor emeritus at NYU and has written several books documenting this problem in mathematical education.


... As far back as I can remember -- as a pupil, an undergraduate and a beginning teacher -- I was trying with no success to penetrate into popular electronic circuit operation using classical textbooks on electronics. With time I have reached the conclusion that formal methods do not explain circuits. The mathematical models they use cannot reveal the basic ideas circuits are grounded on: these models hide structure, causality and structure-function relations. Formal methods may even lead us to absurdity analyzing something, not really knowing what it is like ...

Many of my fellow engineering classmates could not truly understand the concepts that professors taught. Sure, given voltage and resistance most students can determine current flow, but do they understand how these three relate conceptually. I struggled through this academic system until I dropped out of school. The passion and determination I had for studying circuits quickly faded but remained on the back of my mind ...
... The classical approach to teaching electrical/electronics engineering does not facilitate learning. Building on simple components, with the use of visual aides and a focus on understanding does. There are students, electrical engineering college graduates who avoid technical jobs and graduate studies because they do not understand circuits. My story is not unique, many who study electrical engineering start out by investigating their toys. They begin to vision a future of challenge, design and further understanding, but the classical approach to teaching this subject does more to dissuade them ...

I have never wanted to think in a formal way: I am a human being, not a computer. In order to grasp how abstract electronic circuits work, I try to discern familiar simpler devices in complicated mixtures of electronic devices and well-known ideas and principles drawn from our everyday experience. I believe electronic devices, no matter how complicated, are based on clear and simple basic concepts. To reveal them, I have to find out how these devices were invented.
I replace real transistors and op-amps with "manual" ones and begin performing their functions (these are my students' favorite experiments in the laboratory). Thus I get a taste of what the device "feels" and a picture of its behavior revealing cause and effect relations in its operation. I do that mostly using my imagination rather than my reasoning, visualizing in my mind's eye how potentials rise/drop, currents flow from high to low potential point, resistors "shorten" and "lengthen", etc...


I wanted to understand circuits and began to study independently. It is then I found Cyril's website and was amazed by his focus on understanding and developing circuits by building blocks. My independent study on education and learning helped me to realize the significance in his approach. The visual aids are key because, one can then see how decreasing resistance, increases current. This very statement can be confusing but with visual aide it is a clear concept. Also, Cyril's circuit workbench allows students to see the effects on a circuit by changing components in the same circuit. You can see how changing a resistor to an inductor affects the current or voltage in a circuit. This will help you to better understand why circuit designers place one component over another. His very language on the subject promotes true understanding.


I am a firm believer in Cyril's methods. If you are interested in learning circuits, in understanding, then look no further.



Here I am waiting for a responce from my colleagues.

Let's see also the more practical basic electronics course of Basic Car Audio Electronics maintained by Perry Babin. This course shows many applications in the cars. I highly recommend this site to enyone who loves electronics, cars and audio. Let's see what he has said about the building idea >>>.
Hi Cyril,

What you're doing is probably a good idea for the few that want to learn and for those who aren't too lazy to put forth the required effort but from what I can tell, those people are only a very tiny percentage of the population. I've found that doing this sort of work (trying to teach others) has to be done because WE want to do it. I think there are so few people doing it because there is no real financial incentive.

Perry Babin


Let's see also another profoundly written electronics course by Gert van den Heuvel. As you can see, there are people who love electronics, circuits ... >>>.

Your approach is certainly less formal than mine! ;-)

Let me first explain how I came to writing the course. I love electronics since I was a little kid. I built circuits printed in magazines and such, but I didn't really understand what I was doing. Study books were either too expensive, too difficult, or both. Years after having studied electronics, I discovered in news groups that people were having the same problems I had when I was young. So I decided to write an electronics couse that should be simple and fun. It should be informative to the beginner and the more experienced student. This means that more in-depth discussions (like: what does the inside of a diode look like?) are available in intermezzos. To make to course availble to as many people as possible, I decided to write it in English, although it isn't my native language (it's Dutch). And yes, writing a course in a great challenge. And I'm not even a teacher, so I have to write the course in my free time. But it's worth it. From time to time I get nice e-mails from 'students' following the course. And I know of 2 people who are using the course to teach electronics to groups of children.

It is nice to see that someone else is also writing a course starting with the very basics, but with a different approach. I really think we can fill each other in. Please feel free to link to my course where ever you feel appropriate. I'll add a link to your first two classes at the end of my 2nd lesson (about current and resistors). I'll add more as you put your lessons on-line.

Kind regards, Gert van den Heuvel
webmaster www.HobbyElectronics.info



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