Berkeley MOOC offers hardware-based engineering training

UC Berkeley graduate student Tom Zajdel assembles the robot built in EE40LX

Now virtually anyone – quite literally – can learn the fundamentals of electronic interfaces using a hands-on, “maker” learning approach, thanks to a new Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) offered by the University of California, Berkeley. UC Berkeley is the third university to partner with TI on a hardware-based MOOC, with others including the University of Texas at Austin and the Georgia Institute of Technology.

EE40LX, the new UC Berkeley MOOC, is titled “Electronic Interfaces: Bridging the Physical and Digital Worlds,” and is an online component of the university’s fall 2014 course “EE40: Introduction to Microelectronics Systems,” the first circuit analysis class in undergraduate engineering curriculum. Taught by Michel M. Maharbiz, an associate professor in the department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, along with graduate student Tom Zajdel, it will be available as a MOOC on beginning January 20, 2015.

The MOOC consists of a series of six modules over twelve weeks, with the first two modules providing an introduction to basic analog concepts. Subsequent modules progress to a study of resistors, amplifiers, capacitors and filters, transistors and inductors. To follow along and participate in the hands-on exercises, registered participants can purchase a design kit for under $50 USD, which includes TI’s MSP430 LaunchPad Development Kit.

A work in progress: pieces of the robot for EE40LX before it is fully assembled 

While purchasing the kit is not a requirement, “it is strongly encouraged,” said Dr. Maharbiz, who previously used the microcontroller in his research to create controllable flying insects. “Building your own circuits is the most valuable experience this course offers,” he adds. Using the kit, students ultimately will apply their knowledge to build a simple robot capable of bouncing around, responding to light and touch inputs, and communicating with specialized audio signals.

High school level algebra and physics are the only recommended prerequisites. Some exposure to computer programming is helpful for those wanting to improve on robot design; however, the instructors stress that the most important requirement is simply “a willingness and desire to build things with your own hands.”

Watch the course intro video and register today for this exciting MOOC, offered by UC Berkeley in partnership with TI.