Teaching Enhancement Via Small-Scale Affordable Labs (TESSAL)


The goal of the project, funded under an NSF CCLI grant, is to develop an infrastructure, including equipment and procedures, to have experiments distributed throughout the Electrical and Computer Engineering undergraduate curriculum, especially in courses that do not traditionally have labs.


Experiments are vital to the understanding of basic principles of science and engineering, yet lab equipment is generally expensive and requires dedicated lab courses for running the experiments. This program takes advantage of recent embedded processor developments and existing low cost technologies to develop low-cost processor-based experiments that are portable enough for students to take home. For example, students can measure signals using an embedded processor and upload the data for further analysis on their own computers. The fidelity of the results obtained from existing low-cost embedded processor platforms and simple experiments is not at the level needed for typical lab-based courses, but it does suffice as a supplement to non lab-based courses. Eventually, embedded technology may replace the need for large, expensive laboratory equipment. As such, this project is envisioned to be at the forefront of a trend in lab experiments toward portable, embedded processor-based technologies with experiments that are distributed throughout the curriculum.


In the interest of furthering our mission, we have hired undergraduate lab assistants (ULAs) with the responsibility of assisting instructors in their facilitation of in-class labs for the ECE 2020, 2040, and 3084 courses. ULA responsibilities are outlined in our policy document. Any scheduling or remote help can be accessed through our email: TESSAL@ece.gatech.edu.


Digital Logic

Lab NumberLab NameLab Purpose
1Digital LogicTo introduce the physical implementation of design logic circuits including the use of logic gates, Boolean algebra, mixed logic, integrated circuits, and breadboards.
2Finite State MachineThe goal of this experiment is to reinforce state machine concepts by having students design and implement a state machine using simple chips and a breadboard. This experiment also introduces students to basic physical components.

RC Circuits

Lab NumberLab NameLab Purpose
1MyDAQ and Basic ResistorsThe goal of this experiment is to introduce concepts such as resistance, voltage and current. Students will also gain experience with data acquisition, breadboards, and physical resistors.
2First Order CircuitsThe goal of this lab is to demonstrate the transient responses of passive RC circuits.
3Frequency ResponseThe goal of this lab is to gain experience measuring the frequency response of first and second order active and passive RLC circuits.

Signals and Systems

Lab NumberLab NameLab Purpose
1Amplitude ModulationThis lab explores the principles of amplitude modulation, particularly double-sideband amplitude modulation, in both the time domain and in the frequency domain.
2Vibrating StringThis lab is meant to explore the relationship between time domain and frequency domain. This lab also covers harmonic behavior, fourier transforms, and frequency response characteristics.
3Motor ControlThis lab investigates P, PI, and PID speed control for a DC motor. Students will observe performance and determine appropriate gains to achieve the best system performance. This lab also explores the tradeoffs of different performance parameters. Relevant software can be downloaded here.

Classroom Kits

Courses that have in-class labs will require students to buy classroom electronics kits in order to completer their experiments. Some kits are provided by Sparkfun while others are provided by Eta Kappa Nu. Kits purchased from Sparkfun should be ordered at least two weeks before the date of the first lab in order to ensure they arrive on time. Please note that the 2040 kit does NOT include a breadboard and wire kit, which is required to complete the labs. Students will be allowed to borrow MyDAQs from the Georgia Tech Library by visiting the Info Desk on the ground floor of the Price Gilbert Building. Students will also be allowed to use the MyDAQs and computers in Klaus 1446.

NameSupported CoursesPriceDirect Link
Digital Logic KitECE 2020$32.95Sparkfun Link
Linear Circuits KitECE 2040$13.95Sparkfun Link
3710 KitECE 3710$18.95Sparkfun Link
Mbed Starter KitECE 2035, ECE 2036, ECE 4180$79.95Sparkfun Link
Embedded System KitECE 4180 (optional kit)$170.00Sparkfun Link


  • B. Ferri, J. Auerbach, J. Jackson, J. Michaels, D. Williams, “A Program For Distributed Laboratories In The ECE Curriculum,” 2008 ASEE Frontiers in Education Conference, June 22-25, Pittsburgh. (pdf)
  • S. Uluagac and D. Williams, “Building Hardware-Based Low-Cost Experimental DSP Learning Modules,” 2008 ASEE Frontiers in Education Conference, June 22-25, Pittsburgh. (pdf)
  • B. Ferri, S. Ahmed, J. Michaels, E. Dean, C. Garyet, S. Shearman, “Signal Processing Experiments with the LEGO MINDSTORMS NXT Kit for Use in Signals and Systems Courses,” 2009 American Control Conference, St. Louis, June 2009. (pdf)
  • B. Ferri, J. Auerbach, H. Qu, “Distributed Laboratories: A Finite State Machine Module,” to be presented at the World Congress In Computer Science, Computer Engineering and Applied Computing, International Conference: Frontiers in Education Conference on Computer Science and Computer Engineering, Las Vegas, NV, July 2010. (pdf)
  • B. Ferri and J. Auerbach, “Work in Progress – A Program to Incorporate Portable Labs Into Lecture-Based Electrical and Computer Engineering Courses,” ASEE/ IEEE Frontiers in Education Conference, Washington DC. (pdf)
  • J. Auerbach and B. Ferri, “Work in Progress – The Costs and Benefits of Using Alternative Approaches in Lecture-Based Courses: Experience in Electrical Engineering,” ASEE/IEEE Frontiers in Education Conference, Washington DC. (pdf)