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ECE 110 - Introduction to Electronics

Last offered Spring 2023

Official Description

Introduction to selected fundamental concepts and principles in electrical engineering. Emphasis on measurement, modeling, and analysis of circuits and electronics while introducing numerous applications. Includes sub-discipline topics of electrical and computer engineering, for example, electromagnetics, control, signal processing, microelectronics, communications, and scientific computing basics. Lab work incorporates sensors and motors into an autonomous moving vehicle, designed and constructed to perform tasks jointly determined by the instructors and students. Class Schedule Information: Students must register for one lab and one lecture section.

Related Faculty

Subject Area

  • Core Curriculum

Course Director


Integrated introduction to selected fundamental concepts and principles in electrical and computer engineering: circuits, electromagnetics, communications, electronics, controls, and computing. Laboratory experiments and lectures focus on a design and construction project, such as an autonomous moving vehicle.

Preview ECE 110


ECE 110 is a freshman engineering course. Its goals are to excite students about the study of electrical and computer engineering by exposing them early in their education to electrical components and their application in systems, and to enhance their problem solving skills through analysis and design.


  • Introduction to Electrical Engineering
  • DC circuits
  • Electronics: Diodes, Transistors
  • Sensors, feedback and control
  • Digital logic through CMOS circuitry
  • Pulse width modulation

Detailed Description and Outline

Core Topics:

  • Charge, current, voltage, power, and energy
  • Energy storage and dissipation, Ohm's Law, circuit modeling, and schematics
  • Ethics and professional responsibilities
  • Kirchhoff's voltage law and Kirchhoff's current law
  • Series and parallel connections, divider rules, DC circuit analysis
  • Power supplied and absorbed, time-average power, root-mean-square voltage
  • IV characteristics, Thevenin and Norton equivalent circuits, effective resistance
  • Nodal analysis
  • Diodes and diode circuits
  • Bipolar Junction Transistor, BJT IV characteristics and modeling, regions of operation, circuit analysis and operating point, current and voltage amplification
  • Field Effect Transistor, MOSFET IV characteristics and modeling, regions of operation, circuit analysis and operating point, digital logic basics through CMOS and truth tables, FET power consumption
  • Sensors, feedback and control
  • Pulse-width modulation

Semi-Required Topics (often addressed in lecture and/or available in semi-required, 10-of-many, exploratory lab modules):

  • Signals, spectra, noise, signal-to-noise ratio
  • Sampling and quantization, Shannon-Nyquist sampling rate, binary numbers, quantization error
  • Information definition, entropy calculation, compression definitions and examples
  • Photodiodes and solar cells
  • Communication techniques
  • Encryption
  • Operational amplifiers
  • RC filters
  • Voltage-controlled pulse-width modulation

Computer Usage

All course materials are available via the Internet. Homework problems are primarily computer graded but often some subset are hand graded through a scanned submission on GradeScope. All exams given at the Computer-Based Testing Facility (CBTF). Students must be able to use a Web browser and have adequate access to the Internet. Course provides some basic aspects of scientific computing for data analysis and physical computing for hardware interaction.


Short lab reports are due for each of the approximate 9 weekly procedural labs, plus a project proposal and final report.

Lab Projects

Thirteen weekly lab meetings lead students from breadboard basics through electronic design.

All labs are designed with team collaboration elements to build community within the student body (3, 5). The students work in pairs and generate reports for grading (3). The lab also includes self-selected modules that aid in solidifying principles in electronics (1), aspects of professional behavior and ethics (4), analysis and interpretation of electronic solutions (6), and exploration beyond the standard course material (7).

By the end of lab 2, students will know how to use basic DC equipment to build and measure circuits with batteries, power sources, motors, and resistive networks (1). They begin to apply simple circuit models for batteries and motors (6).

By the end of lab 5, students have applied Kirchhoff’s voltage and current laws to DC circuits as well as built time-varying circuits and making observations on the oscilloscope (1). They explore increased efficiency and torque gained by using pulsed-motor drives (6).

By the end of lab 7, students have improved their model of the DC wheel motor and constructed Pulse-Width-Modulated generators (1) and analyze this efficient motor drive (6) that is no longer tethered to the benchtop function generator (2).

By the end of lab 9, students have added controls for both overall speed as well as differential wheel speed (1, 2). They have also built the cars to be fully autonomous wall-following vehicles (1). Further, they are trained to pay attention to design layout to improve debugging as well as reduce the likelihood of failure (2).

By the end of the final project, student teams will prepare a project proposal that includes a problem statement, proposed solution and timeline, and an itemized list of required parts (2, 6, 7). They will document the progress of their project while demonstrating teamwork and time management and present the working project while discussing the technological challenges and solutions (3, 5, 6). Finally, they prepare a properly-formatted final report (3, 5).

Lab Equipment

ECE110 Electronics Kit custom build for the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the University of Illinois

DC Power Supply

Function Generator


Lab Software

BenchVue for automatic data collection

MATLAB and/or Python for plotting and modeling

Arduino IDE for microprocessor programming (optional)

Topical Prerequisites

High school physics

Credit or registration in calculus I


ECE110-customized online course notes


621.381OL13i1993 Schwarz, Steven E./Oldham W. G.; Electrical Engineering: An Introduction 2nd ed.

621.3ir91 Irwin/ Kerns; Introduction to Electrical Engineering

621.381En33 Orsak/Wood/Douglas/Munson/Treichler/Athale/Yoder; Engineering: Our Digital Future

621.3R529p2000 Rizzoni, Giorgio; Principles and Applications of Electrical Engineering 3rd ed.

621.3822K952d Kuc, Roman; Digital Information Age: An Introduction to Electrical Engineering

621.3R529p2007 Rizzoni, Giorgio; Principles and Applications of Electrical Engineering, 5th edition

All references are available at Grainger Library Reserves.

ABET Category

Engineering Science: 75%
Engineering Design: 25

Course Goals

ECE 110 is a freshman engineering course. Its underlying intent is to excite students about the study of electrical and computer engineering by enhancing their problem solving skills through analysis and design and exposing them early in their education to individualized electronic design projects.

The goal of the ECE110 freshman engineering course is to introduce students in their freshman year to the electrical devices and circuits used in modern power and information systems and to simultaneously develop basic modeling and analytical skills that are used to analyze and design such systems. The devices are taught in a historical context, and, for the most part, the analytical skills are limited to simple algebraic and geometric techniques. It is a 3 credit hour lecture/laboratory course in which students learn about electrical instruments, motors and generators, diodes, transistors, amplifiers, digital circuits, microprocessors, sensors, feedback control, and power and information systems. In the lecture the students learn (1) how a number of electrical devices and systems work, (2) how to construct simple mathematical behavioral models for these devices, and (3) how to design and perform simple analyses of circuits and systems containing these devices. In the laboratory the students experiment with procedures utilizing these devices, and in the final four weeks of the laboratory student teams complete a design. The design is often open-ended and student-defined, but it must showcase the lab skills they have been trained for: measurements, modeling, analysis, and design with feedback. Supply-chain issues sometimes results in a final project that is more-limited in structure based on the available materials.

Instructional Objectives

Fundamentals (7 lectures): A history of ECE, the motivation. Understand voltage, current, electrical conduction, Ohm's law, power, energy, and be able to compute electrical power and energy for DC voltages and currents; understand the meaning of and be able to compute average power and the rms value of voltage and current for certain classes of time-varying waveforms. IEEE Code of Ethics. Case studies of ethical dilemma in engineering. (1,3,4,7)

DC Circuit Analysis (3 lectures): be able to apply Kirchhoff's laws to a circuit and to compute the circuit's node voltages using the nodal method. (1). Be able to reduce a circuit containing resistors and independent sources to a simple equivalent circuit using series/parallel reduction techniques and the Thevenin and Norton theorems. (1)

Approximate time of Exam 1

Diodes (4 lectures): understand the operation of the semiconductor diode and be able to construct simple piecewise linear models of a diode's i-v characteristics; analyze and design practical clipping, rectifier, voltage regulator, LED, and/or photodiode circuits. (1,2,6)

Transistors (2 lectures): understand how current flow is controlled in the BJT and MOS transistors (1); be able to construct simple piecewise linear models from the input and output characteristics of the common emitter BJT (6); analyze the switching behavior of the BJT inverter and compute its voltage and current gain in the active region graphically and with piecewise linear models (6); determine the operating point of a common-emitter BJT biased in the cutoff, active, or saturated region (1, 6).

Approximate time of Exam 2

Transistors (5 lectures): Solve AC problems with the BJT transistor; understand the circuit-level operation of simple CMOS gates (eg. NOR and NAND); use a simple switch model to construct the truth tables for CMOS logic gates. (1,2,6)

Topics in ECE (5 lectures): understand basic concepts within the realm of ECE chosen from multiple categories including signals, spectra, and noise; digital information coding bar codes; sampling; communication; storage; forward error control, parity bit techniques; compression and compression techniques; security; secret encoding; aliasing problems for signal sampling; and digital imaging; conversion between information and digital coding using ASCII. Be able to compress information using the Huffman code, and generate the code tree (1,2,6). Understand basic concepts in ongoing research in selected sub-areas of electrical and computer engineering, e.g. nanotechnology, power and energy systems, and biomedical imaging and bioengineering and acoustics, and about future coursework in the major such as senior design. (4,7)

Approximate time of Exam 3

Review Days (3 lectures): identify sources of confusion and error and common misconceptions (muddy points collected from student surveys) and address them prior to the exam. (1,2,6)

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Introduction to ElectronicsAL132464OLC31100 - 1150 M W  3081 Electrical & Computer Eng Bldg Matthew Gilbert
Introduction to ElectronicsAL232471LEC31000 - 1050 M W  1002 Electrical & Computer Eng Bldg Jonathon Kenneth Schuh
Introduction to ElectronicsAL352909LEC31400 - 1450 M W  1015 Electrical & Computer Eng Bldg Hyungsoo Choi
Introduction to ElectronicsAL461723LEC31500 - 1550 M W  1002 Electrical & Computer Eng Bldg  Victoria Shao