ECE 110 - Introduction to Electronics

Semesters Offered

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. 1 hour of credit may be given for the lab taken alone with approval of the department.

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
  • DC circuits
  • Electromagnets, DC motors
  • Electronics: Diodes, Transistors
  • Sensors, feedback and control
  • Digital logic
  • Pulse width modulation and communication

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 gates 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, 8-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 on the World Wide Web. Homework problems are computer graded. All exams available via online testing. 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.


Lab reports are due for each of the 9 weekly procedural labs, plus a project proposal and final report. Additionally, a minimum of 8 exploratory modules must be submitted for full laboratory credit. These modules are self-selected by the students from a much larger set based on self-interest.

Lab Projects

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

By the end of the 3rd lab, students can follow circuit schematics to construct and measure breadboarded circuits using a benchtop DC power supply and multimeters or create circuit schematics from a provided physical diagram.

By the end of the 5th lab, students can generate waveforms using a function generator to meet form, amplitude, and offset requirements and take measurements using an oscilloscope with a fundamental understanding of the triggering operation. They can also use feedback on a logical inverter to generate a square-wave signal (PWM) with an approximate 50% duty cycle.

By the end of the 6th lab, students can measure, analyze, and model the IV characteristics of batteries and motors and recognize the limitations of the models. They can use their models to make accurate efficiency estimates of a motor-speed-control circuit.

By the end of the 7th lab, students can model non-linear diodes and BJTs and use these elements in a motor-drive circuit.

By the end of the 8th lab, students can use the model of a variable-resistance flex sensor to design and build a PWM circuit that provides a sensor-controlled duty cycle.

By the end of the 9th lab, students can use the engineering-design procedure to construct an autonomous navigational vehicle that uses flex sensors to perform wall-avoiding navigation.

By the end of the final project, students can 1) prepare a project proposal that includes a problem statement, proposed solution and timeline, and an itemized list of required parts, 2) document the progress of their project while demonstrating teamwork and time management, 3) present the working project while discussing the technological challenges and solutions, and 4) prepare a properly-formatted final report.

By the semester's end, in having completing the 8-plus exploratory modules, the students will have had the opportunity to expand basic understanding of resistors, capacitors, microphones or other various sensors and/or learn applications of microprocessors, operational amplifiers, comparators or other circuits and/or expand their knowledge to include the construction of voltage-controlled PWM signals or microprocessor-controlled automatic navigation systems.

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 (alternately, Python) for plotting and modeling

Arduino IDE for microprocessor programming (semi-required option)

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 open-ended and student-defined, but it must showcase the lab skills they have been trained for: measurements, modeling, analysis, and design with feedback. The default project option allows students to design an autonomous vehicle capable of navigating a meandering course marked by a white tape.

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. (1,5,6)

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. (1,2,3)

Transistors (2 lectures): understand how current flow is controlled in the BJT and MOS transistors; be able to construct simple piecewise linear models from the input and output characteristics of the common emitter BJT; 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; determine the operating point of a common-emitter BJT biased in the cutoff, active, or saturated region.

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. (1,2,3)

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. Be able to code information using famous ciphers, such as the Caesar cipher, or Vigenere cipher. Understand recent developments in computer encryption, and the concept of public key cryptography. Be able to generate a pseudorandom generator sequence (1,2,3). 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. (5,6)

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. (1,2,3)

Revised February 2018

Last updated

2/16/2018by Christopher Schmitz