Lab classes have always been a part of electronics engineering courses. Students build circuits, run experiments, make measurements, and validate the theories they learn about in lectures. These labs are stocked with typical instruments such as meters, scopes, generators, and trainers. With the myDAQ from National Instruments, though, students can perform many lab experiments on their own.
The myDAQ is a handheld package that includes all the basic instruments needed to implement most lab experiments (see the figure). Students plug the myDAQ into the USB port on a laptop, and they immediately have access to a full set of virtual instruments. Add a breadboard socket and some low-cost components, and students can conduct an amazing range of circuit explorations. And the myDAQ only costs $175, which is just a bit more than the average new hardcover textbook today.
There seems to be a renewal of interest in giving students more practical hands-on lab work (see “What’s Happening In EE Education? Try Business As Usual”). The myDAQ enables students to do many if not most of their lab assignments at home, in the dorm, or wherever. It allows them to play around and experiment with circuits and applications of their own too, further increasing their learning. The device also offers a solution to the problem of online EE courses and their lack of a lab.
The myDAQ offers eight LabVIEW software-based instruments, including a digital multimeter (DMM), a two-channel oscilloscope with a 200-ksample/s sampling rate, a function generator, a Bode analyzer, a dynamic signal analyzer (FFT), an arbitrary waveform generator, and digital reader and digital writer I/O. It also features built-in +5-V and ±15-V power supplies. Its iPod-compatible 3.5-mm audio plug/jack inputs and outputs permit a wide range of audio experimentation. The software includes student versions of LabVIEW and the popular simulation software Multisim as well. The device is built with a few dozen Texas Instruments ICs, including op amps, regulators, dc-dc converters, an analog-to-digital converter (ADC), and a digital-to-analog converter (DAC).
The myDAQ will be a hit with most colleges and universities as well as community colleges and technical schools.