I have read more than year ago (2012) interesting articles about Digilent‘s Analog Discovery Kit. I even quickly tried the WaveForms Software the cames with it (freely available and testable without hardware). It looked interesting, but I decided that maybe I don’t at the moment need this and skipped it (I did not even write on the blog). Later I met a collegue that had such kit, and after hearing many good thing about it I think that it might be worth to mention that product on this blog.
Analog circuit design kit jointly by ADI and Digilent article tells that Analog Devices, Inc. (ADI) and the leading design tool/board vendor Digilent have unveiled two all-in-one analog design kits for electronics engineering students to practice and learn analog circuit design. This low-cost analog hardware development platform and components is offered at price range of a typical student textbook ($99/$199/$279 USD). It comes with downloadable teaching materials, online course material, online support, textbook, reference designs (circuit diagrams) and lab projects.
I can agree with the claim that active learning – learning by doing – helps engineering students understand the process of breaking down larger problems into smaller, more easily solved parts without losing the overall understanding of the complete system. The old teaching system is expensive: A lab bench costs $5,000-$10,000 to replace; to establish a classroom is at least $100,000 and another $100,000 to man the labs. Doing experiments outside the classroom is a way to get people engaged in the process earlier. This is great step beyond experimenting with sound card oscilloscope, smartphone signal analyzer and tablet signal generator. This is market where there are also several other products (for example PCSGU250 Velleman USB-PC Scope + Generator). Here is Analog Discovery Introduction video:
Analog Discovery 2 channel scope, waveform generator, logic analyzer article tells that Digilent’s Analog design kit is a 100 MSPS 2 channel scope, a 2 channel 100MSPS waveform generator, and a 16 channel logic analyzer built into one. The design kit is built using analog semiconductor chips from ADI including: Two 50 MSPS / 5 MHz 14 bit differential oscilloscopes (1 MΩ, 24 pF) ±25V max, Two 50 MSPS / 5 MHz 14 bit waveform generators (single-ended, arbitrary waves up to +-5V at 22 ohm impedance), Two fixed power supplies (+5V 50mA, -5V 50mA), 16-channel logic analyzer/pattern generator (3.3V CMOS 100Ms/s). The device is USB powered and portable sized. The provided controlling software is available for Windows (XP and newer) that can do in addition to basic oscilloscope and signal generation also Network analyzer (Bode, Nyquist, Nichols transfer diagrams of a circuit 1Hz to 10MHz), Spectrum Analyzer (power spectrum, spectral measurements, noise floor, SFDR, SNR, THD, etc.) and Digital Bus Analyzers (SPI, I2C, UART, Parallel). It should also be supported by MATLAB / MATLAB student edition. There also SDK available for Linux (Debian). If you are interested, Analog Discovery Kit is available from Farnell and some other suitable sources.
Another interesting somewhat similar device is Red Pitaya. Red Pitaya is designed to Red Pitaya turns your smartphone, tablet or PC into many instruments like Generator, Spectrum analyzer, PID controller, Oscilloscope, Frequency response monitor etc. This looks like another student’s dream. It is more expensive ($470) but has also somewhat better specifications to compensate the price. This open-source device was funded through Kickstarter.
For a quick overview of the board, users will find two analog inputs and two analog output (125 megasamples per second with a 14-bit resolution). In addition, the board is coming equipped with a dual core ARM Cortex processor plus a Xilinx Zynq FPGA. As a result, 16 GPIO pins can be used with the FPGA and four pairs of differential pins for serial data transfer and synchronization. It includes Ethernet, USB, SATA, and JTAG connections. There is open-source repository where code and tools can easily be accessed for further development or use. Programmers can develop code in HDL, C/C++, scripting languages such as Perl or Python, MATLAB, or HTML Web applications. If you want to get the device you need to go to RS Components Ltd.