Designing a Relevant Lab for Introductory Signals and Systems

by Edward A. Lee

Proc. of the First Signal Processing Education Workshop, Hunt, Texas, October 15 - 18, 2000



Contemporary reality in a digital, networked, computational world suggests a different approach to the hands-on component of an engineering curriculum. At Berkeley, we have introduced a new course that introduces signals and systems to EECS majors. A major objective of the course is to introduce applications early, well before the students have built up enough theory to fully analyze the applications. This helps to motivate the students to learn the theory. Indeed, a major theme of this course is the connection between a mathematical (declarative) and a computational (imperative) view of systems. In particular, we avoid using software as merely a more convenient way to do calculations that could otherwise be done by hand. Instead, we emphasize the use of software to perform operations that could not possibly be done by hand, operations on real signals such as sounds and images. We use Matlab and Simulink, and introduce them as complementary tools with distinct models of computation. Simulink, however, has some distinct limitations that compromise its utility. We offer some suggestions for future tools that would better match our objectives.