Course Description

This course provides intensive coverage of the theory and practice of electromechanical instrument design with application to biomedical devices. Students will work with MGH doctors to develop new medical products from concept to prototype development and testing. Lectures will present techniques for designing electronic circuits as part of complete sensor systems. Topics covered include: basic electronics circuits, principles of accuracy, op amp circuits, analog signal conditioning, power supplies, microprocessors, wireless communications, sensors, and sensor interface circuits. Labs will cover practical printed circuit board (PCB) design including component selection, PCB layout, assembly, and planning and budgeting for large projects. Problem sets and labs in the first six Weeks are in support of the project. Major team-based design, build, and test project in the last six Weeks. Student teams will be composed of both electrical engineering and mechanical engineering students.

Teaching Staff

Instructor: Dr. Hongshen Ma
Course Administrator: Maureen Lynch
Mechanical Guru: Prof. Alexander H. Slocum
Electrical Guru: Dr. Chris Salthouse
Medical Guru: Dr. Rajiv Gupta


Assignments and labs 40%
Team project 60%

Assignments and Labs

There will be three assignments covering these lecture areas:

  • Assignment 1: Impedance analysis
  • Assignment 2: OpAmp circuits
  • Assignment 3: Sensors and signal processing

There will be one lab designed to lead students through the process of designing, fabricating, and assembling a printed circuit board (PCB). Students will create a multipurpose data acquisition system that includes a microprocessor, USB connectivity, and wireless connectivity. The labs are done individually, which means that each student will have the opportunity to make their own PCB. The PCB created in the lab will be useful in the project. The lab will require approximately half of the semester to complete and will be composed of the following 6 parts:

  • Lab 1: Circuit design and component selection
  • Lab 2: Learn to use PCB Artist, generate libraries, create schematic
  • Lab 3: PCB layout
  • Lab 4: PCB assembly
  • Lab 5: Microprocessor programming
  • Lab 6: PC user interface design using Visual Basic® (optional)

Team Project

Students will attend a special lecture two days before Lec #2, where doctors from MGH will present their problems and needs for new medical devices. Students will self-organize into teams of four and each team will select a particular problem on which they would like to work. An approximate schedule for the project is given in the course schedule. Starting in Week 3, the teams will meet weekly with staff. Each sponsoring doctor will also be available to meet with the team on a weekly basis. From Week 7 onwards, each team will make weekly presentations on their progress. There will also be a final presentation and demonstration of their device to the MGH doctors in the last Week. A detailed write-up of the project results in the format of a journal article (20 pages double spaced plus figures. Details go in Appendices) is required. An "A" grade project is one that is presented in form and content that is ready to be submitted to a peer-reviewed journal.

Each team will have a budget of $3000 to prototype and test their solution. Legitimate expenses include mechanical and electronic components, PCB fabrication, machine shop and rapid prototyping services (must get an estimate for cost of job), local travel (mileage), etc. (ask Maureen Lynch, Hong Ma, or Prof. Slocum if in doubt). Maureen Lynch will administer team accounts. There is lab space set aside for each team in 5-007.

A key part of your project is to record what you did to help you organize your thoughts and also allow others (or yourself) to continue the work after the semester. Therefore, it is critical to write-as-you-go. Otherwise, brilliant ideas will be lost and may never be reformulated again.


1 Lab 1 and 2 distributed
Lecture 1 - Introduction

Doctors present ideas in class

Lab 1 and 2

Design custom circuit, learn PCB artist, generate libraries, create schematic

Project goals

Students form teams of 4

Lecture 2 - Basic electronics

Linear elements, thevenin-norton, impedance analysis


Lecture 3 - Diodes and transistors

Models, LEDs, peak-detector, zeners, diode protection circuits, BJT, FET, amplifiers, drivers, H-bridges

Lab 3

Layout PCB

Lab 1 and 2 due

Project goals

Define functional requirements

Define components of the system

Research strategies by literature and patent review

Lecture 4 - Power supplies

Proper bypassing, linear power supplies, switching power supplies

MIT libraries lectures on literature and patent searching

Lab 3 due; submit PCB for manufacturing

Lecture 5 - Microprocessors I

Basic topologies, feedback, stability, accurate peak detector

Project goals

Identify most critical module (MCM)

Develop bench level experiments to test strategies for the MCM

Begin to acquire components for MCM and other modules


Lecture 6 - Microprocessors II

Practical considerations, reading op amp datasheets error propagation, filters

Lab 4

Soldering, assembly, and debugging

Project goals

Run bench level experiments

Lecture 7 - OpAmps I

Basics programming concepts, memory organization, clocks, ADCs

Lab 4 due

Lab 5

Microprocessor programming

Project goals

Design circuits for MCM

Robopsy guest lecture

Lecture 8 - OpAmps II

Timers, communications, wireless

Project goals

Design circuits for other modules

Layout circuits

Submit for manufacturing

Lecture 9 - Analog signal processing

ADC, references, noise, synchronous detection

Lab 5 due

Lecture 10 - Sensors I

Capacitive, impedance, optical

Lab 6 (optional)

PC user interface design in Visual Basic®

Project goals

Assemble and test first iteration

Lecture 11 - Sensors II

Encoders, magnetic, strain acoustic, inertial

Lab 6 due
9 Chris Salthouse guest lecture

Project goals

Assemble and test first iteration

No lecture, weekly team meeting with staff
10 No lecture, weekly team meeting with staff

Project goals

Design circuits for 2nd iteration

11 No lecture, weekly team meeting with staff

Project goals

Submit for final manufacturing

12 No lecture, weekly team meeting with staff

Project goals

Develop software and firmware

13 No lecture, weekly team meeting with staff

Project goals

Integration and test device

14 No lecture, weekly team meeting with staff

Project goals

Prototype complete, final paper done

Final presentations in class: projects 1 and 2
15 Final presentations in class: projects 3 and 4

Final class: turn in journal article as final paper

Recap and reflections

Final papers will be accepted as late as last class