The Electronics Department
The Electronics department offers AQA GCSE Electronic Products and OCR AS/A2 Electronics.
For the GCSE electronic products course, the students are taught electronics from scratch starting with basic things like the resistor colour code and then rapidly moving on to studying ‘real’ electronics including digital logic, counters displays, amplifiers and the use of microcontrollers. Being an electronic products course we also study case design, PCB design and manufacturing processes. We have full microcontroller programming and PCB production facilities. 60% of the final marks for the course are awarded to a project which is generally started at the end of Year 10.
At AS/A2 the emphasis is on understanding the electronics and so all work is generally undertaken on prototyping boards without the need to produce a complete product. At AS level, three build and test exercises account for the assessed coursework component and 27.5% of the final marks are awarded for these. There is one exercise each from the digital, analogue and microprocessor areas of the course. Full projects are undertaken at A2 Level and, again, these account for 27.5% of the final mark. The AS course reinforces much of the work done at GCSE but extends it considerably pretty early in the course. The areas studied include Logic, flip-flops, counters, displays, amplifiers, filters, schmitt triggers, integrators and power supplies. At A2 the topics studied include transistors, communication systems, radio, television, and microprocessors.
Electronics is taught with a strong focus on practical work and most lessons include an element of circuit building using real components. We do not use the screw- together circuit boards or kits. Students are encouraged to ‘play’ with a circuit once it has been built by changing component values, adding bits on or finding alternative implementations. In electronics there is never just one way to do things but a whole range of alternative solutions – the good electronic engineer takes a number of factors into consideration; cost, availability, maintenance, before settling on a final design.
One of the great strengths of the electronics department is its use of ICT and simulation. We have the very latest circuit and microprocessor simulation packages along with PCB design and PIC programming software. We are fully equipped with the test equipment needed to find even the most annoying fault.
Why should students opt to study electronics? Well, for many it will be a completely new subject but one that is extremely beneficial for those hoping to pursue careers in engineering, science, ICT or computing. It helps students develop skills of logical thought and problem solving which are very much in demand by today’s employers. Electronics provides a real challenge and gets the grey matter working – ‘How do I implement this sub-system? What value of resistor do I need here? Where can I find the pin-out of this chip?’ It is an extremely rewarding subject - what a sense of achievement when you switch on and your circuit works first time!
For students wishing to study electronics at AS/A2 level there is no requirement to take mathematics or physics; all a student needs to know will be taught in the electronics lessons. However, students will need to have gained a grade B in maths and science at GCSE.