General Lab Equipment Obstacle Course

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This obstacle course will give you a general introduction to a variety of important equipment in a scientific laboratory.

While the course focuses on specific instruments available in the Advanced Projects Lab, the techniques and uses of each instrument are generally applicable to other versions of that instrument.


Fluke 179 Multimeter and accessories

The multimeter module will introduce you to use of a Fluke 179 Multimeter (pictured to the right). It will cover the following topics:

  • Measuring voltage
  • Measuring current
  • Measuring resistance and testing for continuity
  • Diode check
  • AC signals, frequency response
  • Capacitance
  • Clamp meter
  • Temperature Measurements

This module is here.

Power Supplies

digital power supply

This module will introduce you to two types of power supplies. It will cover

  • Floating and Grounding modes
  • Analog Power Supplies
  • Digital Power Supplies
  • Current and Voltage Limiting
  • Independent, Parallel and Series (multiplexed) modes.

The module is here.

Function Generators and Oscilloscopes

Rigol Function Generator (top) and Oscilloscope (bottom)

This module will introduce you to use of the Rigol DG1022 Function Generator and the DS1102E Oscilloscope (both pictured to the right). The following topics will be introduced:

Function Generator Topics:

  • Frequency, amplitude, offset, phase
  • Frequency sweep/ramp
  • Sine, square (incl. TTL), triangle, sawtooth, arbitrary waveforms (possibly a demonstration of Fourier components)

O-scope Topics:

  • Voltage/time scale
  • Coupling
  • Triggering
  • Scope probes
  • Termination
  • Bandwidth, sampling
  • Aliasing
  • Analyzing data: cursors, averaging, math menu
  • Exporting data

The module is available here.

RF Signals

  • Measuring RF power
  • Termination and impedance matching
  • Attenuation and filtering
  • Splitters, mixers, and switches

The module is available here.

Lock-in Amplifier

  • Basic idea of operation; reason for using
  • Use switch to turn on and off a highly attenuated signal and detect it with the lock-in

The module is available here.

Frequency Counters

Measure the frequency of an RF source; map frequency vs. voltage curve of a voltage controlled oscillator (VCO)

The module is available here.

RF Spectrum Analyzer

Always be careful to ensure signal input to spectrum analyzer is not too large

  • What does a spectrum analyzer do?
  • Attach wire-loop antenna and find radio stations
  • Mix two RF signals and observe the expected spectrum
  • Measuring amplitude of signal above background
  • Save and export data

The module is available here.


  • Soldering technique
    • Cleaning iron tip
    • Heat pieces to be soldered (hot iron, short time)
    • Avoid cold solder joints
    • Look for shiny and smooth result
  • Tools of the trade: heatshrink tubing, desoldering pump, solder wick, wire strippers, soldering gun, heat gun, rosin flux
  • Solder end of DB9 cable (using only 4 or 5 conductors) to practice stripping wire, using heatshrink tubing, and creating usable product
  • Construct voltage divider on perfboard with BNC input/output connectors

The module is available here here.