Electronics is taught as a separate academic subject and is
closely aligned to the Science Department. All boys in Third and
Fourth Form enjoy a varied electronics course which aims to
stimulate an interest in the subject whilst introducing basic
skills such as soldering and circuit building. Electronics is then
available at both GCSE and A level for those boys who wish to study
the subject in greater detail.
Paul Nicholls BSc - Head of Electronics
Mr Nicholls taught in Durham before spending five years teaching
in Turkey. He joined the Merchiston staff in September 2002. His
interests include sailing, sound & lighting and Engineering. He
became Head of Department in September 2003. Mr Nicholls runs the
sailing activity, Science club (in the junior school) and
Engineering activities (in the senior school).
The Electronics laboratory is well equipped with a wide range of
apparatus including IT based tools such as digital oscilloscopes
and simulation software. There is also an extensive stock of
components available and students are encouraged to undertake their
own projects if they are suitably motivated. All examined
Electronics courses are supported by significant resources on the
School's virtual learning environment.
III Form: boys learn basic circuit building
skills and how simple circuits work through independent practical
activities, including the use of simulation software. They then
learn to solder and put their new found skills to good use to build
a simple amplifier which they are free to take home.
IV Form: boys manufacture a control
board for a programmable robot. At the same time, the robot chassis
is developed in D&T classes, and they learn the required
programming skills in ICT. The robots are based around the popular
PICAXE micro-controllers and programmed using flowchart software.
Finally, students can upgrade their buggies to add sensors,
flashing lights and faster motors before taking them home.
Shell & V Forms: the course does not
assume any previous knowledge of electronics and students start by
considering basic circuit theory and electrical safety. The
remainder of the theory course then considers electronics from a
systems approach as each individual system is investigated in
isolation before being used to build up more complex projects. The
GCSE electronics course is intensely practical and students really
develop their circuit building skills, learn to employ a wide
variety of standard laboratory equipment and solve their own
problems whenever possible. The theory course also considers
several more complex systems such as radios, audio systems and
microprocessors. Having completed all the necessary theory,
students undertake a major project to design, build, test and
evaluate a useful electronic product.
AS: the course continues to build upon the
work covered at GCSE level although many students entering at sixth
form level have successfully completed the AS course having had no
previous experience of the subject. The AS theory course covers
complex analogue and digital systems including combinational and
sequential logic, amplifiers, power supplies and micro-controllers.
Students complete three separate coursework projects which allow
them to investigate the operation of different circuits in detail.
Although coursework is an important part of the course, there is
not as much practical work as at GCSE level, instead the AS course
adopts a more theoretical and mathematical approach to the subject.
Electronics is an excellent AS subject choice for students
considering a career in Engineering.
A2: this is not a taught course. Students
who have successfully completed the AS course (and ideally achieved
a grade A) are able to undertake the A2 course in their own time on
a tutorial basis. Students meet with their teacher once per cycle
to discuss problems and agree on the next area for study but
otherwise study the course independently. This is excellent
preparation for university where a more independent approach to
academic work is expected. The A2 course requires the students to
complete a major practical project involving a significant number
of individual subsystems.