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Professor Jesson’s Tutorial on Digital Signal Integrity

Professor Joe Jesson, an Associate Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering at TCNJ, worked with his Spring 2014 ELC 441 Digital Engineering Systems Class to create a tutorial about digital signal integrity, which was published on Sonnetsoftware.com.
The advanced engineering class focused on the properties of high speed digital circuits. The students came up with individual projects that show mastery of the subject material, and as part of the projects, Jesson introduced a new electromagnetic modeling tool from the company Sonnet, which the students evaluated and explored in depth.
Sonnet provides commercial software for solutions for high frequency EM analysis, and provides interfaces to work within major high frequency CAE design frameworks, as well as import and export to printed circuit board designs in DXF, GDSII and Gerber. The class looked at Sonnet as a planar EM solver with verified models for anisotropic dielectrics by major printed circuit board vendors.
During the class, the students looked at Verilog synthesis tools, Microwave Office and other traditional electromagnetic tools. One of the major parts of the course was learning how to properly lay out printed circuit board designs for high speed digital.
“The problem is the trend to faster and faster switch rates creates the need for such an electromagnetic modeling design tool into your design product layout,” Jesson says.
Jesson had the students each put together a tutorial and report on how they used the electromagnetic modeling design tools and what they learned from each part of the class assignments. The class then put together all of their reports and created one broad base tutorial useful for generalized learning, which included basics through proper printed circuit board layout design.
“That’s kind of the technical-side,” Jesson says, “the people-side of it is that we had a good class response to putting together a tutorial.” Jesson found it a useful construct for the students because they learned how to teach others by creating a broad tutorial.
The tutorial was well-received by the President of Sonnet, and Jesson was asked if the tutorial could be put on Sonnet’s website as a resource. The tutorial can be found under the Resources section on the Sonnet homepage, under the sub-heading Applications, titled “Digital Signals Integrity Tutorial, Sonnet Microstrip Models.” The description reads, “This tutorial, authored by Professor Joe Jesson from the College of New Jersey, discusses Signal Integrity challenges and Sonnet’s capabilities to model 3D planar circuits in the frequency domain.”
“It’s really by me and my class,” he corrects; on the tutorial pdf, Jesson credits all of his students by name on the title page, “I made sure I was inclusive of the whole class.”
Jesson was also very lucky to have Brazilian students in his class, who were very involved in the tutorial process, “The other cool thing that we got out of it was that almost a third of the class was from Brazil, and they volunteered to write the tutorials in Portuguese.”
The Portuguese version is also available to download, directly underneath the English tutorial. “That was kind of like serendipity,” he says, “I got a third of the class that are fluent in Portuguese!”
Jesson says that he learned to teach as much as possible in writing, because he found that the Brazilian students understood reading more than spoken word. He made sure to carefully document everything he could for the Brazilian students, which led to his idea of actually using that documented work to create a tutorial with the class.
“The cool thing is that now the students now have something published to Sonnet’s commercial website,” Jesson says. “The students were thrilled to have their name on it!”
Professor Jesson and his classes’ tutorial can be found here, and the Portuguese version can be found here.