Lab 5: RC Circuits & Peak-Peak Voltage vs Frequency


Wire Jumper Kit

Voltage Probe

Proto Board






.1 µF capacitor





1 MΩ resistor


Function Generator
















I began this experiment much like the last by forking and cloning onto the desktop the given repository  ,2012-Physics-308L-Lab-5. After locating and acquiring the necessary materials, I began by developing the necessary VI in LabView.


The goal of the this experiment was measure the peak to peak voltage of the RC circuit when the function generator was set to different frequencies. The VI was supposed to record this data in such a way that a *.PNG file capturing the front face with a time and date stamp would be generated every time the program with run. Additionally, the program would display the current reading alongside the most recent reading. The instructions detailed that we should begin by modifying the buffered data acquisition VI from Lab 4, however, I failed to read the instructions carefully and ended up creating the VI from scratch, while referencing the example provided by Dr. Koch. The front panel and the block diagram for the new VI can be viewed below. ( Once again I do not have the *.PNG files for these images as I must have mistakenly deleted them while deleting the test screen captures from testing out the VI before I began taking measurements.)


RC Circuit

The RC circuit was constructed with the materials listed above. Two different views of the the board can be viewed below, as well as the quick sketch of the RC circuit I drew to quickly explain what we were constructing to one of my fellow students.

RC Circuit Diagram

RC Circuit View 1


RC Circuit View 2


In the above photos the green wires are connected to the voltage probe that is plugged into the function generator. The red wires are connected to the voltage probe that is plugged into the oscilloscope. The yellow wires are connected to the channel 1 and channel two ports of the MCC DAQ card. I now realized that I should have taken a wider angle photo or maybe even a video to better display the nature of the circuit.

Testing the Circuit

I began by testing the circuit by checking to see if the proper sine wave would be displayed by the oscilloscope when it was hooked up to the circuit as described above. It initially displayed a lot of noise and it was deduced by Dr. Koch that this was due to the order in the circuits that the grounds of the voltage probes were connected. They needed to be reoriented so that they were directly after one another in the sequence in order for the reading to be shown correctly. As of now the true reason why this must be so is unknown. In the future I will take additional photographs to improve upon the explanation.

While testing different frequencies the sine wave became distorted and then dissappeared completely. Dr. Koch explained that I needed to simply adjust the time scale on the oscilloscope to correct this.

Testing the VI

I hooked up the MCC DAQ card to the RC circuit as described above and ran the VI. Initially, it did not show any data in the either graph and I quickly realized that it was displaying an error code “1” nothing that I had the “incorrect board number”. I redid the board test under measurement computing from last week and everything seemed to be in order. From here I attempted to use the example VI provided by Dr. Koch and it reported the same error. I tried to remedy this error by adding an input for the board number and connected it to the “Aln ScFg” VI that was imbedded in the loop of the larger VI. This did not have any effect. Finally, after consulting with Dr. Koch, he had me close down LabView  completely and the reopen it. This solved the problem and it also turns out that the addition of the “board number” input was unnecessary because for the VI to work it needed to be set to “0”. A screen shot of acquired data can be seen below.

While acquiring the majority of the data it became apparent to me that the VI should have also included fields to input and display the frequencies of the current and former trials respectively.

Acquiring Data

After all the debugging the VI was complete I began to take readings of the Peak-Peak voltage. I started with a frequency of .4 Hz and moved this incremently higher until I reached ~100 Hz. I then jumped much higher to the the ~300 Hz range, to the ~600 Hz range, and finally to the about ~900 Hz range. There was very little deviation in the readings, so I returned to the frequency range near the cutoff frequency of 159 Hz, that was determined form the equation (f = 1/(2pi RC). I also recorded the acquired data, along with the corresponding frequencies in an excel spreadsheet. This data was then uploaded under my account to Figshare. From this data I created a graph plotting the peak-peak voltage vs the frequency that can be seen below.

From this it is easy to extrapolate that the prediction of the cutoff value of 159 Hz is very similar to the data that was acquired during the experiment. It is also pertinent to mention that the peak-peak voltage data displayed on the y-axis is not in terms of volts. Dr. Koch explained to us that the data acquired by the MCC DAQ card was still in raw bit form and had not yet been transformed to volts. This does not, however, preclude one from determining the cutoff frequency, as the trend stays the same whether in bits or volts.

Details of Materials

USB-1208LS USB-based Analog and Digital I/O Module (Board Serial #163)

BK Precision 4017A 10 MHz Sweep/Function Generator

Tektronix P2220 Voltage Probe

Tektronix TDS 1002 Two Channel Digital Storage Oscilloscope


Dr. Koch

Wikipedia: Articles on Capacitance and Resistance

Lab 4: Data Acquisition from a Function Generator


I began by forking 2012-Physics-308L-Lab-4 from stevekochscience at and then I cloned the repository to the desktop computer.


I then acquired the necessary hardware needed for measurements shown below.

USB-1208LS USB-based Analog and Digital I/O Module (Board Serial #163)


BK Precision 4017A 10MHz Sweep/Function Generator


Tektronix P2220 Voltage Probe

Final Setup


From here I needed to make sure the board was working and then determine the board number. To do this I located the program Instacal by first going to the start menu and then to the folder “measurement computing”. It gave me the board serial number as 163. Then I performed the Analog Test to determine that the board was indeed functional. As shown below it displayed the desired square wave when connected to the proper channels.




Both the following programs were created while referencing the programs downloaded from Dr. Koch’s Lab 4 repository on GitHub. I also received additional help from Dr. Koch with the fine tuning of the program, especially on the latter of the two.


Point-by-Point VI

The goal of the first VI was create a program that would acquire one data point at a time from the function generator and then graph the output wave of the data.

The following are displays of the front panel and block diagram of this VI.


 Front Panel


Block Diagram

The above VI was fairly simple to create. Below are some screen shots of different frequency settings for the function generator. As can be see after about 5 Hz it gets increasingly more difficult to distinguish the waves from one another. This is due to the slow rate at which the data is sent from the measurement module to the computer across the USB cable. While reading over Paul’s notebook I learned that the actually frequency that it should be able to read is about 25 Hz. This can be determined from the Nyquist criterion f(sample)/2.


5 Hz

10 Hz


1062 Hz


Buffered VI

The second VI we created was meant to sample at much higher rate through the use of buffering. While creating the VI I ran into some difficulties acquiring data. This was determined to be the result of some wiring errors. I connected the range toggle hooked up to the rate input on AlnScFg.Vi and the opposite as well. Once this was corrected the VI performed as desired. Below are the screen shots for both the front panel and block diagram, as well as readings at different frequencies for the function generator. It is clear that this VI is much more capable at acquiring data at hire frequencies than the VI that sampled point by point.


 Front Panel


Block Diagram

4 Hz


551 Hz

1043 Hz

Physics Colloquium & Adventures With Twitter

On Friday the 10th of February, I attended the Physics Colloquium that covered Lightning: Physics and Protection Systems, and was given by Dr. Marvin E Morris. The talk began by discussing the process through which lightning is generated, with regard to the step ladder process and its nonlinear nature. From there the speaker went on to detail the great number of structures and vehicles that are at risk of damage and destruction from lightning. One of the most riveting images depicted a plane being struck by lightning. During the talk I took a photo of the projector image with my Asus TF201 and bellow is a higher quality version of the photo I found online. It is interesting to note that the plane was unharmed by the strike.








This naturally led to the discussion of different manners through which structures can be protected from lightning. There were tests to determine the viability of utilizing Faraday cages to protects buildings. This was successful but the feasibility of enclosing all such at risk structures in such cages is doubtful. If you want to construct your own, however, you can learn to do so here.

The awesome part of the talk involved the use of rockets to create lightning in order to test the Faraday cages. Several riveting images and videos were displayed and the one below I found on the web.















Lastly, the lecturer discussed the surprising risk that mines face from lightning strikes. He detailed that both far reaching underground electric fields and electricity directly conducted from the surface to the mine through metal can cause much destruction, as was evident in the disaster at the Sage Mine.

This lecture was enhanced through the live tweeting of the colloquium by the students in the Junior Physics Lab. I was skeptical at first when were told that we would be utilizing Twitter, as I had always viewed it as another useless form of social media that celebrities and athletes used to flood the internet with their inane thoughts. After this experience my views have been greatly altered. I see how the live tweeting stimulated discussion and allowed all of to record the parts of the talk that struck us as important and also let us ask questions and receive clarification on subjects we may have been confused by. It did take some time to get acclimated to paying attention to both the lecture and the tweets of the other students. It helped that I was able to dedicate my tablet to keeping me updated on the information being posted by the students, while I used my cell phone to post my own tweets.  It is very clear that Twitter can be used in a positive way to gather and connect shared knowledge, and maybe even follow a celebrity of two.

My twitter account can be found here.

Lab 2, Day 1

I began by creating a directory where the the forked 2012-Physics-308L-Lab-2 repository will be stored once it is cloned to the local computer. This later turned out to be redundant as when the repository is cloned to the local computer it creates a directory of the same name as that of the repository. This created some issues when pushing the folder back to the repository but this will be discussed later.

The lab went pretty smoothly. I initially started by reading the Introduction to LabView but was able to quickly realize that it would be more productive if I attempted to create the assigned program and only referred to the tutorial as needed. I eventually, even abandoned this and instead just referred to the help section in LabView itself.

The actual generation of the program was pretty straightforward. Through referencing both the help section of LabView, the example program provided by Steve Koch, and Professor Koch himself, I was able to construct a program that generated exponentially distributed random numbers and the provided a histogram of these numbers. I did have some difficulty connecting the wires between objects but after some practice I became more adept at it. Also, I changed the cursor to auto mode and this saved time by not having to change constantly between different functions, such as wiring mode.

When committing and uploading the documents to GitHub I ran into some difficulties. As mentioned early, I created a new directory and then forked and cloned the given repository to the lab computer. However, this created a directory within the directory I had just created. When I wanted to commit and upload the file I had to make sure that I was accessing the directory that was created with I cloned the repository. Once I did this I was able to easily upload the files. The final issue I had was navigating the commenting program that auto loaded when I initiated upload. Professor Koch helped with this by telling me that within this program you pressed “i” to insert a comment, “esc” to exit the program. Additionally, there was a time where he had me hold down “shift” and press “z” “z”. I will need to ask him about this once more in the future.

Once everything was uploaded, I took screen captures of the front and block diagram views of the from LabView. These can be found below.

Additionally, I went to get screen captures of the GitHub code for reference but I received an error stating the computer was encountering a failure while trying to access the clipboard. George also experienced this same problem. Instead, I took pictures of the monitor with my Iphone. The photos are less clear but they serve their purpose and can be found below.


Lastly, I failed to remember that I simply saved this post as a draft and did not post it on the day of the lab. I realized this when I went to comment on other notebooks today.