The View from the Chalkboard – May 2013

One of the questions I get asked frequently is “What software exists that can be used to assist in the teaching of EMC?” This is a good question! For this month’s column I would like to ask you that same thing – with the hope that either (a) Others can learn from what you are using, or (b) This serves as a “thought starter” as to the type of software is needed or could be used in EMC education.
It has been my experience that although some people have had success with adapting various circuit analysis programs (such as SPICE) for EMC analysis purposes, it required significant up-front work to fully define the problem (such as identification of parasitic components) which was then input to the circuit analysis. At the other end of the spectrum, many of us are familiar (and/or have used) some of the highly capable electromagnetics modeling and simulation packages that also exist. While both these methods have their value, it seems like there is a gap in the needs of students and EMC educators to have software that can be used as a first introduction to EMC analysis using computer analysis methods.

The feedback that I have received when I have also asked this question of my colleagues is that what EMC educators are looking for is a way to be able to illustrate various concepts in EMC without the students getting lost in the details of the analysis program itself. Ideally, the software should be able to demonstrate the basic concepts of EMC, such as determination of emissions levels for a certain hardware design (conducted and radiated), effects of various electric and magnetic fields upon basic circuits and systems (conditions of radiated susceptibility/immunity) and methods to provide insight into shielding effectiveness for various conditions such as near and far fields, electric or magnetic field shielding, perhaps with identification of the dominant shielding mechanism for a specific conditions (such as reflection or absorption). These programs would ideally run on the most common systems in use today, and possibly some of them even be made available in the “app” format for smartphone/tablet usage.

So – what do you think? Is it possible to utilize computer packages to illustrate various EMC concepts in an effective manner in the university classroom? What features or capabilities would you like to see in order for this to be useful to you? Should this software be restricted to “on campus” use or be made available for students via the internet? Where best this software would be used – in a classroom lecture or in a lab class? These are just some of the initial questions that I see as important ones to address when incorporating software packages as a part of an EMC curriculum (or course).

As I have done before on other topics that we’ve discussed in this column – I’d like to have your feedback, comments, and questions that we can explore in the upcoming months. To get started, perhaps it would be useful to provide readers of this column an overview of
what is currently being done and/or desired. I am proposing a simple matrix that can help answer some of these questions.

If you have information that you would like to share, please contact me, I look forward to helping us all in this important aspect of EMC education.

Thank you in advance! 

Send your university EMC courses to be included in the matrix to Mark Steffka.

Software Name Used for Operating System Feature For additional information, contact:
“ABC” Classroom lectures To be determined Graphical interface EMC educator’s name or software company name
“XYZ” To support lab experiments To be determined Produces “SPICE” compatible output EMC educator’s name or software company name


author steffka-mark-2 Mark Steffka, B.S.E., M.S.
is a Lecturer (at the University of Michigan – Dearborn), an Adjunct Professor (at the University of Detroit – Mercy) and an automotive company Electromagnetic Compatibility (EMC) Technical Specialist. His university experience includes teaching undergraduate, graduate, and professional development courses on EMC, antennas, and electronic communications.  His extensive industry background consists of over 30 years’ experience with military and aerospace communications, industrial electronics, and automotive systems.
Mr. Steffka is the author and/or co-author of numerous technical papers and publications on EMC presented at various Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) and Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) conferences.  He has also written about and has been an invited conference speaker on topics related to effective methods in university engineering education. He is an IEEE member, has served as a technical session chair for SAE and IEEE conferences and has served as an IEEE EMC Society Distinguished Lecturer.  He holds a radio communications license issued by the United States’ Federal Communication Commission (FCC) and holds the call sign WW8MS.