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Bench Talk for Design Engineers

Bench Talk

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Bench Talk for Design Engineers | The Official Blog of Mouser Electronics


Michael Parks, P.E. is the co-founder of Green Shoe Garage, a custom electronics design studio and embedded security research firm located in Western Maryland. He produces the Gears of Resistance Podcast to help raise public awareness of technical and scientific matters. Michael is also a licensed Professional Engineer in the state of Maryland and holds a Master’s degree in systems engineering from Johns Hopkins University.


Medical Wearables: A Product Designer Perspective Part I Mike Parks
Determining the overall health of the human body is a complicated matter that must account for dozens of indicators, including vital signs (blood pressure, heart rate, and oxygen levels), fitness behavior (distance walked and amount of time sedentary), and more complex analysis of internal organs and systems to include blood cell counts, blood glucose, etc. Fortunately there is a lot of work occurring to shrink and converge medical-related sensors into inexpensive tools.

Analyzing the Possibilities: Designing a Tricorder BoosterPack Mike Parks
The engineering profession and the Maker movement are both driven by the fundamental notion that if you can dream it, you can build it. Now more than ever, individuals and small teams are empowered to turn ideas into functional prototypes without the need for significant upfront capital investment. The combination of affordable electronics design tools (e.g. Mouser's MultiSIM Blue), open source software licensing, desktop manufacturing equipment (e.g. 3D printers and CNC machines, and PCB manufacturing services (e.g. PCB Assembly Express) that cater to small volume productions are making the niche product design affordable and easier than ever before.

Turn The Lights Down and Get Some REST: A Trojan Horse for Automating Commercial Buildings Mike Parks
At a recent energy conference there was a great deal of discussion on how the commercial real estate market might leverage the current infatuation with smart devices, and buzz around the Internet of Things to help propel building automation technology into widespread adoption. It would seem that the technology maturity, price points, and market desire are finally beginning to intersect. In the final analysis many experts, including technologists, energy managers, engineers, and real estate professionals seemed to converge on the notion that lighting will be the key technology that will help other control technologies, such as HVAC, to finally gain greater adoption rates.

Autonomous Vehicles are Rapidly Becoming a Reality Mike Parks
Every major automobile manufacturer is working on them. The potential of autonomous vehicles is also attracting new participants, including Tesla Motors and Alphabet Inc., née Google. Interestingly, a mere eight days after Alan Mulally stepped down as the CEO of Ford Motor Company, he joined the board of Google. It’s even rumored that Apple is trying to find a suitable business partner for the same.

Milling About: CNC Routing a Circuit Board Mike Parks
Breadboards are fantastic for experimenting with a circuit design and testing components. Eventually, you will want to move to a more robust solution for a circuit that is intended to escape the confines of laboratory and bravely venture into the real-world.

STEM Scouts: Boy Scouts of America’s New STEM Initiative (That’s for Girls Too!) Mike Parks
Science. Technology. Engineering. Mathematics. The STEM Movement, along with the Maker Movement, have been transformative forces in our modern society. Both have rekindled a spirit of “can do” optimism and excitement for exploring the unknown that has lain dormant for many of us. The Maker Movement has retaught us that getting your hands dirty and having a do-it-yourself mentality is not just pragmatic or thrifty, it is also just plain fun.

Rock You Like a Hurricane: Why Diversity Matters in STEM Mike Parks
Have you ever noticed that there isn't one fixed hurricane prediction model? Those “cones of error” represent that wide array of assumed courses from many different hurricane models. Each of those models comes with different parameters, algorithms, and input data that leads to different outputs. No model is ever 100% right, but when you discount outliers and find trends among the remaining model, you can get a good enough idea to start making some rational decisions.

MultiSIM BLUE and the Homebrewed Circuit Board Mike Parks
It’s a great time to be an electronics engineer and an even better time to be a weekend warrior tinkerer. The line between these two worlds is rapidly evaporating as the tools that enable circuit design plummet in cost and skyrocket in capability. The most important thing that a product can do for us is to streamline our workflow while still delivering high quality results.

How Technology Companies Can Help Build a “Can Do” Generation Mike Parks
“Young people in Britain have become a lost generation who can no longer mend gadgets and appliances because they have grown up in a disposable world.” I recently came across this quote in an article from the U.K. publication ‘The Telegraph’ in a story that discussed the lack of ‘fix it’ ability in younger generations. This notion is attributed to Danielle George, a Professor of Radio Frequency Engineering at the University of Manchester. I certainly agree that, in concept, as electronic devices have gotten smaller, more robust, and cheaper, we as a society (not just 'young people') have collectively bought into the ‘replace-not-repair’ mindset. In addition, we live in an era where like clockwork a new iPhone is delivered every 12 months. We sometimes choose to replace an older broken device for a new one simply to gain access to new features only available in the newer models. Has this coalesced into a generation that can’t repair anything that breaks? Perhaps.

Build Your Own MSP432 BoosterPack Mike Parks
A little while ago, Texas Instruments (TI) launched their new MSP432 family of microcontrollers. Along with the new silicon, there is also a new LaunchPad development kit. Continuing the tradition from the MSP430, the new chips are very affordable while packing in professional grade features and very impressive energy sipping performance.

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