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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 owner of Green Shoe Garage, a custom electronics design studio and technology consultancy located in Southern Maryland. He produces the S.T.E.A.M. Power 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.


Don’t Leave Your Pins Floating Mike Parks
When you are just starting off in electronics, there are many design pitfalls that can lead to hours of frustrating troubleshooting. I highlighted the importance of troubleshooting in this earlier blog post regarding my work on the automated energy harvester. Many times these faults are fixed with a very simple tweak to the circuit design or component selection. One of the most basic of the faults is the infamous “floating pin” or “floating input” that can affect the I/O pins of digital integrated circuits.

Analog Inputs In a Digital Only World Mike Parks
I am going to share a trade secret with you today. Did you know you could read an analog signal even if you only have digital inputs on your microcontroller or single board computer? It used to be a common practice, but maybe not so much anymore, judging by the questions I have been asked recently. But you can, and all you need is a simple resistor and capacitor.

Give Your Next OSHW Project Some Android Love Mike Parks
Android, iOS tablets, and smartphones revolutionized the idea of the User Interface (UI). These devices are intuitive, powerful, and omnipresent in our daily lives. So instead of reinventing the wheel for a slick UI to control your next OSHW project, why not simply build the interface as an app? Typically the answer is that creating apps isn't quite as simple as using apps.

Picking The Right Tool For The Job: MCU, SBC or FPGA? Mike Parks
Let’s face it; we’ve all tried to use the wrong tool for the job at hand at least once in our lives. Using a hammer on screws comes to mind as the most common misuse of tools and technology. I will admit it, guilty as charged. Picking the right Open Source Hardware tools and platforms is similar to the picking the right hand tool from our toolbox. Though there is typically enough crossover of functionality between the different types of tools, some are better suited for certain tasks than others. With increasingly more variety of affordable hardware tools coming to market, many makers are starting to ask, “What’s the right tool for the job?”

Embracing the Fail Whale: Learning from Engineering Failures Mike Parks
Throughout human history failure has been a bittersweet fact of life, and engineering is not exempt from this truth. Despite our best efforts (and sometimes, because of the lack thereof), engineering failures occur. The aforementioned examples are just some of the most highly publicized engineering disasters of the last 75 years. Sometimes, as we push the envelope in pursuit of success, things go horribly wrong. However, engineers should never use the reasons of those failures as an excuse. Instead, a failure should be viewed as a call to action, which brings with it the necessity to keep pursuing the root cause(s) of the failure. By doing this, we expand our knowledge and can reduce the likelihood of another disaster occurring in our future endeavors.

How Open Source Launched My Small Business Mike Parks
Open Source Hardware (OSHW) has truly changed my life. It allowed me to launch my own business. How so you might ask? Well let’s take a little stroll down memory lane, shall we?

5 Features Desired for a Future Arduino Mike Parks
The Arduino revolution recently turned the big 1-0! Hard to believe it’s been ten years since that little blue board of electronics magic found it’s way out of Italy and onto lab benches around the globe. I fondly remember many nights and weekends spent with my Arduino Diecimila. It was my first Arduino, and my first prototyping platform since a BASIC Stamp-based platform I acquired back in college.

Building Blocks Mike Parks
When designing large, complex products the value of the principles and practices systems engineering is quite apparent. But what about when designing custom homebrewed electronics, are systems engineering practices valuable or overkill?

Don’t Burn Out! Calculating LED Current Limiting Resistor Mike Parks
Light Emitting Diodes (LEDs) are one of the most fundamental output devices used in open source projects. They provide you a simple way to provide feedback to a user on the status of what’s going on in a circuit. A popular use is a power indicator to let the user know if a device is on. But connecting an LED directly to a power source can cause an LED to burn out. You have to utilize a current limiting resistor in series with the LED for protection.

Cloud-EE With A Chance of Microcontrollers: A Look At The Arduino Yun Mike Parks
Yun may mean “cloud” in Chinese, there is nothing cloudy about the potential of this version of the popular Arduino platform. In fact, the Yun has quickly become a top microcontroller board of choice when I need to develop a quick, inexpensive proof-of-concept.

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