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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.


You’ve Got Mail: Branching Out Beyond The Arduino, Part 2 Mike Parks
We’re going to jump right in with this blog post. If you haven’t done so already I highly encourage you to read this article about an automated mailbox delivery project I recently completed. Also check out the first blog post in this series that discussed some key lessons learned, including the importance of reading the manual and some thoughts on open source software

You’ve Got Mail: Branching Out Beyond The Arduino, Part I Mike Parks
In a recent article published last month titled Solar Energy Harvesting Project to Power a Remote MSP430 with 2.4GHz Notification, we tried to inspire designers and makers that have limited experience outside of the Arduino microcontroller platform to explore different platforms typically used by more seasoned design engineers.

Seeing The Light: A Circuit For Interfacing With Ambient Light Sensors Mike Parks
We built a smart mailbox, as related in an article, that had an ambient light sensor to detect when the mailbox door was opened. In that project we used a Vishay ambient light sensor (Mouser Part #782-TEPT4400) that acts very much like an NPN transistor, in fact the part is also referred to as a phototransistor. The difference being (when compared to a normal bipolar junction transistor) that instead of needing a base lead to setup the bias voltage, photons provide energy at the base-collector junction to turn the transistor on, thus allowing current flow from collector-to-emitter.

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.

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