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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.


The Future Of Wearables Mike Parks
Google Glass. Samsung Wear. Apple Watch. Occulus Rift. “Wearables” is being crowned as the next big thing in consumer electronics. But is it really? Some see wearables as a fad that is being fostered by the hipster crowd and a technology industry that is searching for a few more years of market growth as the smartphone and tablet market matures.

Beware of “Open Drains” Mike Parks
As you get more advanced with your circuits you will start seeing circuit design patterns that may at first glance seem a bit weird. One such design pattern that can be confusing is the “open drain,” also called the “open collector” (when TTL circuits are involved). For the purpose of this blog we will use the term open collector, though the general principles apply to both technologies: Field Effect Transistors (FET) and Bipolar Junction Transistors (BJT).

Battling the Bouncing Button Mike Parks
Mechanical buttons and switches can present unintended input trouble for embedded electronics projects. There’s an undesired effect known as “bounce.” What is bounce? When you press a button it sometimes does not cleanly change states. There is some electrical noise generated as the button rapidly oscillates between states immediately after a button is pressed but before it settles. Think of it like pulling a mass-spring system downward, letting go, and waiting for it to settle at equilibrium. Switches and buttons oscillate similarly, though the time to settle is measured in milliseconds.

Internet of Things: Fad or Future? Mike Parks
A lot of talk in the tech world lately has centered on an idea called “The Internet of Things”. What is “IoT”, as it is commonly abbreviated? Is it just the latest in a laundry list of tech buzzwords? Or is it something that is really going to change our lives?

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.

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