For fifteen years I used my Radio Shack 22-168A digital multimeter as my go-to meter. A couple of years ago I bought a Fluke 115. Not because the RS meter lacked a measurement, but because I wanted a backlit screen. Here’s the crazy thing though in 20 years of multimeter development, there hasn’t been much innovation. Well outside of maybe auto-ranging.
All three meters I have, plus the Virtual Bench I reviewed about a year ago all continue to have the same limitation: they can only perform one measurement at a time. That’s one feature that makes my latest meter, the Mooshimeter, unique. It can measure both voltage and current at the same time. Oh, and it doesn’t have a screen.
When it comes to Kickstarters, I have been relatively lucky. Most of the projects I back have shipped, even if years after I forgot. However, few Kickstarters are something I use on a regular basis. The Arduboy has been a pleasant surprise. This Kickstarter-backed project packages the ease of programming an Arduino into a game playing friendly form factor. Here’s my first Arduboy review, impressions and hands-on experience.
In addition to hands-on learning workshops, there was a display of Arduino/Genuino projects by students. In the afternoon, three Arduino co-founders gave a short talk. David Mellis spoke on Machine Learning. Tom Igoe did his first talk on Technology and Humanities. Lastly, Massimo Banzi talked about IoT.
Reading a blog post like this one is something we all do multiple times a day. As early as 20 years ago, such a concept was still entirely unknown to the rest of the world. Walter Isaacson’s “The Innovators…” book is a history telling of the players involved from the early days of Ada Lovelace all the way through to Google’s search success.
Here are some of my favorite highlights from the book.
The Martian by Andy Weir is an engineer’s dream story. The story opens with Mark Watney being stranded on Mars after an accident occurs. The book is a collection of his daily logs on the Martian surface, chronicling the measures he takes to stay alive.
Rarely do I read a fiction book so well thought out, I start solving the problems along with the characters. Midway through I was excited because I would see Mark’s solution as one of the possible answers in my head. I also found myself invested in what happens to Mark. He is a likeable guy and, at least for me, easily relatable.
One cliché I didn’t care for was the “evil” mission control characters. NASA has struck me as an organization that is pretty level-headed, with most of its decision makers have some engineering background. A few times it seems mission control has lost their mind–like you see in poorly written movies.
That flaw is pretty minor, though, especially compared to the quality of the overall writing.
If you are someone who has a passion for space exploration, interest in going to Mars, and an engineer: The Martian by Andy Weir is a must-read.
A couple of weeks ago I was invited to join The Engineering Commons podcast to talk about capacitors on episode 93. I had been a listener of the podcast because I heard about it in this book. A Whole New Engineer looks at the changes are needed in engineering education. My personal interest was to see if there were elements I could apply to the AddOhms Electronics Tutorials I create. Like all aspects of our lives, evoluation is occuring and educaiton is no different. On top of that, traditional education techniques rarely prepare students for live after school.
The traditional weed-out lecture courses and stand-alone research projects are a thing of the past.
The stories about Olin College of Engineering were eye opening. Thinking back to my time at Purdue, I wished I could have been at the foundation of a new curriculum (though, I’m glad I had the one I did.) My eye opener with the Olin example is how it is analogous to the “real world.” Traditional engineering education silos instructor from the student, in much the same way large corporations silo work functions. The idea of breaking down those silos between Instructor (manager) and Student (employee) to achieve an overall goal is very progressive and based on the research provided, rewarding.
Whether you are involved in engineering education or, like me, just have passion for sharing it–I highly recommend this excellent book. Whether if you’re writing tutorials, creating a classroom, putting together a workshop, or even helping out with STEM, there are key tidbits you will pull from this book.
When you need to buffer the output of an R-2R ladder or an RC filtered PWM signal, an op-amp is a single chip option. Unlike a discrete NPN transistor like a 2n3904, there is a lot going on inside of an LM741—or any op amp for that matter.
What if you could look inside of the op-amp? Wouldn’t it be cool to see how many transistors make up these small chips?
Put your electron microscope away. The XL741 from Evil Mad Scientist Labs is perfect for the job. I built one of these super fun solder kits and compared it to a real 741.
One of my early hobbies as a kid was collecting baseball cards. At every card show, I was on the lookout for the 1989 Ken Griffey Jr Rookie card, #1, from Topps.My collecting craze lasted until the baseball strike in 1994. Then I lost interest in professional baseball and its collectibles.
You’re asking, what does this have to do with electronics? Well, the Circuit Trading Cards from Arachnid Labs reminds me of the days I spent trading baseball cards. Instead of memorizing RBIs and Homerun counts, these circuit patterns trading cards teach you circuit basics.
The card stock used is of high quality, and each unique card has a durable feel. One side is the Arachnid Labs logo while the other is what I call the “information side.” The information side is one of three colors: Yellow (Analog), Blue (Digital), and Green (Power).
There are two methods to making a prototype PCB: 1) Etch Your Own or 2) Send to a Prototyping Service. While there are many prototyping service options, most cause you to wait anywhere between 24 hours and 30 days before you get your boards back.
If you need a PCB done today, etching at home is a great option. Chemical etching involves all kinds of steps with all kinds of weird chemicals. If you don’t want your neighbors to think you’re the next Walter White, then mechanical etching is a better option. Which is why I bought an X-Carve from Inventables. It’s a CNC Milling Kit you build yourself.
National Instruments changed the world of instrumentation when it released the VirtualBench. For about $2000 (USD), they give you a bench’s worth of equipment in a box about the size of Horowitz’s The Art of Electronics! In this video review, I take a look at the VirtualBench’s 6 built-in functions.