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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.


Powered by the Intel Edison Mike Parks
A long time ago (January 2014) at a Consumer Electronics Show far, far away (unless you live in Las Vegas), Intel unveiled their Edison “computer-on-module” development board aimed at wearables and Internet of Things (IoT) applications. A mashup of an Arduino and Raspberry Pi, with a dash of WiFi, Bluetooth, and a 4GB of flash memory compressed into a package just a little larger than an SD card, the Edison has proven to be a formidable embedded platform. In the months since the world got their hands on the Edison boards, a lot of amazing projects have emerged. We’ll take a look at four Edison-based creations that have captured our imaginations.

Walking Ham: A Day in the Life of a “Walking Dead” Amateur Radio Operator Mike Parks
“CQ CQ CQ. This is November One Hotel November Papa. Anyone got their ears on?” I ask the ether. Still, nothing but static. It’s been like this for months now. My stomach is grumbling but my desire to find someone, anyone, is too strong to breakaway from my radio. Not to mention the fact that those roaming monsters scare the heck out of me. Leaving the relatively safe confines of my ham shack is decidedly unappealing except for the annoying little fact that my food supplies are running low. Very low.

Medical Wearables: A Product Designer Perspective, Part II Mike Parks
The story of medical wearables is no different than the story of technology in general. Exponential growth in capability commensurate with the shrinking of size and cost of products is simply converging to a point that the costs of fielding preventative measures like wearables is a solid alternative to just waiting until something inside of us breaks and we are rushed to the emergency room. While medical wearables do offer great promise in helping us become more proactive in our healthcare, they are primarily data collection devices that may perform some rather simple data analysis. They will have to tie into a larger medical ecosystem that has yet to fully materialize.

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.

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