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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.


Amateur Space Exploration: CubeSats Mike Parks
When Sputnik launched in 1957, it contained four antennas that transmitted a very simple radio signal that allowed the satellite to be tracked. Fast forward through the years and space exploration has become increasingly sophisticated. We have since expanded to manned spaceflight, space stations, landing on the moon, sending rovers to distant planets, and satellites of all types. In the beginning, human space exploration has required the resources that only governments could afford. Today that is changing, thanks to companies such as SpaceX and Orbital Sciences Corporation. Still, short of weather balloon experiments, space exploration by ordinary people seems a remote dream for most.

Chip To Chip: Tips For Using I2C Mike Parks
Many integrated circuit-based sensors and output devices offer an interface protocol called Inter-integrated Circuit, commonly abbreviated as I2C. There is tremendous value in using I2C-based components in a microcontroller-based solution that can result in a much more streamlined and robust product, especially if you need to interface with multiple external I/O devices. I2C allows you to share a common data and clock bus amongst multiple devices, thus reducing the I/O pin count and the number of interconnecting wires required to get everything communicating. This blog is an attempt to provide some practical tips on integrating I2C into your next application.

What Might The Future of “Personal” Computing Look Like? Mike Parks
Predicting the future of technology is a perpetual exercise in futility. But it’s fun. The evolution of personal computing is something that futurists and tech pundits like to try to predict every few years (or months). Like forecasting the weather, you are never completely right or wrong.

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.

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