6/26/06

A Handy Cricket Squarewave Generator:

The Handy Cricket is an awesome embedded controller for small automation and robotics projects for sci-tech and robo gadget enthusiasts. In my last Blog post, I've been brainstorming the educational value of the Handy Cricket in teaching electronics. With it's ease in programming (using Cricket Logo and Logo Blocks code development languages) and electronic circuit interfacing, I've thought of another tech area the tool can be exploited: Scientific and Testing Instrumentation.  This idea was inspired by my current teaching assignment at ITT Technical Institute teaching AC Electronics. Non-Sinusoidal signal generation can easily be implemented with the Handy Cricket, thereby creating a Squarewave Generator. Here are 3 practical uses of the Squarewave Generator within the Testing Instrumentation realm:

bulletUse as a calibration source for Oscilloscopes
bullet Use as a signal source for testing Audio Amplifiers
bullet Use as a core circuit block for creating a Sine Wave Generator

Like all products, Continual Improvement allows for an evolution to occur on the asthestics and function of the target gadget under development. Therefore, the following 2 future improvements for this Squarewave Generator include but not limited to are:

bulletOutput amplitude adjust using the 100K Rheostat
bulletLED Display change based on amplitude adjust using the 1Meg resistor

To illustrate the ease in which to create a Squarewave Generator here's a Reference Design for your Handy Cricket hacking enjoyment.

 

No Password Protects for Downloads!!!

Since this site is now designated as and an Open Source location, I removed the Password Protection dialog box. Let the knowledge flow freely. Enjoy!!!

 

6/21/06

Handy Cricket and Electronics Education:

I've been doing some Brainstorming on how the Handy Cricket can be a great tool for teaching Electronics. I know that electronics and embedded controllers go together like Peanut Butter & Jelly therefore, introducing key elements of the microcontroller at the lower level will provide a bridge to advance concepts latter. One mechanism that will help in this transition to the microcontroller realm is to illustrate how sci-tech and robo gadgets use the basic DC/AC Electronics for input of electrical  analog signals & binary data, filtering of unwanted frequencies, waveform generation, and low level signal processing. Also, to start making real world connections with everyday appliances and machines, here are some of my thoughts for why the Handy Cricket would be the intro computational device in teaching Electronics.

bulletFiltering circuits can easily be wired to the Handy Cricket and program to provide improve input/output signal responses.
bulletBasic testing circuits like sweep and frequency generators can be built with a few discrete electronic components wired to the Handy Cricket.
bulletUsing either Cricket Logo or Logo Blocks code programmability related to Pulse Width Modulation and Frequency Shift Keying can be embedded within the Handy Cricket based test equipment.
bulletClock signal generation for Digital Circuits can be built using the Handy Cricket thus allowing for ease in changing timing of the target circuit.
bulletLab assignments can be created where theory to real world applications can be experience by the student using the Handy Cricket and a few discrete electronic components.

To illustrate, a Squarewave Generator Design Reference is being created. Figure 1 shows the basic concept behind the Handy Cricket based squarewave generator.

6/19/06

AC Electronics - New Link for Sci-Tech and Robo Enthusiasts

I've added a new link to the website called "AC Electronics". This webpage will have course material I'm developing and using to teach Computer and Electronics Engineering Technology (CEET) students at ITT Technical Institute. I'm currently an Adjunct Instructor in the CEET  Department and this link is my way of posting relevant teaching material to the students. The course is pretty much wide opened as it pertains to creating supplemental materials, use of instructional tools, and other pedagogical techniques used to motivate and inspired the CEET student. I would encourage Sci-Tech and Robo enthusiasts to browse this page because I will have lab exercises using the Handy Cricket, Basic Stamp, PICAXE microcontroller, and the TI Graphics Calculator to enhance the students understanding of AC Electronics. But just what is AC Electronics, one might ask? Here's my definition of the core elements in Electronics Fundamentals:

      "AC Electronics is the investigation of the generation and processing of sinusoidal signals through the analysis      and experimentation using passive based resistor, capacitor, and inductor electronic circuits."

The webpage is opened to the public and course material is Open Source so Enjoy!!!

6/14/06

Electronic Temperature Controller - Reference Design 3

Rapid prototyping of new products is key in becoming an Industry Leader. I'm always looking for neat little "Hack" tricks in creating unique sci-tech and robo gadgets. The solderless breadboard is an example of a rapid prototyping tool to quickly investigate an electronic circuit prior to committing the design to a pcb (printed circuit board). The Handy Cricket is a rapid prototyping for quickly spinning robo projects using the 2- I/O (Input/Output) ports. Using other circuit applications as springboards for new derivatives definitely qualifies as a Rapid Prototyping tool. The Electronic Temperature Controller Reference Design was derived from the Electronic Thermometer application. By adding a small dc motor to the Handy Cricket's Motor port, a temperature controller can be evaluated easy and quickly. The software from the Electronic Thermometer has the motor control provision coded within the Cricket Logo and Logo Brick codes. I believe one of the keys to quick electronics development is to create small hardware building blocks that can be tweaked easily and quickly. Enjoy !!!!

6/7/06

Jarnal- A Free Software Journal Tool

The Design and Manufacturing I Resource Tools page  discussed in  the 6/4 blog entry presented a useful website for development sources for robot builders. One software tool I tried from the several online packages is Jarnal. It is currently under development by David K. Levine and Gunnar Teege and completely written in Java. Jarnal is a useful design collaboration tool that allows for note taking, sketching, and annotations. There are 3 choices for machine installation to choose from: Windows XP or 2000 , Windows 95, 98,98SE, Millennium, etc, and Other operating systems.  Installation is quick & easy and the only requirement is the availability of Java< j2re-1 4 2 06-windows-i586-p.exe> on your notebook or desktop machine. Also, the tool allows collaboration of online design sessions between multiple computers. To discover other capabilities of the software, the authors have included an online How To. In the world of sci-tech inventing and robo development, ideas need to be easily capture. This  software based journal tool can definitely accomplish the task. I'm in the process of creating another Handy Cricket Reference Design and thought I would test the ease of this software by quickly sketching the circuit diagram of the experimental device. The key components of the temperature controller are a temperature sensor (thermistor), a transistor , electromechanical relay, a resistor for transistor base circuit current limiting, and the Handy Cricket. The tools on the menu bars are quite easy to use. Within a matter of minutes I sketched out the Temperature Controller circuit schematic diagram. Additional pages can be added and printed, thereby creating an inventor's journal-book using the software. Documentation is very important when creating inventions or brainstorming and Jarnal provide the means to performing this task.

 

6/4/06

Great Resources for Robotics Projects-Part 1:

I'm always looking for robotics ideas and projects for the Handy Cricket. I came upon one resource for robotics and builders of intelligent machines through the MIT 2.007 Design and Manufacturing I class. This unique course teaches students creative design processes based on the scientific method. The lectures present information on the creation, engineering, and manufacturing of a remote controlled machine to compete in a major design competition at the end of the semester. There are several areas of useful information for designing and building a remote controlled robot. One resource I found interesting is the Design Handbook. The handbook is a joint effort between MIT and Cambridge University, UK.  The book is divided into several sections:

bulletDesign
bulletMachine Elements
bulletExample Calculations
bulletEngineering Drawings
bulletGeneral Manufacturing Information
bulletMIT Manufacturing Plans
bulletGeneral Data Books

Within the General Data Books there are lessons in the Electronics Textbook that some of you sci-tech robo gadgeteers might find very useful in creating new and interesting circuit interfaces for the Handy Cricket.  Topics of this free textbook include:

bulletDC Circuits
bulletAC Circuits
bulletSemiconductors
bulletDigital Circuits
bulletReference Information
bulletExperiments.

I'll provide reviews of the MIT website as well as the design resources and how to use it for Handy Cricket robo projects in future blogs.