11/21/06

The Handy Cricket and the StampWorks

I'm working on a evolving technology at Hunter Fan Company (my day) whereby the initial design miscalculated the use of memory capacity. The target IC only had 4K of Flash Memory but the controller application software required approximately 6K. The solution to this dilemma required creating a small distributive controller network on one pcb whereby, input signal processing and software management will reside in one microcontroller and additional microcontroller will be used as a low level driver circuit. The electronic design concept of partitioning microcontrollers and resource allocations can be experimenting with a Handy Cricket and the Parallax StampWorks Professional Development Board (PDB). The StampWorks PDB  is comprehensive solderless breadboard capable of allowing the sci-tech or robo gadget enthusiast the ability to breadboard microcontroller based devices and circuits. The main mini SBC (Small Board Computer) device for the StampWorks is the Parallax family of Basic Stamps.  The solderless breadboard is great for connecting the Handy Cricket to the Basic Stamp, thereby allowing the sci-tech or robo gadget enthusiast the ability to create distributed based controllers. The StampWorks comes with premounted circuits for

bullet Motor and relay drivers
bulletan audio amplifier
bullet8 DIP Logic Switches,
bulletA pulse generator
bullet16 discrete blue surface mounted LEDs
bulletA Real Time Clock (RTC),
bulletA serial port (RS232),
bullet(5) 7-Segment Blue LEDs

as well as an assortment of electronic parts and 2 manuals (Basic Stamp Syntax and Reference & StampWorks:Experiments and Basic Stamp Source Code). The experiment manual includes PBasic Code and circuit schematics for completing 32 microcontroller based projects. With the circuit interfacing capability associated with StampWorks and the Handy Cricket, your imagination is the only limiting factor.

 

11/3/06

Radical EE Prototyping

To capture EE (Electrical-Electronic) systems, subsystems, and circuits for sci-tech and robo gadget ideals rapidly a new approach is needed. The electronic products of today required an "Out of the Box" approach requiring unique design solutions as it relates to capturing physical attributes of the target device. Therefore, a technique I call Radical EE Prototyping is needed to rapidly demonstrate PoC (Proof Of Concept) prototypes. Radical EE Prototyping consists of using salvaged parts, circuits, toys, and development boards to rapidly construct an EE Mockup that demonstrates the physical attributes of the target sci-tech and robo gadget product. Tools that can be used in Radical EE Prototyping include but not limited to are:

bulletHandy Cricket Starter Kit
bulletLEGO RCX (programmable bricks)
bulletTI Graphics Calculator with CBL (Calculator Based Laboratory) & DCU (Digital Control Unit)
bulletBasic Stamp (Versions 1 & 2)
bulletSolderless Breadboards
bulletRadio Shack Electronics Learning Lab and Sensor Lab
bulletSalvaged electrical-electronic components
bulletWires and cables
bulletSmall AC & DC motors
bulletEvaluation Boards

In addition to electronics, mechanical components may be needed if a Mechatronics PoC Prototype is needed for technology evaluation. Here's a short list of mechanical items I use for Mechatronics PoC prototyping.

bullet ROBOTIX Motorized Construction kits
bulletLEGO Technics or Mindstorms kits
bulletBrio or Meccano Erector Sets

Blog inspired by a class taught at University Massachusetts  Lowell entitled Radical Design .

 

11/2/06

The Parallax USB Oscilloscope

I've just recently purchased the Parallax USB Oscilloscope and folks its quite an amazing instrument! The size of the electronic test gear is 5" x 2.25" x 1.5" and powered by a computer or notebook USB port. Additional Specs include:

bullet2 Channels (Dual Trace Capability)
bullet200 KHz bandwidth
bullet8-Bit Vertical Resolution
bulletFast Fourier Function (FFT) for signal analysis
bullet20Vpp maximum input for Channel 1 and Channel 2
bulletExternal trigger source

So what does this small but powerful measuring instrument mean to sci-tech and robo-gadget enthusiast, here's a short list of activities I put together the scope can be used in.

  1. Measuring the Motor Outputs of the Handy Cricket
  2. Creating Signal Analysis experiments (with the aid of Radio Shack's Sensor-Lab kit)
  3. Troubleshooting Audio Tone Generator Circuits
  4. Troubleshooting robo-gadget controllers (including the Handy Cricket)
  5. Creating a Noise Detection and Measurement System (with the aid of Radio Shack's Sensor-Lab kit)
  6. Analyzing Signal Amplification of Audio Amplifiers.

To show the versatility of the "UScope" here's a zipped file with the following data:

bulletUScopeVideo.asf - A small video clip showing an actual signal measurement made on the UScope.
bulletOTAscope_Sinewave.pdf - Print out of an Sinewave signal from the UScope
bulletUScope Signal Example_Sinewave.xls - An Excel Spreadsheet showing raw data, and plots for a measured sinewave.
bulletUScope Signal Example.xls - An Excel Spreadsheet showing raw data and plots for a measured squarewave.
bulletParallax USB Scope.jpg - Picture of  Parallax USB Scope.

I'll be exploring this unique portable measuring instrument via some hands on Reference Designs & experiments and posting them in future blog entries.