Thursday, May 19, 2011

1. You must write.
2. You must finish what you write.
3. You must refrain from rewriting, except to editorial order.
4. You must put the work on the market.
5. You must keep the work on the market until it is sold.

If you use your imagination, you could apply these rules to any monetary endeavor that also uses your creativity. For me, I apply these rules to my electronics obsession.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Forign tech investors

I have been reading the articles that show up on the S.A.R.T.A. website. For those who are not familiar, this is the Sacramento Area Regional Technology Alliance. The big draw for me is the links to articles that give me a heads up on what is going on with the tech companies in the greater Sacramento area.

This is really helpful for me right now as I am looking for a job in the tech industry as an Electronic Engineering Technologist. Again, for those who don't know what that is, an EET kinda like a hybrid class between an electronics engineer and an electronics tech. I have a bachelors degree accredited by the same group that accredits classical engineering programs (EAC of ABET) but from a different committee within the group (TAC of ABET). Basically the focus is less on the theoretical and more on practical applications.

What I am noticing from a few of the articles is that there is a trend in local companies being bought by foreign investors. From this article we see that Solar Power Inc. is in the process of being bought out by a Chinese company, and from this article we see that Renesas, aka N.E.C., has sold it's manufacturing plant to a German company. Also it might be of interest to mention SMA, which is a German solar energy company that has its USA branch office in the local region.

I hope that all this foreign money turns into a nice healthy job market for me. I can't really see any downsides from this in the near future. It may be of note to mention that all this is happening in Roseville. Is Roseville going to be an important player in a future world, high tech, economy? All this may mean something important, but it would take someone with business experience to draw any meaningful conclusions.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Solar Converters are the new Plastics.

I have been courting this company, or at least trying to court this company that does work in green energy. Their field is specifically green energy. The products that they make are Photovoltaic Inverters. Basically that is a fancy term that means they make the things that take the electricity from the solar cells and then turns it into the good stuff that your wall spits out.

I really want to get in on the engineering side, but it looks like I am going to have to work my way up through the company from near the bottom. It seems the only entry level position is in customer service, but it looks like I could go lateral then vertical, if you know what I mean, and somehow come out on top as an engineer in 2 years or less. Sounds like an okay time frame to me.

Their devices play a large part in the energy efficiency of a solar power system. It does not matter how much energy you are getting from the solar panels, if there is a large loss in the system during power conversion then you aren’t as energy efficient as possible. This may not seem like a big deal, as you have a basically unlimited supply of energy from the sun. The benefit of having a most efficient power conversion ( I have heard of some power converters operating in the 95% efficient range) is that your solar panels can be smaller and therefore cheaper and able to fit on smaller roofs. I know that the panels themselves usually get all the press, but it is unfair to look at them as being the single most important part of the system.

So, you have stuck with me this long; I’ll let you in on the name of the company, SMA Solar Technology. They come from Germany. I guess America is a prime market for something.

Friday, April 1, 2011

LED lighting is the future!!

All joking aside about LEDs being the future, there really is a huge future in learning about LED lighting technology. Specifically, in my case as an electronics engineer. This may seen a little boring(it may get repetitive), but it could be the basis for a good small business. It would specialize in custom LED based lighting solutions. This could be for either architectural or entertainment lighting.

Right now I am researching different ways of efficiently driving(powering) LEDs. I found this lighting app note from Cree that looks like it might be useful.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

FIRST Robotics.

I told some people that I would write about how the robotics thing I am doing is going but have never got around to doing it. To those people I apologize, and to everyone, this may be a long post as it is long overdue.

So for those who don't know I have been given this chance to help out a high school team that is competing in the "FIRST Robotics Competition". You can check out the website for more info, . I got the opportunity through my school. One of my professors, Michael Zohourian, was involved with the high school through a passport to college program where the students would come to DeVry to learn electronics and whatnot. So he got involved in the robotics team as a mentor at John F. Kennedy high school. I work part time at DeVry as a tutor, so for the competition I get to help at the high school and still get paid as if I were tutoring.

The students have to build a robot that plays a game called LogoMotion. Any explanation I give probably wouldn't make much sense so better just watch the video explanation The kids, with help from mentors, have 6 weeks to build the robot. I have been involved for the past three weeks and next week is the last week they get to build before they have to send it off to Davis for the regional competition. I Know it seems like a lot to do in such a short time bit one of the philosophies behind the competition is that it's "A job too big, in a time too small". It really puts the pressure on, but it also helps to get the kids motivated to make things happen. It's not like senior project in college where you have plenty of time to slack off, lose interest, and become bored with the project. It's a concentrated dose of awesome.

The team usually meets 4 days a week after school and work on the robot till they can't work any longer. I have been going on Tuesdays and Thursdays from about 3:30 till 6:30. When I leave, dinner is just arriving and almost everyone is still there, hard at work. I don't really know when they leave, but I like to imagine that they work until they start passing out, but I guess that wouldn't be safe, and safety is really a big concern.

The first day I showed up I was more than impressed by the scope of the activities going on. I don't really remember what I was expecting but when I arrived there were kids everywhere; drilling, machining, grinding, cutting, welding. I ended up helping out with a smaller group of students who were in charge with the more technical, and less mechanical aspects of the robot. The main task for us is to program the robot. One of the mentors, Kevin, is the parent of one of the students and is a full time programmer himself. He has made a lot of progress in understanding how to program the robot.

The robot is programmed with LabView from National Instruments. It uses a graphical aproach to programming so there is not much, if any, actual code being written. Most of my degree deals with electronics and programming languages. It would not be too hard to learn this program that is new to me but Kevin was helping from the beggining so he has a 2 week head start on me, so trying to catch up with him would have been somewhat redundant. One of the most difficult parts is trying to find a way to be useful while not getting overwhelmed with all the stuff that is going on.

One thing that I have been able to contribute to has been figuring out how the image recognition software works. Part of the game the robot has to do things all by itself, and programming the robot to be able to interpret the images it captures with the camera is a big part of being successful in the autonomous period of the game. It's not as hard as you may think. The software takes care of the super complicated parts, but it still takes much trial and error with the vision software to get it to recognize objects in a photo.

One big problem is lighting. Getting the right amount and the right kind of light is important for the vision to work consistently. The game wall is marked with something called retro reflective tape. It's like that stuff they cover road signs with. Basically, light that shines on the material is reflected back in the direction that the light came from. I was able to help them with this. They were kinda at a loss on how to get some lighting wired up but that sort of thing is exactly what I am good at. I was able to make them a small array of "super bright" blue LEDs so that they could test the vision under good lighting conditions. I built it on a breadboard(ie a non permanent build) with a knob to control the brightness. Kevin had said that more might not be better for the lighting so I added the control based on his concern.
Alright, this thing is getting really long now and I feel like I am rambling a bit. I'll leave it here for now. If you made it this far I congratulate you and thank you for sticking with me. Until next time.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Making a list.

I'm making a list. For christmas maybe. It is not really a list of things I want, so much as a list of steps I might need to take in order to get to where I want to be. The goal is to be happy. That is all. Although I do sound a bit like Big Jim Rennie.

A threaded discussion I liked.

Khan Alim 7 Dec 10 12:24 PM MST

Discuss how solid state devices can work as mechanical relays.

Nicholas Clay 8 Dec 10 8:08 PM MST

In a normal mechanical relay a coil is charged which physically moves component to make a contact. There are downsides to these types of devices, one that i know of is called arcing, this happens when too much current is applied, there is also the fact that mech relays have a shorter life and make a clicking noise.
Non mechanical relays or solid state relays normally use photo coupling, this is done by illuminating an LED that acts as the bias for a photodiode which controls the actual switching.

Jerome Munroe 10 Dec 10 9:19 PM MST

In a solid state relay the photo diode and led physically separate the triggering signal from the power signal. These have all the advantages that Nick mentioned. They are even becoming viable in high power situations where mechanical relays were thought to be a necessity. There is one thing that has to be considered when using a solid state relay. It is that even the most efficient ones have a voltage drop across them. This is a lot like the voltage drop from the collector to the emmiter of a transistor in saturation. In most cases this can be thought of as being directly connected, but there is about a .2 volt drop present.

Jerome Munroe 10 Dec 10 10:56 PM MST

I was just thinking about another disadvantage of using a mechanical relay. There is a delay from applying power till when the switch would flip over to the N.C. connection. This might not be a problem in a lot of analog circuits that could just wait until the switch flipped over, and then would not know the difference. But in a system where the times between millionths of a second are noticed and measured, these things matter. In these cases, the speed of the silicon in a S.S. relay and the speed of the silicon in a Microcontroller are a much better match.