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Bench Talk for Design Engineers

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Bench Talk for Design Engineers | The Official Blog of Mouser Electronics


Lynnette Reese holds a B.S.E.E from Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge. Lynnette has worked at Mouser Electronics, Texas Instruments, Freescale (now NXP), and Cypress Semiconductor. Lynnette has three kids and occasionally runs benign experiments on them. She is currently saving for the kids’ college and eventual therapy once they find out that cauliflower isn’t a rare albino broccoli (and other white lies.)


Development Kits Evolve to Include Fewer Instructions Lynnette Reese
Development kits (dev kits) save time because they are a ready-made circuit/platform. The purpose of a dev kit is so you can run experiments on it. It’s much cheaper to burn up a dev kit than an original design. A dev kit usually comes as a box with manuals, one or more PCBs, and maybe some cables, a power supply, and software or links to software, and they are perfect for getting a next look past the data sheet. There are dev kits for all kinds of parts from fiber optics to complete design-your-own car remote key fobs. Most processor/CPU/MCU-focused dev kits are complete in that they can be used right out of the box, and maybe you do a little programming to customize things.

Engineers of Many Packages Lynnette Reese
I was reading about the women of the #iLookLikeAnEngineer movement going through the blogosphere. The perceptions of “what an engineer looks like” might be changing. If a Hollywood writer is asked to “describe what an engineer looks like,” they would say he’s got short hair, wears a short sleeve shirt tucked into his trousers, and looks like engineers from the Apollo 13 movie. I disagree, and so do many others, apparently. I am an engineer and I look more like a housewife. (I get mistaken for everything but an engineer, actually.)

We are Kings, with an Army of Roaches at Our Command Lynnette Reese
I finally, finally learned to knit well. Following a book to learn knitting is nearly impossible. (Bear with me, I will get to the roaches soon, you power-hungry roach-overlord-in-training.) Such things used to be taught from mother to daughter in the far distant past. Now we can learn nearly anything from anybody online. Next time you hear some wonk on TV complaining about how over-stimulated we all are with too much data, just remember that technology offers choices, and we experience small miracles every day through technology. We take technology for granted because we were born into it.

Talking About Open Source Lynnette Reese
Some people are still confused about open source. Granted, the term is a bit over-used, but people are still referring to some educational products as open source. There’s a huge difference.

From Bi-planes to Space Debris: Digging through NASA Archives Lynnette Reese
What engineer has not had to produce a report at some time in their life? I was researching open architecture systems and stumbled upon this: the archive of reports from the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics housed in the NASA Technical Reports Server.

"I Believe We Should Go to the Moon" Lynnette Reese
“I Believe We Should Go to the Moon.” With these words, President Kennedy launched the space program. Back in 1961, these were words that today would sound like, “I Believe We Should Go to Mars.” This was a difficult goal, when a single google query today “sets in motion as much computing as it took to send Neil Armstrong and eleven other astronauts to the moon. Not just the actual flights, but all the computing done throughout the planning and execution of the 11-year, 17 mission Apollo program.”

Stupid Questions Lynnette Reese
Every now and then our little group of engineers gets into philosophical arguments that go off into the weeds of extreme detail. A Dilbert comic catches this perfectly when a group of engineers argues about how to share two pizzas in a meeting. In our case, it started when I wanted to know the difference between an Instrumentation Amplifier (in-amp) and a Precision Amplifier. I know that an in-amp is a precision amp, but there must be something more if you have to rename it.

Triodes are Still a Hot Item in Audio Lynnette Reese
Every now and then you come across a real gem on the internet. My father was a Coast Guard electronics technician early in his career, and it’s interesting to be able to talk with my dad about electronics stuff. This morning he sent me a link to a site with old Broadcasting and Audio Engineering magazines going back to the 1920s. I look at this ad in Figure 1 from Audio Engineering of June 1949 and have to ask: “What is a Triode?” Triodes are vacuum tubes, boys and girls. Isn’t it interesting that audiophile “purists” today would buy these very tubes for a glowing, more thrilling audio experience? Admittedly, tubes are more interesting to look at than solid state.

The Rebel in the Electric Car Lynnette Reese
I had a very interesting conversation with a power electronics specialist regarding charging for electric vehicles. Let me elaborate: Charging for road taxes for electric vehicles. Those rich guys who can afford the Tesla are not paying road taxes like the rest of us. (I will call “us” The Combustibles Group.) And neither are the Leaf folks, either. The incentive in the U.S. is still a $7,500 tax credit for buying an electric vehicle. A tax credit here means that you figure up your bill to Uncle Sam on April 15 and then subtract $7,500 from what you owe.

Engineering Snobs Lynnette Reese
I try not to be a snob. Early on in my engineering career, I was taken down a peg or two after graduation. I had this shiny new degree I was ready to try out, but engineering is a lot more than academic knowledge. After a few months of working, I realized that there was a large amount that I did not know. All the subjects I took were preparing me to be an engineer. But you cannot discount the learning associated with doing.

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