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Bench Talk for Design Engineers

Bench Talk


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

There’s More Than Old Chewing Gum Under the Table Caroline Storm Westenhover

I often find myself at the end of the incredulous question, “What are you doing?” My perfunctory responses run from “adjusting the clock” to “checking the charge this capacitor can hold.” The next question often is something like, “Why did you think it was OK to pull wiring out of the wall in your classroom?” or “Why is our microwave in several pieces?”

I want to pause for a moment here and say I am not promoting or endorsing these actions. Remember kids, don’t try this in public. It will embarrass your friends and make parents question where they went wrong.

It is just that I am one of those people who thinks that the best way to understand something is first to read a cursory article about the object, then take it apart and search Wikipedia for information about every part I see.

I am getting better at expressing my curiosity at the right places in the right way, but still I slip up every now and then.

One of these slips occurred between my Grandmere and I at Panera Bread, where they had recently installed LRS Table Trackers. My Grandmere came back from getting her coffee only to find me under the table. After figuring out why I was doing such an unsightly thing my Grandmere not only reminded me where I was, but also suggested that I explain to her how Radio Frequency Identification works while sitting upright at the table.

Explaining to a willing participant how something works takes a very close second to figuring it out in the first place, so I sat up and started explaining. As we sat there in Panera waiting for our food I explained the basics of RFID tags and then looked up exactly how they were being used in Panera. This lead to me looking up an article in RFID Journal, which then lead to more articles about the uses of RFID in towels, surgical pads, trains [also here], development kits, and more. It is fascinating how the advances in semiconductor technology have begun to allow RFID to be practically omnipresent. At high enough frequencies, passive tags can be read from up to 6 meters and active tags can be read up to 100 meters.

I am excited to see the technology our forbearers have given us and will continue to give us, and also to see what humanity will do with the free time that technology will provide.

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My name is Caroline Storm Westenhover. I am a Senior Electrical Engineering student at the University of Texas at Arlington. I am the third of seven children. I enjoy collecting ideas and theories and most enjoy when they come together to present a bigger picture as a whole. Perhaps that is why I like physics and engineering.  My biggest dream is to become an astronaut.

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