Fran's Writings on Design and Engineering
Page 4

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List of articles on page 4:
(November 2012 - January 2013)
SMD LED Test Board
The 1984 Heathkit Catalog
Building a Dedicated Bootloader Board for New ATmega328P Microcontrollers
Ask Fran: Build Your Own Friction Welder!
Do It Yourself Digital Fireflies
Fran's Dangerous Toys: The Jacob's Ladder
Ask Fran: AM Radio
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SMD LED Test Board
(Jan. 2013)
One of the things that you always end up doing for a new project is making small test breadboards of the various parts of the system.  I have posted some prototypes of various test stages of other projects here on my pages and here is yet another - This is a little board I built to test the relative brightness of several different types of surface mount LEDs that I got for a new project, and also an application of a small SMD voltage regulator.  Not pretty, but these kinds of thrown together breadboards are the necessary proving grounds for whittling out the bugs and unknowns in more complex designs.

 
 
Fran's Geek Heaven:
Highlights of the 1984 Heathkit Catalog

 
Building a Dedicated Bootloader Board 
for New ATmega328P Microcontrollers
(December 2012)

The very first thing that I tried to do when I began my Digital Firefly Jar project was to burn bootloaders to newly manufactured ATmega328P microcontrollers.  I knew that to reproduce my project I would need to make multiple programmed ATmega328's and in anticipation of doing many Arduino projects I bought the chips in bulk.  I knew that I would have to burn bootloaders to all of them in order to upload and use my sketches.  I bought a used Arduino Duemilanove to do this, and there was a clearly laid out tutorial about burning bootloaders on a breadboard on the Arduino site.   It seemed like a no brainer - an easy task - but it wasn't...  It just did not work!  Many attempts using the set up in the Arduino tutorial met with no success, so I went to the blogs and saw that many people were having problems doing this, and there were as many apparent solutions as there were issues.  I tried every configuration from every blog I could find on the topic: adding pull up resistors, changing power supply, altering settings, changing cables, etc....  but nothing worked.   The afternoon I spent trying every one of these configurations to burn a bootloader met with nothing but errors.

So I decided to go a different route and tried the dedicated bootloader board project suggested by Ladyada that used a very nifty Arduino sketch that had the Duemilanove's ATmega328 do the task, and this elegant set up works flawlessly.  Success!  And a really cool project too!


 
Ask Fran: Build Your Own Friction Welder!
(December 2012)
Citizen!  New opportunities await you in the exciting field of Friction Welding..... At Home!  Yes - you too can enjoy the countless wonders of permanently attaching some plastic things to other plastic things - at will.  In this video you will learn how to make your own friction welder, and I demonstrate just how amazingly strong a spin-weld is.  Have fun, be safe, and enjoy!


 
 
Do It Yourself Digital Fireflies
A fun project coded in Arduino for the ATmega328 Microcontroller
(December 2012)
This was a simple little project that was really just an excuse for me to learn Arduino.  I bought some really attractive Ball canning jars at the market and thought that it would be really cool to use them to make some kind of bedside firefly jar.  I thought that I would use an array of RC transistor timers to drive some vintage 70's amber lens LEDs I had in stock.  But I wanted these virtual fireflies to act like the real thing, and I soon realized that there would have to be 4 separate operations to depict a realistic firefly blink, with a quick fade-on period, a brief stay-on period, a slower fade-off period, and a long off-rest period.  Visualizing the large array of discrete RC timers I would need to create several fireflies was going to be prohibitively complex to shove into a jar lid, so I thought that this would be a really good job for a microcontroller.  Read more....


 
Fran's Dangerous Toys: The Jacob's Ladder
(Nov. 2012)
In this vlog I show a little prop I made some 20 years ago that packs a mighty whollop.... of fun! I explain some of the principles involved, just in case you're curious - or you can just watch me burn things with 10,000 volts of electricity. Enjoy!


 
 
Ask Fran: AM Radio
(Nov. 2012)
This is a short vlog about the joy of long distance radio listening and a little explanation about what makes it possible.  It is 4:15 so you can skip the science and just turn on an AM radio and enjoy.

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