20180210_155017413_iOSThis past weekend was the 2018 Orlando Hamcation. This year was my 5th year attending and it was another great event! My brother, Tony KD8RTT, and I teamed up to present the ARRL Collegiate Amateur Radio Initiative forum. Tony live streamed the forum and it can be found after the break.

Read the rest of this entry »

New Test Equipment

Posted: February 7, 2018 in Engineering, News

20180207_030147180_iOS

I recently got a brand new oscilloscope and DC power supply for my home maker lab. These two tools enable me to analyze signals and power prototype circuits. These are also great instruments for any maker. Let me explain why after the break!

Read the rest of this entry »

Website Updates and New Content!

Posted: January 31, 2018 in News

UFGrad-Andy-2017-3Life has been a little crazy for me lately. I finished my PhD (please don’t call me “doctor”, it’s much too formal and my name is Andy), moved to Orlando, and began a new day job. I’m still involved with the Maker Community (actually hanging out at MakerFX a lot!) and LEGO and of course, FIRST. I’m just now getting back to my blog. I spent a few hours this week ensuring images load and things are running smoothly (and removing ads). There are probably a few more changes coming, some under the hood, some more obvious.

My goal is to get back to the usual Wednesday updates with projects and tips. I have a few exciting trips coming up, including LEGO LIVE in New York City in a few weeks. I also have some book reviews to share. My lab has a few new instruments and my collection of tools has grown. It’s amazing what you can do in your free time when you don’t have a dissertation to write! So stay tuned!

DSC_0002

I love watching Battlebots. As an engineer I really enjoy seeing the design and strategy of each bot. I was delighted to find a box from VEX at my front door recently. Luckily I opened it right away (I thought it might be parts for a FIRST team) and found a Minotaur set. Minotaur is one of my favorite bots in the show. This bot from Brazil and is a joy to watch. Its spinning drum eats through other bots. Follow me past the break to see what I thought of this building set.

Read the rest of this entry »

20170523_001551097_iOS
This year I ventured up to Dayton Hamvention and had my sights set on getting a new radio. I was able to purchase a Connect Systems CS800D dual band FM/DMR radio. I naturally removed the cover to get a peak under the hood as seen in the photo above. Once I was done understanding the basic layout of the PCB (note the UHF PA mounted to the back of the case, top of the image, and VHF PA at the front of the case, bottom of the image). I found it interesting how they fit so much radio into such a tiny package.

After some bench testing, I decided it was time to figure out how to mount it in my car. With a remote control head, I can simply mount it with the same setup as my Yaesu 7900R control head (which has since been sold). One problem, the remote control head mounter supplied with the radio does not match the mounting plate I have in my car. To fix this, I need to create a new mounting plate (or at least an interface plate). I started up Autodesk Inventor. Follow me after the break for more details or check out the part on Thingiverse!

Read the rest of this entry »

arduinoplay_cover-front-final

Arduino Playground by Warren Andrews is a great collection of Arduino projects. With an ever-growing collection of Arduino books on the market, it is getting difficult for a book to stand out. Many books are introductory project books to get someone up and running. The projects and programming in most books is simple and offers little to a more advanced user.

Screen Shot 2017-05-24 at 5.00.32 PM

Sample page posted with permission from No Starch Press

Arduino Playground  focuses on more advanced projects and cod that is often pages long. The sample page, right, shows the end of a program and some brief discussion. While the code printed in the book lacks comments, important lines are marked with numbers. This makes it very easy to identify critical lines of code and the expanded discussion following the code provides lots of insight.

The sample page on the right also mentions shields. Arduino shields are expansion boards for the basic microcontroller. These boards can add everything from sound to motors to sensors. Many Arduino projects use one or more shields. For example, the project referenced in this sample page discusses a motor controller shield. Arudino Playground goes into good detail to discuss how things things are electrically wired. The author discusses power loads and various votlage supply rails. This information is critical to more-complex projects and is a welcomed addition to this book.

Most Arudino books focus on the Arduino Uno board, the most famous form factor of the popular microcontroller. Arduino Playground uses the right board for the right project. This means some projects use the compact Arduino (my preferred board). This board requires a bit more work as the user needs to solder wires to the various pads. The sample page below shows a nice project photo with the Arduino nano and various modules and plugs. However, even with cool projects, the book does not do well to promote the projects on the cover or early in a chapter. The lack of color print also detracts from the promotion many of these projects deserve.

Screen Shot 2017-05-24 at 4.57.55 PM

Sample page posted with permission form No Starch Press.

Overall I really liked the Arduino Playground. I enjoyed working with more than just an Arduino Uno. The scope of the book is great for those looking for something a little more complex than the range of starter books already on the market. However, this book is in a very crowded market and it lacks the color print of other Arduino books. While it certainly is a good book content wise, I think it could have been even stronger with color printer and better presentation of the projects.

DSC_0029

Today launch pad 39A at Kennedy Space Center roared to life for the first time in over half a decade as a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launched a Dragon spacecraft to the International Space Station. Follow me after the break to learn why this launch means a lot to me an see some photos.

Read the rest of this entry »

20170125_165248021_iOS.jpg
As a followup to my previous tip, I was asked how I get my prints to stick to my build platform. My MakerBot Replicator 2X has a heated aluminum build platform that is coated in Kapton tape. ABS will still okay to this material, but it is not perfect. To help my prints stick better, I was the build platform with acetone before each print. I make sure I do this just before I start the job. Using a paper towel, I ensure there is nothing left on the platform. This also leaves a thin coating of acetone. Hitting print just after I finishing cleaning (but with a preheated bed and extruders), the first layer of HIPS or ABS sticks well. Since many of my prints are for complex parts, there is almost always a HIPS raft. Acetone is a solvent for both ABS and HIPS, making the first layer extra sticky.

I tend to use a fair bit of acetone with this process. I typically get my acetone from Walmart. Acetone is commonly used in nail polish remover and they typically sell large bottles.

If you’re having issues with prints sticking to the print bed, give this a try.

20170119_025742932_iOS

I get a lot of questions about 3D Printing. Lots of people ask what printer I have or what materials I use. As you can see in the photo above, I have a MakerBot Replicator 2X. My printer is a few years old now, but it has a heated build platform, dual extruders, and a closed in shell. While it lakes the bells and whistles of wifi and an app, it more than meets my needs. Follow me after the break to learn how I use my printer and how to use dissolvable supports! Read the rest of this entry »

20161201_212909539_iOSBack in November, I got a Phantom 3 Standard drone. The stock drone is a lot of fun, but it could use a couple upgrades. The first upgrade wanted was to replace the stock phone mount with a tablet mount. The larger screen on the table makes it easier to track objects. I got some really cool photos of an RC DC-3 flying around my drone at the local flying field, but following the small plane was difficult on the tablet, likely impossible on my phone.

The original phone mount is not very durable and after using it a few times, the plastic broke as you can see in the photo. DJI did send a replacement that was metal, but it would still limit me to my cell phone.

I found a tutorial on Phantom Help that used the DJI Inspire 1’s tablet mount. I initially decided to just screw the tablet mount into the plastic. I used some glue to add support. The upgrade was well worth it and it functioned well when out at the field flying.

However, within a week the mount broke. The plastic shell was fine, but the metal support broke. You can see the damage in the photo below. To be fair, this was after shipping my drone to my parent’s house for the holidays. While I packed the controller well, it appears some of the packing air bags broke in transit. I am still not quite sure how the plastic shell escaped damage (especially since it looks like the metal was crushed ).
20161216_194257522_iOS

Once I was home, I decided to order the metal insert. The threaded insert would allow me to remove the mount for shipping. To accommodate the new insert, I had to make the hole larger. I screwed the insert into the plastic and attached the nut. To make sure it stays secure, I used some hot glue. I also used hot glue to hold down wires that I had to reroute after the install.

The picture of the final install is below. I highly recommend this upgrade to anyone that got a DJI Phantom 3 Standard for the holidays! I also picked up a hard shell case for the drone and the accessories. For return shipping to Florida, I did remove the tablet mount and used the case. Both the controller and drone returned in perfect condition. I can’t wait to start flying again! 20170112_013145784_iOS