My 2015 Highlights
Favourite projects, experiences and lessons learned this year.
2015 has been a very productive year and over the course of numerous projects I have gained much invaluable knowledge and experience.
In September I began a HND in Electrical and Electronic Engineering, which is constantly challenging me with new ideas and concepts to learn, while also helping me further my understanding in the workplace. Above can be seen a project from combinational and sequential logic module.
Making a custom PCB
Very early in the year I started by familiarising myself with DesignSpark PCB and this was detailed in the post,Getting to know DesignSpark PCB . Initially, learning how to use a PCB design tool seemed like a very daunting task, however, with perseverance I managed to get to grips with this and successfully design my very first printed circuit board – a light Theremin instrument.
It took a little while to finally get a working theremin but in the end I got there. From start to finish I learned so much: using a PCB design tool, creating manufacturing files and getting the boards fabricated, fault finding and redesigning the PCB. All of this process was challenging and stimulating, and I gained a vast amount of knowledge which I hope I can apply in future projects.
All in all this was by far my favourite project; it gives me a great sense of accomplishment knowing that I designed something and from a hand drawing I managed to make a functioning instrument, this is incredibly satisfying.
Throughout the year I have also worked on a few new platforms. In the post, Trying Out mbed, I looked at using the mbed LPC1768 with the Application Board, exploring the available peripherals and making some simple changes to the example code.
Another project involved working with the Bare Conductive Touch Board. This is an Arduino compatible designed for use with conductive paint and using these together I made a painted instrument that played MP3s. I wrote about this in the post, On a Conductive Note.
I also used the Raspberry Pi properly for the first time. I had heard a lot of people talk about this particular platform, so I was quite excited to what all the hype was about. I began by looking at Python on the Pi, which entailed learning Python and GPIO basics with the Raspberry Pi 2.
Next I had a go at building a Raspberry Pi 1-Wire thermostat, which read a DS18B20 temperature sensor with a Python script running on the Pi.
I really enjoyed working with Raspberry Pi and so for a seasonal project I took what I had already learned and created a festive Raspberry Pi thermometer. This would indicate when the highest chance of snow would be based on the outdoor temperature.
Lots of Lessons
I can’t begin to describe how much I have learned throughout this year, from starting a HND, to learning about tuned circuits and as part of which discovering the effect measurement can have on a circuit.
I also used the ADALM1000 with the ADALP2000 companion kit to the to learn about operational amplifiers.
In initial experiences with ADALM1000, I used this educational tool to determine the gain of an amplifier. Although I found this challenging at the time, it taught me a lot, from the actual calculation to getting to grips with using the Pixelpulse2 software.
This year I attended a few events which I thought would be interesting and useful in developing my career. The first of which, in March, was the annual IET Prestige Lecture at the Rose Bowl in Leeds. Here I learnt about the potential that 3D printing holds, what it has been used for, uses which are in the pipeline and the future possibilities. I wrote about this in the post, Printing the world.
In May I attended the OSHUG workshop at Fab Lab London where I learnt about the Interned of Things (IoT) and Node-RED. There were a number of talks that showed some of the things which this had been used for, a great example of which included Dr Andy Stanford-Clark making his own home interactive and Dr Lucy Rogers making the dinosaurs at Blackgang Chine come to life! This showed just some of the potential for what can be done using the IoT.
Following this I had a go at working with Node-RED myself using a Raspberry Pi and a couple of different sensors in the workshop.
In September I attended the annual Wuthering Bytes festival and here I got to listen to many amazing talks, including ones from inspirational women such as Eva Pascoe and Professor Danielle George.
On the second day of OSHCamp I ran a soldering workshop for the second year running, this time to assemble the Widdop kit, a special edition of the Cordwood puzzle. The Cordwood is a sandwich of components between two PCBs, when assembled all the LEDs will illuminate and if connected to a controller board the LEDs can all be controlled individually.
This is the type of event which I love attending because it’s a great opportunity to help others develop their skills, from kids to adults everyone had a great time, working together and exchanging knowledge with others.
In December I was given an amazing opportunity to attend the IET Young Woman Engineer of the Year Awards. I found it very inspirational to be surrounded by other young women engineers, from a host of different backgrounds and across the engineering industry. This gave me the chance to interact with other engineers and consider how I might develop my career.
It was great to hear about the careers of the women shortlisted and that of Faye Banks, who won the award in 2004. The 2015 winner, Orla Murphy, was very inspirational and further motivated me to excel in my career.
Bring on 2016!
One of the things which was great about this year is learning new things at work, with the help and support of my colleagues, Stuart and Andrew.
In 2016 I hope I get the opportunity to attend more events, meet other engineers and share experiences. I also look forward to using Raspberry Pi in projects again, learning more about networking and the basics of wireless communication.
I’m really excited to see what 2016 holds!