Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Jameco Poll - Who are the electronic hobbyists of America?

Below is an excerpt of a poll run by Jameco Electronics

Who are we? Read the whole article and see if you are a match. I personally am in the greater than 35 years, as I started around 9 years of age.

Who are the electronic hobbyists of America?

Nerds or not, more than half of the Great American Electronic Hobbyists Census participants reported that their first experience with electronics involved taking something apart and nearly all reported having soldered before the age of 18. After their initial experience with the soldering iron, nearly half of all hobbyists continued on with their electronics education, making electronics both their avocation and vocation.

A hobby that most likely started during the teenage years (or earlier) has continued to pique interest. The average hobbyist has 35 years of electronics under their belt and an additional 25% have been working with electronics for 50 or more years. It was interesting that almost half of the participants received some sort of formal training in electronics, but also that just as many were self-taught.
When it comes to a reading preference amongst our participants, 42% prefer reading a technical publication over other types of publications, while 27% choose to read news. When we asked our hobbyists which other hobbies they enjoy, it was clear that electronics knowledge and skills play a role in more than just their electronics hobby; 10% reported that music was their second most favorite hobby, 9% told us they prefer woodworking second to electronics (which may or may not correlate to 83% reporting they’ve used an ax or saw within the past year) and 6.4% of participants named computing as their second favorite hobby.

It was somewhat astonishing to learn that the majority of participants (practically 98%) were male despite the fact that 19% of those graduating with bachelor degrees in engineering are women. This may have a correlation with time restrictions between work and family life; we discovered that the average age of our participating hobbyist is 56.

Monday, June 8, 2015

The Arduino Powered Lighthouse

I was helping a friend build a 3' lighthouse, and he felt it could use some "animation". I suggested a Arduino controlled beacon. We didn't want to go to the hassle of building a motorized unit, so I designed a simulated rotating beacon. I picked a 3 watt white LED, but since the Arduino can't control that much current by itself, I used a IRL520 MOSFET. A MOSFET requires a 10k resistor from the gate to ground to turn it off when it's not active. I connected it to a PWM pin, so I could control the brightness of the LED.

Warning! A 3w LED can pull about 700ma of current at 3.3v, so even though we are only PWM'ing at 50% (except for that 50ms 100% pulse), you should have a separate 1a 3.3v supply.

The sketch below fades the LED in and out, and gives a super bright flash between the ramp up and ramp down, simulating the affect of being in the direct line of the bulb on a rotating beacon,


int cycle=30;
int strobe=cycle*10; // calculate strobe delay
int maxFade=100; // maximum brightness before strobe
int ledPin = 11;    // MOSFET connected to digital pin 11

void setup() {
  // nothing happens in setup

void loop() {
  // fade in from min to max in increments of 2 points:
  for (int fadeValue = 0 ; fadeValue <= maxFade; fadeValue += 2) {
    // sets the value (range from 0 to maxFade):
    analogWrite(ledPin, fadeValue);
    // wait for "cycle" milliseconds to see the dimming effect
analogWrite(ledPin, 255); // simulate a rotating beacon catching your eye
delay(strobe); // hold full brightness for strobe delay
analogWrite(ledPin, maxFade);
  // fade out from maxFade to min in increments of 2 points:
  for (int fadeValue = maxFade ; fadeValue >= 0; fadeValue -= 2) {
    // sets the value (range from 0 to maxFade):
    analogWrite(ledPin, fadeValue);
    // wait for "cycle" milliseconds to see the dimming effect

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