Kelvin’s Project Complete

After six whole weeks of building, my sunrise alarm clock is finally complete. What exactly did I achieve in these past few weeks? Not only did I build an electrical device and followed steps real engineers take in order to create, but I also assured myself that I want to be an engineer.

Though my project was largely based on electrical engineering, I learned about topics that all kinds of engineers deal with. For example, first I had to find a schematic and understand it. That and I had to overcome failure time and time again. Since at the beginning I used an MSP430 microcontroller and the plans for the schematic weren’t using that part I had to modify it. Finally, after struggling to alter the plans, I had a few working circuits. However, the coding would prove to hold me back a full week.

Creating the code was one thing but debugging it was what changed my project. Code Composer Studio wouldn’t compile my code and I couldn’t find out what was wrong. The week went by and I switched to using the Arduino UNO instead. Finding relevant code and merging them as well as changing a few things was easier. Creating the actual circuits was just a matter of understanding schematics enough to actually construct what they displayed.

For anyone looking to do this project I would recommend becoming really familiar with coding. What was difficult for me to understand was that the microcontroller doesn’t understand how time works so it was up to me to make it read time. A lot of math and understanding went into this project and it has confirmed that engineering takes skill but is also a lot of fun.

Blue Stamp has encouraged me to pursue my goals and has taught me to work hard to achieve them. For that I would like to thank them and also my donor. Without his help none of this would be possible. Thank you Mr.Chandiramani.

Please take a look at my final video and my project documentation!

DocumentationKelvin Documentation

The Circuit Complete

I would have never guessed that I would be able to build something and be able to identify key components of it. Building this sunrise-alarm clock has taught me a lot about shift registers, MOSFETs and their PWM effect, micro-controllers, and coding.

After lighting up the LEDs and being able to change the numbers displayed on them the hardest step was the coding. Because the Arduino doesn’t understand time getting it to display it was difficult and required multiple re-writes of coding. In the end, however, I was able to display military time at a semi-accurate rate.

Since to buzzer is directly connected to the micro-controller it was a simple matter of writing a bit of code. The LED circuit also wasn’t difficult to build and the challenge came with its coding. In order to get the LED to light up slowly 30 mins. before the set alarm time we needed to use a MOSFET to create the PWM effect and slowly light up the LED as the set alarm time neared.

Overall this was an exciting step because I was able to see a schematic come to life.

The Alarm

After finishing my voice changer kit I began working on a digital alarm clock. Originally I used an MSP430 micro-controller but faced a compiling issue that took up an entire week. To get rid of the problem I got rid of the MSP430 and used an Arduino UNO instead. This micro-controller was much more user friendly and allowed me to proceed with the alarm clock at a quicker pace. However, using the Arduino meant using shift registers. In order to connect the Digital Displays to the Arduino I used Serial-In Serial-Out 74hc595′s, creating up to 8 other outputs I could use to light up the number displays. The actual building schematic was not tough but understanding what was happening was. Learning about shift registers and the Arduino was all new to me and here I am talking about it like I know everything about them. This video linked will explain my project’s milestone further.

The First Step

As soon as everyone else got hold of their starter projects I knew that I was surrounded by students that were serious about engineering. It wasn’t until I held mine that I became very discouraged. It seemed that everyone in that room but me already knew what to do. While everyone else began to build, I tried to get familiar with the parts of my voice changer kit. I didn’t just want to know how to build one. I wanted to know how it worked. Every time I came across a part I had never seen I would ask one of the instructors if they could tell me its purpose.

First I learned the basics of a PCB and its silkscreen. Then I learned about each of the other parts: the resistors, capacitors, diodes, and the microchip. Once the parts were placed I soldered them onto the board and my project was finished. I turned the voice changer on and heard an irritating screech. The problem was due to feedback. The microphone was too close to the speaker. In order to get rid of the screech I filled a box with packing peanuts and wrapped the wire connecting the speaker to the board around the box. Now the speaker was on one side and the microphone on the other and the feedback died down significantly.

As I completed my first project I felt good about myself. I lost the fear of looking ignorant for not knowing everything and I became a better engineer for it.

Another Clueless Engineer

All my life I’ve been good at destroying things and taking them apart. I loved disassembling everything, though putting things back together wasn’t my strong suit. Re-building proved a lot harder but something in it made me feel accomplished. Whereas others played with their toys, I took mine apart and therefore didn’t receive many toys from anybody. I felt eager learn how things worked and how they were put together. Then the title stuck. I was an engineer, but a clueless one at that.

My first day at Blue Stamp I was bombarded by words I never heard of and unfortunately my starter project was already disassembled and I wouldn’t be able to reverse-engineer. From that point on I knew that Blue Stamp Engineering would teach me a different way to both build and learn how to build.

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