Desk of an Engineer: the Mary Edition

Let's get the scoop on the desks of SparkFun's finest.

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Nothing brings a maker more voyeuristic glee than seeing the workstations of other makers. We’re kicking off a new series where we barge in on our engineers while they’re working and kick them out so we can document their desks in all their chaotic glory. And because we know that just isn’t enough information, we ransom their offices back to them in exchange for some details on what they have on their desks and why. We do this for you! Clicking the image will englarge it, so you can experience the full resolution of each engineer’s home away from home.

Let’s begin. Behold: Mary’s desk! Let’s hear what she has to say about what you’re looking at, from left to right.

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The desk itself is designed and hand-built by a local (Longmont, CO) guy named Tony Parker, owner of Burley Bench Co. I couldn’t be happier with this product.

A basic dual-monitor setup is necessary for PCB design — on the left I monitor the circuit, and on the right the layout. I use single cinder blocks as monitor stands because they were less than $2 a piece and provide great cubby space for personal items I need handy but out of the way. Between the monitors is where I play my tunes on my Fisher-Price® tape recorder/player. I’ve got the Buzzcocks in there now. I keep a blank tape to record anything I find particularly funny or wild.

You’ll see some breadboards and my favorite multimeter — the Fluke 115, which I use at least 3–4 times per day. I perform a continuity test on any questionable connections during troubleshooting, or use the resistance setting to find the right resistor when I’m too lazy to look up the band colors.

There are three projects on my desk in front of the Siglent SDS 1052DL Digital Oscilloscope. I am currently experimenting with casting circuits in concrete with great success; now I can focus on aesthetics and getting the final form down a bit better. The first project was casting an LED circuit with an exposed switch. It worked but looked terrible. Next up is a Morse Code keyboard using our Cherry MX switches and an LCD screen for displaying the letter corresponding to the set of dits and dahs, which also works but came out slightly uneven. The ring of LEDs will eventually be cast in concrete and turned into a clock.

The old gray box is a power supply I have been using for almost 10 years. Before I started school for engineering, I was a maker scouring eBay for cheap used electronics equipment. I found this Hewlett-Packard 6216A power supply made in the ‘60s for $12 — still works like a champ. On top of that is one of my favorite plants (not pictured is my office garden, which includes a pineapple, fig tree and about eight different types of cacti). I need plants as much as I need coffee.

Last on my desk is the Hakko soldering station.

On the pegboard I keep an assortment of hand tools, hookup wire, copper tape and bins for anything I might need at any time — wire, solder, proto boards, an assortment of development boards, sensors, batteries, GPS modules and loads of buttons and switches.

Underneath my desk is where I keep my parts and projects organized in bins and boxes. That’s it!

Thanks (and sorry), Mary!

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Comments 18 comments

  • Love the fisherprice tape deck, that really is top class 😃

  • Underneath my desk is where I keep my parts and projects organized in bins and boxes.

    I would also be interested in this part. I know I could certainly use some more ideas in this department!

    • Mostly repurposed redboxes, ziplock bags, cardboard boxes, and these. I need to get better at organizing projects and parts too - other engineers use bookshelves and clearly labeled boxes within clear view -I need this.

      • Thanks for the reply! It sounds like, in many ways, our systems are similar, though I include repurposed blackboxes (from Adafruit), and many “plain brown” ones from Digi-Key. One suggestion I have is to use “Post-It®” notes to give some indication of what’s in the boxes. (Some boxes have a given project, but most are things like Teensy, Jumpers, Arduino, “Arduino” (not true Arduino but closely related, e.g., proMinis), Trinket (from Adafruit, and includes “wearable” stuff), and RPi.

        I would also suggest these, though I buy them from Costco at about $17 a 6-pack rather than the ~$20 Amazon wants for them. (Costco used to carry “Scandanavian ginger crisp cookies” that came in very nice, reusable clear plastic boxes. Unfortunately, I haven’t seen them in about 3 or 4 years. The label took a bit to get off, but I’ve found that soaking it with some rancid olive oil I happened to have handy did wonders on “killing” the adhesive.) Oh, yes: I also have a good collection of clear “pencil boxes”, mostly bought at the beginning-of-school-year sales. (Those have also been used to house several projects.)

        • Does sound like a similar set up. Also sounds like we need to send something that comes in a Red box ;)

          • The redboxes are so convenient for storing things (and other purposes!) that I’ve sometimes thought that if they were available for purchase (probably as a “flat bundle”, where they’d need to be folded for use), I might order a bundle or two. If I were a bit more energetic, though, I might look through the ULine catalog for something similar, but the down side to ordering from them is that once you’re on their mailing list they’ll send you a catalog every few months for at least 15 years. (About 15 years ago I bought a “bundle” of CD mailing boxes, and I’ve received a new catalog within about the past week.)

  • I’m wondering what the N64 controller is for

    • Gaming breaks - found some pretty good N64 emulators that work with retropie on the PiRetroCade. I’ve also been toying with the idea of doing some daily Let’s Plays on lunch breaks. So nothing cool that involves any hacking, modding or coding – but maybe now I feel compelled to do something else with it. Suggestions?

  • Hum… I don’t agree, where is the coffee?

  • saccade / last week / 1

    What sorts of things do you design/make at this place? This would establish some context for the tool choices.

  • That desk though, look little scary :)

  • No window?

  • How many of the instruments (fluke, scope, power supply, etc.) did you bring with you to the job, and how many of them did SparkFun provide?

    I ask because I find I tend to bring my tools to work a lot. If others like them, we tend to re-buy them for work. Sounds like your workbench is very similar.

    • I brought in the oscope, power supplies and a 3D printer. SparkFun provided the Fluke, Hakko soldering station, and all the parts my heart desires.

  • I wish I could keep my bench that tidy ;)