Desk of an Engineer: the Alex Edition

Our next deskpionage victim has been chosen.

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We’re back with more desk details! This is part six in a 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 enlarge it, so you can experience the full resolution of each engineer’s home away from home.

Today we’ve inconvenienced Alex! Let’s get into it.

Alex's Desk

By most engineer’s standards my desk is pretty clean, but to me it’s a mess. When I start a new project, the first thing I like to do is clean off my desk and put everything away so that it looks like I just started working here that morning. To me, it’s a form of therapy to reset my brain and start the project on a clean slate. Fortunately, I’m in the middle of a few projects, and it doesn’t look so sterile.

Starting from the left of the image, just off screen is where I spend most of my time on my dual-monitor PC. Between PCB design and software, having multiple monitors is essential. Within the frame on the left is my mini PC tower, which I use for quick access to some of my tools. I have a USB power monitor for USB-powered circuits to quickly test a board’s current draw. On the Adjustable LiPo Charger for example, I used it to make sure the DIP switches selected the correct charge current printed on the PCB. I also have my Custom Eagle Shortcut Keyboard, which I still use when I’m working on a new PCB layout. My favorite piece though is my mini screwdriver set on top of my tower. Not because of its quality (after years the rubber still has a noxious odor to it), but because of the warning label it comes with:

Warning Made in China

Moving to the right is my main testing area. I have a wash bottle filled with water to easily re-soak the sponge of my Hakko soldering iron. My go-to scope is my Rigol DS1054Z. It’s hard to beat the bang for the buck you get, especially if you know how to unlock it and upgrade the bandwidth, memory and software digital decoding.

On my test bench right now is an audio amplifier that should be going live in the next few weeks. Aside from functionality of a circuit, we also look at the performance of the circuit and try to come up with the best design to maximize the board’s performance. It might be making sure a board has a solid ground plane, or in this case, choosing the best part to use. Because my test equipment is so close to my computer, I was able to write a Python script to automate the Bode Plots and pick the best capacitors to make the frequency response as wide as possible.

Some of the less noteworthy tools are my helping hands and cup-o-tools (flush cutters, wire strippers, tweezers, etc.) that I like to keep my smaller tools in. One thing that drives me crazy is when I’m looking for that one tool that I placed somewhere and now I can’t remember where I put it. That’s another big reason why I try and stay organized and clean up in between projects. Every tool has its home, and I like to keep it there so that I’m not spending 10 minutes moving papers and parts trying to find my X-ACTO knife.

The one area that’s never organized is the drawers in my desk. By never organized, I mean never in a clean pile, but each drawer has its function. One might be for junk that might be useful one day and I refuse to throw away, one might be for meters and probes, and another is filled with breadboards, jumper wire, and SMD to DIP boards for quick prototypes before I order a board.

Other than an essential, life-size-ish Han Solo, that’s it!

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Thanks Alex!


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