August 16, 2010
News - On Women in Tech
What are the chances that Barack Obama would have been elected if he were a foot shorter, or that Hillary Clinton would be so popular if she were forty pounds heavier? Height and weight are not “protected” categories, but the discrimination is just as real. As a 50+ year old software developer, I have recently begun to notice that a lot of software job listings explicitly ask for a “young” person or a “recent college graduate”. What is the average age of the staff at Sparkfun? Is your workplace inviting to someone who is 50+? It’s noble that you are paying attention to the gender issue, but you really need to broaden the scope. The real issue is fairness and inclusiveness for ALL qualified people.
News - New Product Friday: Pull,…
about 3 years ago
It is not correct to say 25 pounds of “pressure”. The “pressure” sensors actually measure up to 25 pounds of “force”. If you apply 25 pounds of force to a small part of the sensor, you will get the same response as if you spread that force over the entire sensor area. In the first case, you will have a higher pressure in the (smaller) area over which the force is applied to the sensor.
Think of it this way: If a mouse stands on the sensor, the sensor’s resistance will indicate the mouse’s weight (in pounds), regardless of whether he is standing on one foot or two feet. When he is standing on one foot, the pressure under his foot is twice as high (in pounds per square inch) as when he stands on both feet.
Yes, I am definitely being picky. But SparkFun now has an educational staff writing curricula for school students. When those students browse the website, they should be getting accurate impressions about physical quantities such as force and pressure.
News - SparkFun Sustainability E…
about 3 years ago
My son once built a balsa wood car that could travel over 200 feet down the corridor of his high school powered only by the spring from a standard mousetrap. It is amazing how much efficiency you can achieve when you make it a goal.
Consider holding a robot contest in which each contestant is given an identical battery which is their only power source. Award the prize to the robot that travels the greatest distance before running out of power. This will encourage people to think of clever ways to accomplish the assigned task in energy-efficient ways.
For example, which PWM frequency is most energy-efficient for my robot? Can I use a freewheel diode to make my motor more efficient? Is the course hilly, and would my robot benefit from regenerative braking? Can I run my MCU at a lower frequency to save power? Can I put the MCU into sleep mode and have a timer wake it up 20 times per second to update the system state before going back to sleep? What is RDSon for my motor drivers? Can I find a more efficient driver with a lower RDSon?
Two words: low power
A lot of your customers are, or will someday be, designing commercial products that consume energy. Sparkfun can probably find ways to save a little bit of energy inside its own four walls. But if you educate your customers about low-power design, there will be a multiplier effect.
Design all of your products to be as low-power as is practical. Include a section in the documentation that explains how you analyzed the power consumption and the design choices you made to reduce power consumption. In other words, lead by example. Make this a standard, required part of the design process and the documentation, right along with the schematic.
Don’t forget about firmware. For example, does the Logomatic automatically go into sleep mode when it is not busy? Kudos if it already does that.
Offer products that customers can use to implement low-power designs. For example, offer some high-side switches, possibly on break-out-boards, along with advice on how to use them.
I recently read an article which stated that Sparkfun is planning to offer K-12 educational materials. Consider including a unit on low-power design in the curriculum.
Empower customers to create low-power designs by creating and exhibiting a culture of low-power design at Sparkfun.
News - Eco-Gym
about 5 years ago
Let’s suppose that a child could generate sufficient energy to power a small television (perhaps 100-150 watts). Now when the child asks for permission to watch television, the parents can say “Fine. Watch as much as you like. But you have to supply the power!”.
1. The child will be more selective about what he or she chooses to watch.
2. Watching television is now good for the child’s physical health.
3. The same generating device can be used to power a radio or a lamp during a power outage.
4. A hybrid bike/desk could be designed that permits people to power their computer monitors while also using the keyboard and mouse in an ergonomic manner. I’m not sure this would be possible, but if it worked, it would help office workers to get some much-needed exercise while working.
No public wish lists :(
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