avatar

QCPete

Member Since: January 28, 2009

Country: United States

Profile

Bio

I started at SparkFun in September of 2007 as an assembly technician. My experience in electronics had consisted of only running sound equipment for my band and fixing the occasional broken guitar cord. After only a few days on the production floor, my skills with a soldering iron improved dramatically, and I was building beautiful little widgets. It wasn’t too long before I started wondering how all these circuit boards actually worked. Whenever I had the chance, I would walk across the hallway to the engineers and ask for 5 minutes of their time. I learned words like micro controller, source code, op amp and many more. I was hooked.

My first project was an analog headphone amp. It was something I could use as a performing musician. This has since kept me busy on week nights (and most weekends) as I’ve grown my own business around audio products for musicians.

While perfecting my headphone amp design, I got into other DIY projects too. Before long, I was in my front lawn with my laptop and a few servos. I was hacking my sprinkler system. With some active pressure control, I was able to make my sprinkler shoot a perfect square. My neighbors thought I was a crazy :)

Little did I know that taking this position at SparkFun would open my eyes to a new favorite creative outlet, DIY Electronics. I get super stoked about a lot of things, but from the moment I felt that initial spark of interest, I knew this was something very special. I was learning tools that would allow me to truly harness my inner inventor.

In the last few years I have focused my energy at SparkFun to designing more efficient testing equipment and providing feedback to the engineers on how we can better design for manufacturing and testing. I can hardly call it a job, because I love it so much :)

Role

QC Manager

Programming Languages

Arduino, Tera Term Scripts and Batch Files.

Associations

Rock On Audio

Universities

Incline High School (Lake Tahoe), Squaw Valley Academy, Cate High School, Golden West (Huntington Beach), Cal State Long Beach, CU Boulder, Sparkfun University

Expertise

Rocking

Interests

A nice fillet and clean layouts. DSP, particularly the Sigma Studio stuff from AD. Thermal updrafts and circling in them. Remote control Airplanes - Electric in the parking lot and Slope when the winds up.

Websites

http://www.rockonaudio.com, http://www.phillewisart.com (that’s my bro!)

Join us for an epic journey into design for manufacturing, voltage spike suppression, stress testing, hex file analysis and more!

Continue reading

While designing our new Simon Tilts Through Hole Soldering Kit, we ultimately found that the best solution for the tilt sensor involved creating a custom plastic part. Here is the story of this project - including a couple interviews with the people that helped us along the way.

Continue reading

Dunk Tank Hack

In addition to the ongoing robot competition at AVC 2013, we included some carnival-type entertainment for the attendees. We rented a dunk tank, triggered it with a swiveling mallet, and challenged people to play "Trampoline Simon Says".

Continue reading

Binary Blaster Assembly Guide

March 13, 2014

Learn how to assemble and play the Binary Blaster Game from SparkFun Electronics.

Constant Innovation in Quality Control

December 11, 2013

In this article, we share our recent advancements in quality control. Every new product we design and manufacture here at SparkFun gets a custom testing apparatus that is designed and built in house. Along with making our tests more thorough, we have also made them more efficient and robust.

Simon Tilts Assembly Guide

December 3, 2013

This tutorial will guide you through assembling your Simon Tilts PTH Kit.
  • Nice one Nick! What a cool project. I’m excited to see how it progresses. I’m already wondering how this could scale to store a larger inventory. Maybe a portal on the back position that can exchange each tub from a larger storage array? Now I’m envisioning a train track around my kitchen with a ton of peanut butter jars cruising along :)

  • Not sure what you mean by “routed” and “sheared” PCBs. Could you explain more?

    Usually when we use the term “routed” around here we are talking about a standard PCB with an outer dimension that is milled on a CnC machine with a drill bit. The only other type of PCB division we deal with is when we request a V-score. Is this what you mean by sheared?

  • Hi Shadyman, Thanks for posting. I’m glad this old tutorial is still found useful! Yes, we do have some 2 pin style locking footprints with the center-pints scooted 5 mils outward. It is very rare that we have PTH parts soldered into place at SparkFun, but more and more designs are starting to now that we have a selective solder machine on the floor.

    I like your idea of not shifting the “end” holes too allow for more standard positioning on a layout - good thought. We will keep this in mind with future library work/layouts.

    Also, I just checked out the gEDA project for the first time. Looks cool! There are more and more board design tools coming out, it’s hard to keep up. We have always used eagle here, and so we are pretty darn committed at this point. There was talk of transitioning to Kicad, but our experience is that it has a rather steep initial learning curve. Have you worked with gEDA a lot? If you’re already working in the library, I assume so. What has your experience been like?

  • Hey Geoff, Your knowledge of subtle hazards is always amazing and thanks for sharing! I’d be interested to know how we might be able to test for the battery contact hazard. Would controlling a make-break-make sequence with simple SPDT switch be adequate? From your description, it sounds like this sequence would need to happen very quickly - probably faster then I could cause manually. Maybe incorporating a micro to control a switch would be the way to go?

    Also, I’d like to more thoroughly understand your in-series resistor option. Would this act like the “top” half of a voltage divider? (The resistor being the top half, and the remaining circuit beyond being the bottom half). If it were only 1 ohm, I’m guessing it wouldn’t have to drop much voltage at all, and so it’s current rating could be pretty minimal (keeping it small in size).

    Let me know your thoughts and thanks again!

  • Hi saccade,

    We do still use the locking footprints for some of our products that get headers populated in-house, like the ludus proto shield. Although it does make alignment easier, we prefer the aesthetics of straight headers (to keep a super clean looking layout), so most of our designs use the straight header footprints.

    Locking footprints are most useful when populating the parts in panel form before going into our selective soldering machine. It helps hold the parts in place without needing a huge jig to mate with the entire panel. Sometimes a panel may have over 100 parts go into SS, and so making a mating jig is quite the design project. For single board soldering, we recommend using a breadboard (as MicroLAN suggested).

    That being said, my team and I (in QC) use a lot of locking footprints on test jigs (to keep things perfectly straight). Although I’m always stoked on a nice looking test jig, we are not as concerned about the look cause they don’t hit storefront. We also get to use auto-router too - wahoo!

    Thanks for linking to my old tutorial. Wow, 2007, that was a fun trip down memory lane. We’ve come a long way :)

  • Sorry to hear you are having trouble with the buzzer. It might be worth watching the voltage on either side of the buzzer, however I’m not confident that your multi-meter would react fast enough to see anything. The “buzzes” are really quick, and they are actually a PWM signal, which multi-meters aren’t the best at seeing. If you have a scope, that would be a great way to verify the signal is working.

    Another approach: I would recommend checking the leg off of the IC that controls the buzzer for a good solder connection. It is the upper left most leg on the left side of the IC. If the leg is not soldered properly (or there is an accidental bridge to the adjacent leg), then this would prevent it from actually making noise. Hope this helps!

  • Hi there! We now call the top layer the “frame layer” cause that’s a little more clear when designing waffle-top testbeds. When we draw the frame layer, we follow these steps:

    1) copy the outline dimensions of the board-under-test into your testbed design(frame layer). 2) move the board-under-test outline to the reference layer. 3) draw the frame lines on the dimension layer directly on top of the board-under-test reference lines. At this point you can either draw in the “corner cutouts” as squares or circles. Or you can wait to do it later. 4) make sure all lines (both the reference and dimension) are 0.008 inch wide 5) set your alt to 0.016 inch 6) move the frame dimension lines out one alt click (0.016 inch). We have found with our fab house, this is the correct size gap between board-under-test dimension line and frame dimension line.

    Most fab houses don’t have a problem with strangely shaped cutouts. One tip though - if you want a space milled out, it’s a good idea to include a text object on the dimension layer with the words “ROUTE OUT” in the space you want removed. Otherwise, it can sometimes just come back as a line in the top copper.

    Yes, we use pointed for vias, and round for pads. This can help avoid scratching up the test point too much.

    Hope this helps, and good luck with your project!

  • Sure can! Use the 3.3V logic version, and supply power with batteries. Although, if you have a 5V version, you can change the logic level by changing the solder jumper on the bottom side of the board. Also, we wrote a tutorial on how to reprogram the Simon Says that may be helpful. The hardware is pretty similar, and it has the same bootloader. Good luck!

  • Let the countdown begin! I’m looking forward to setting up our simon says trampoline project! Although, it’s a little too chilly these days for a dunk tank, so I guess the reward for winning will only be more glorious blinking LEDs. Or maybe… candy!

  • Hi NatL, Sorry we do not carry that inductor alone on our website, but you can pick one up from digikey here

    Hope it goes well!