Infrared Makes a Great Presentation Aid

Hawk in winter imaged with a thermal camera

After I finished speaking about engineering I brought out one of my company’s gyro-stabilized camera gimbals. This one, in particular, has both an optical and false-color FLIR Photon infrared camera. The gimbal is able to autonomously track objects while they move and while the gimbal itself is perturbed by wind and other disturbances. The students thought that was incredibly cool as I tracked their movements using the optical camera. Then I turned out the lights and switched to infrared mode. My audience lit up like a Christmas tree under infrared and I was greeted with a resounding “cool…!” I had one of the students put her hand against a wall for a few seconds and the camera picked up the hand-shaped residual heat signature. I also had one student walk around the room trying to escape the gimbal’s gaze. He was successful but not immediately!

I have given presentations about engineering and technology to grade-school and high school students in the past and I enjoy it every time. I think I made a few converts on this run!

Robotic Fish at the UW Engineering Open House

Close up swimming fishMy lab hosted another successful engineering open house exhibit today at the University of Washington. I’ve been working in the Nonlinear Dynamics and Control Lab at UW for two years now and I’m close to completing my masters degree. My thesis is based on a radio transceiver that I specifically designed to enable underwater communication between our three robotic fish. Today, my transceiver was used to demo our work to the UW community and visitors to the university. [Read more…]

Talking Fish

I finally finished a project that has been nagging me for the past few weeks! Yah :) We have these robotic fish swimming around and they can’t talk to each other, well, until now. I designed a transceiver communication board using RF modules from Linx Technologies hoping that time would be saved. Designing a stable radio frequency (RF) circuit is fairly straightforward when you’ve got fully integrated embedded modules, but once that design is placed in a conductive medium (like water) it gets a whole lot more complicated. As if RF design wasn’t black magic already, antenna placement, receiver sensitivity and ground plane geometry become critical and will make or break a design. At least the first board revision is done and I can send it off for fabrication and component soldering (2-3 week turnaround time). Now I can get married without this thing hanging over my head. ::breathing a big sigh of relief::

Of course this means I get to look forward to hardware hacking and bug fixing once I return from the honeymoon.


LCD solid modelAs an EE I don’t get much exposure to ME CAD software. Most of my time at Cal Poly was spent learning board design and layout/trace routing tools like OrCad. Recently I’ve been tinkering with SolidWorks and I’m totally impressed! SolidWorks, like its name implies, is a solid modeling CAD package. Check out this LCD display that I just modeled.

PolySat Bites the Dust

While studying at Cal Poly, I was a member of the PolySat picosatellite team. We worked on designing and building a small 10cm^3 satellite which would perform remote sensing in space and relay information back to earth via HAM radio bands. While I was only briefly associated with the project, I did the early design work for the command and data handling subsystem which would eventually tie the microcontrollers with the payload sensors and communication subsystem.

Cal Poly’s two picosatellites, along with 9 others from universities around the world were launched toward space today by a Russian Dnepr rocket in Kazakhstan. These cold-war era ICBMs were retooled to serve as launch vehicles, providing a low-cost alternative for launching payloads into orbit. I suppose the old saying, “You get what you pay for”, rings true once again. Our satellites never reached orbit since the rocket’s engine failed shortly after launch. All that work for nothing….. Chinese-built Russian garbage for the lose.

Actually this makes me wonder how great the Russian threat was during the cold war. I suppose it doesn’t matter since the likely scenario that all the Russian ICBMs failed to launch would have been irrelevant since nuclear winter would have quickly ensued following a U.S. Titan II salvo. 9-megaton warheads can really kick up some dirt.

PolySat Latest News Page:

Apple Remote and Front Row

One of the projects I worked on at Apple has finally been announced so I can talk about it openly. I think this is the most significant project that I worked on since I wrote all of the firmware and worked on the circuit board. Apple will be making millions of these and shipping them all over the world. Its called the ‘Apple Remote’ and you can see it here

An Apple Remote will ship with each iMac and can be magnetically attached to iMac when not in use (check out the picture on the bottom). It has a very simple design with only 6 buttons but only 6 buttons are necessary since the UI is designed so well. In fact Steve Jobs compared it to a 40+ button Microsoft remote and pointed out that it exemplified the Apple design philosophy of simplicity without sacrificing function.

If you have time, I highly recommend you view the keynote where Steve Jobs introduced the new iMac and Apple Remote. He starts off by introducing 3 new features and the remote is covered in feature ..3 so you can skip ahead to that part if you don’t care about the rest of the iMac. You can download the keynote here:

The keynote also introduces the new white ipod which supports photos, album art, and video (like music videos, home movies, etc) so its definitely worth a look.