Another Tutorial – LED Matrix Display

Once again, I put finger to keyboard to post another entry in this blog.  I have really got to do this on a more regular basis – and this is another attempt to get that going.

This post is pretty small, because I have written another tutorial and that is where most of this blog’s efforts went.

A friend of mine is working on a system that has a display board – this used 100 discrete LEDs arranged in a 10X10 matrix.  This got me thinking about how you could build one of these in a rather simple circuit.  Take a look at my new tutorial, at: http://projects.granzeier.com/led-matrix/.

Stay tuned for more, coming in the near future.

Jedi Force Trainer Teardown

Meet the Jedi Knight’s Force Trainer, from Uncle Milton: http://unclemilton.com/star_wars_science/#/the_force_trainer/
I have been working with a friend of mine on trying to find a way for his wife, who has ALS and is paralyzed, to communicate better. He has one of the Force Trainer toys, and his wife has had some success in using this. My friend sent me one of the devices, and I decided to document my work on interfacing this to a computer or a microcontroller.  He found a site where a guy named Zibri gave a lot of info about interfacing the Force Trainer ((http://www.zibri.org/2009/09/success.html.)  This has been a huge help in converting this “toy” into a useful “handicapped communication tool.”
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Step I – First, I took the bottom off. There are four tiny screws (no. 1, Philips head) holding the bottom to the case. After taking this off, the two sides of the plastic body needed to be pried apart. The two arms of the body did not come apart without breaking the plastic inside. Once apart, the device looked like this:
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Step II – Next, I completed removing the plastic body of the base unit.

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Step III – This is a shot of the 2×6 male header, where we will tap into the serial data stream (http://www.zibri.org/2009/09/success.html.) I will probably be sending this to a microcontroller (most likely a Propeller, since Jason – my friend – already has some of these,) and then on to a PC for experimenting.

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Step IV – Here I show how the device still works, after being disassembled:

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Step V – Below, you can see the LEDs much better – although the rest of the picture is pretty bad, sorry.

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Step VI – Here, I have disconnected the LED panel – still working properly (in other words, Yoda still gives his speil when I power the unit up):

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Step VII – Next, I removed the power button PCB, here you can see that PCB.  The instructions indicate that the potentiometer is used to calibrate the air flow; since we will not be using the fan, we should be able to do without the pot.

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Step VIII – Even with the other components disconnected, I was able to power the system up.  By following the traces on the PCB, I was able to determine that the pushbutton switch was connected to the (on my system, be careful about those) blue and yellow wires. By using a shorting plug to connect the blue and yellow wires on the connector, the system powered up and I heard Yoda’s introduction through the speaker.

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Step IX – Next, I unplugged the fan assembly and then, again, powered up the system to make sure that it does not depend on the other circuits.  Yep, it still works, without them.

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Step X – Since this may be incorporated into another product, I wanted to check the power requirements.  As you can see, my voltmeter is showing 8.28VDC – no troubles there.  Plus, as a bonus, with the fan removed, the battery (6 AA cells) will last much longer than the original system.

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Step XI – Next, just to make the thing a bit more portable, I removed the speaker from the bottom of the base station.  Then I was able to place the main PCB onto the speaker mount on the base, and tighten it down with the two brackets which were used to hold the speaker in place.

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Step XII – Here is a close-up of the main PCB mounted into the speaker mount.  You can see the curved bracket holding the PCB in place.  The other bracket had to be broken a bit to fit onto the board, but this jury-rigging does hold the PCB nice and tight.

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Step XIII – Here is another picture which shows the one bracket a little more clearly.

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Well, this is the tear down.  Next, we will build the connector for the serial port, and plug it into the microcontroller.  A simple repeater program on the microcontroller will send the data, from the Force Trainer PCB, on to a PC for initial analysis.

Updating The Granzeier Consulting Site

In order to be the best engineer that you can be, you need to be the best person that you can be.  Along those lines, I have created a new site: http://faith.granzeier.com/.  There will be articles and other things to help you to build your faith there.  In fact, there are already a couple of articles posted there.  Take a look there (just click on the link on the right side of this page,) but, as Bill Cosby used to say: “be careful, or you just might learn something.” 😉

Also, Granzeier Consulting is about trying to help engineering students learn about computers and control systems; our tagline reads: Helping to Build a Better Engineer.  In light of this, I have started updating our store and adding some tutorial pages to this Projects site.

My first update was to the LED Pack product page: http://zenstore.granzeier.com/index.php?main_page=product_info&cPath=1&products_id=1.  The old description was just the first paragraph.  I have added an entire tutorial on LEDs for beginners.  Soon, I will be adding some specific examples so that you can see exactly how to use an LED in your own circuit.

Breadboard Sample Color w-Power Indicator

There is also an entire tutorial page, showing how to set up and use a solderless breadboard.  You can find it here: http://projects.granzeier.com/what-is-a-breadboard/.  You can learn about the history and how the things work there.  I even show you how to put a power indicator on your breadboard, so that you can, easily, tell when power is turned on.

Merry Christmas

Joy, Peace, Giving, Food, Sharing, Warmth…

What is the true meaning of Christmas?

How often have you heard it said “that is the true meaning of Christmas”?  Well many of them are wrong!  The true meaning of Christmas is a God who loves us so much that He sent His only Son to us.

Jesus came as a helpless baby (can you imagine holding God in your arms as Mary did?)  Jesus suffered the cold and heat, ridicule and torment, hunger and thirst… all for you.  He was told what to do and He did it without complaint.

When Jesus grew up, He taught the masses.  Many who came, came just to see what miracle they could see.  The leaders came to Him to harass, and discredit, Him.  No one really understood Him or truly believed.

Then, to pay the penalty for your sins, He gave up His life, stretched out His arms on the cross, and died – for you!  On the third day, He rose again to give you eternal life, if you only believe in Him.  Now, that is the true meaning of Christmas.

May God give you understanding of, and comfort from, the TRUE meaning of Christmas this year.

For more information on this, please click on the Good News For You link in the header of this page, or click here: http://faith.granzeier.com/good-news-for-you/.

Merry Christmas

The Birth of Jesus

1 In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world.2 (This was the first census that took place while[a] Quirinius was governor of Syria.) 3 And everyone went to their own town to register.

4 So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. 5 He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. 6 While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, 7 and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.

8 And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9 An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,

14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”

16 So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. 17 When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. 20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.

Merry Christmas to all my readers.  May God bless each of you for this entire year.

Why Study Engineering?

Let’s look at the foundation of engineering.  Why would we even want to study engineering?  To answer that, consider an old anecdote:

A doctor, an engineer and an attorney were having lunch and were enjoying a nice discussion with their lunch.  As often happens, the conversation drifted around to their careers and they started discussing who was in the oldest profession.

“If you will recall, the bible states that God took a rib out of Adam, and created Eve,” claimed the Doctor.  “Clearly, this is the work of a Surgeon, so my field is the oldest field.”

The engineer agreed, but pointed out that “prior to that, God took chaos and created the entire universe.  This is certainly the work of an Engineer, so there can be no doubt that Engineering predates the medical field, and is the oldest.”

“Not so fast,” commented the attorney.  “Who do you think created all that chaos in the first place?”

This little story, while humorous, misses by just a tad.  The attorney, while “admirably” defending his field, wasn’t quite right.  God did create order out of chaos, but the chaos was not created, it was the raw material, out of which God created the universe.  So, sorry to all the attorneys out there who thought that they were in the oldest profession; “it just ain’t so.”

In actuality, the field of engineering is really the oldest profession (no slight intended to all the mothers out there who claim title.)  So, to study engineering is really to study God!  And to think, you thought that engineering wasn’t all that glamorous a field, huh?  A wise student takes note of, and studies, the works of the more mature professionals in his field; so study how God has put things together, and learn all that you can about the greatest field in the world!

If you would like to know more about The First Engineer, I am going to put up a copy of His Instruction Manual in my store (http://zenstore.granzeier.com) – it should be there by tomorrow.  I am going to try to make it available for a very low price (free will be great, if I can swing it), in my store.

Stay tuned for more info about that and more great engineering information.

Hello world!

Hi, my name is Art… and I will be your tour guide through this blog (yeah, I know, too corny to live, alas…)

This blog is to document my projects.  Here, we will explore all kinds of things related to electricity, electronics, computers, control systems and robotics.  I have also set up a store so that you have a nice single point-of-contact, if you would like to purchase a kit of parts for the project, or anything else.

Oh yeah, since this is my blog, we will occasionally delve into other interesting things.