This month we'd like you to meet element14 Community's December Member of the Month: workshopshed
element14: First of all I wanted to congratulate you on being December’s Member of the Month.
Workshopshed: Thanks, it was a big surprise!
element14: It looks like you have been a member since March of 2012, what brought you to the site?
Workshopshed: I was invited in; someone from Premier Farnell element14 took notice of what I was doing on my blog and reached out to me.
element14: Your first blog with us came shortly afterwards, why did you start blogging on our site versus your own?
Workshopshed: It was really more of a content thing; my other blog is still going strong, but is more about the physical world: metal working, welding, repairing things, more do-it-yourself type of stuff. As I got more interested in the electronics and the coding side of things it just made more sense to post that on element14. In terms of audience on element14; the number of people who view my content can be quite variable. I seem to get more views when I post things on Arduino, Business of Engineering and 3D Printing.
element14: You mention the Business of Engineering space; you have a series called “Creating a New Product”. Is that something you are trying to do?
Workshopshed: Yes, last year’s project was an Arduino-based Topsy Turvy Clock. The project required a lot of different skills including electronics, software, metal working and woodwork. That project wrapped up around October of 2014. I am now working on a less complex project that is just electronics, and I thought I'd see if there is any commercial interest to it as a product. It is essentially a cursor pad with an I2C connector so you can have controls connected to your microcontroller, Raspberry Pi or whatever your choice of development platform.
element14: What kind of applications do you plan on using it as a way to demonstrate the product?
Workshopshed: The two ideas I have been kicking around are a reflow oven, which is kind of an “eat your own dog food” kind of scenario. Potentially the oven could go and create more boards. Another application would be in rotary sensor, a project I’ve been developing for some time now. This uses a magnetic sensor to detect the angle of a rotary table. This will allow the user to machine things like gear wheels and complex circular shapes.
element14: Walk me through this Topsy Turvy Clock project, how did you arrive at the idea for it?
Workshopshed: A lot of my ideas come from out of nowhere. I saw the clock on a TV show, kind of a two second shot of a clock with out of order numbers. I wondered how it could be made. I have a long commute into work and spent my time thinking of ways I could represent the clock I saw on TV in the real world. The result was the Topsy Turvy Clock.
element14: What do you do professionally?
Workshopshed: In my day job I work as an IT consultant working with databases. I recently started getting into C# as a programming language. Sometimes what I do on the Community crosses over into what I do professionally, particularly when it comes to coding. At the end of the day designing software, creating data structures or testing code is good for me professionally as well as my hobby.
element14: What got you started in electronics?
Workshopshed: I started very young actually, even earlier than secondary school level. I got one of these construction kits where you have a couple of transistors, some lamps, wires and springs. You basically took the wires, connected them to the springs and make circuits. That was my in. I took up electronics throughout school, did some low level certification, built an X-Y plotter, took some higher level classes and eventually a degree in Electronic Engineering. While I was in university I was doing an apprenticeship with an aerospace company. The company got bought out and they shifted their focus out of electronics, I adjusted my career path based on a chance opportunity and have been in IT since. It was not until 2012 that I found myself back in electronics.
element14: Outside of the areas of the Community we have already discussed, how else to you spend your time on the site?
Workshopshed: I am driven to the Community more when I get a notification that someone has commented on something I have produced or replied to a discussion I have participated on. I will explore from there. Recently I have been involved on the CadSoft Eagle forums. I’m also a big fan of The Ben Heck Show. I am quite envious of his projects; it would be nice to have a day job like that. In college I was involved in TV production so I know how difficult producing a show like that can be.
element14: I see you have done a couple of RoadTests? Walk me through how those have gone.
Workshopshed: My first one was actually a larger version of the project I am planning on this year. It included a sophisticated board from Cypress Semiconductors called the MBR (mechanical button replacement) evaluation kit. The idea is that mechanical buttons are potentially unreliable; prone to dust and chemical egress, so you have to protect and maintain them. Where is a capacitance switch you can throw it behind some plastic or glass and you can activate it through the panel? The RoadTest was set up to test this in different ways these buttons behave given different environments. My spin on it was how it was going to work in the workshop. I wanted to test how it would be affected by things like wearing gloves and using different front panel materials. The strangest thing I used as a front panel material was a large sheet of toughened glass from a bathroom shelf – and it worked with no issues at all.
The RoadTest program itself was pretty straight forward; the thing is you have to put together a proposal that is interesting to the Community and equally of use the manufacturer. My approach is: how would I test this thing for it to be of use to me?
element14: You were also selected to RoadTest the Robex 3D printer?
Workshopshed: Yes. When I applied I knew how many others had applied as well, so I was not holding my breath in terms of getting selected. I might be slightly guilty for how many people applied because I was telling everyone about it. My thought process was similar to what I described for my previous applications, but I wanted to add what I could bring to the table that is a little bit different. Because of my background in the mechanical sides of things I was interested in seeing how the things I have been machining, gears in particular, compare to prints of the same design.
element14: Do you follow any other members on the Community?
Workshopshed: There are a lot of interesting characters on the Community but this first that comes to mind is fvan . He has had a lot of interesting things, particularly this past year. Another is peteroakes who has had a great series on building a bench power supply. I honestly don’t pay attention to the usernames all the time but more the projects ideas.
element14: Do you have any advice to those who are new to the Community?
Workshopshed: Something that I learned during my first RoadTest is that you have to get your head around the terminology being used. Quite often there are words used in real life that have a totally different meaning within the context being talked about on the Community. If you are not up to speed on the terminology you may not be able to have quality of conversations and discussion on the site.
element14: Thanks for taking the time to chat and congratulations.
Worskshopshed: Thank you!