Archive for Projects

Tutorial and Experiments with ESP8266 SoC, Blynk App, Arduino and Internet of Things (IoT)

In this episode Shahriar explores the functionality of the popular ESP8266 SoC chip. This IC incorporates a full ISM radio as well as the physical/MAC layer for 802.11b/g/n network communication. Furthermore it includes a uC core for code execution making it a low-cost candidate for Internet of Thing applications. This video uses a Sparkfun Thing evaluation board which also includes a LiPo batter charger, voltage regular, flash memory and all the I/O pins which are accessible to the user. The block diagram of the ESP8266 is reviewed as well as the schematic of the complete Sparkfun Thing board.

By using an Arduino library and the Blynk iOS application, a cell phone and the ESP8266 can simultaneously communicate with a server running the Blynk application and transfer data between the application and the module. In this demo various components such as NeoPixel (WS2812), OneWire temperature sensor and battery monitoring functionality are implemented. The code is available here.

Tutorial on the Design & Implementation of an FPGA RGB LED Matrix Driver

In this episode Shahriar and Timo demonstrate the design methodology of an FPGA based 32×32 RGB LED matrix driver. Timo has kindly devoted some of his time to describe the block diagram and the thought process which goes into designing this type of FPGA display driver. The various components of the overall system (PLL, UART, and Display Controller) are shown along with the simulation data. The outputs of the Spartan-6 FPGA board are then measured using a Keysight S-Series oscilloscope. The design of the RGB matrix is also demonstrated using a custom clock interface sent wirelessly to the unit via Bluetooth. All the FPGA design files can be downloaded here.

Teardown, Upgrade and Experiments with a Verity Visible Wavelength Monochromator

In this episode, Shahriar upgrades a Verity visible wavelength monochromator model EP200Mmd to be able to perform automatic scans. The instrument is retrofitted with a stepper motor and a microcontroller which performs wavelength scanning between 225nm to 875nm. The signal from the internal photomultiplier is sampled by the microcontroller and wirelessly sent to the computer. Matlab is used to plot the wavelength response.

The principle operation of a monochromator is thoroughly reviewed starting with the grating mirror behavior. The operation of the photomultiplier is also described. Various mechanical and electronic of the upgraded system is also shown. The presented slides can be found here.

Tutorial on Programming the NeoPixel (WS2812) RGB LEDs and Equipment Giveaway!

In this episode Shahriar takes a close look at programming the popular NeoPixel RGB LEDs using a PIC microcontroller and C-language. A close-up of the NeoPixel (WS2812) LED is shown with attention to identifying various semiconductor elements inside the package. The principle operation of the LED is the described along with a detailed explanation of the pins and the one-wire communication protocol.

A simple evaluation board for the PIC18F4550 is used to drive a circular array of 60 NeoPixel LEDs from Adafruit. After presenting the difficulties of providing an accurate pulse-shape using the C-language, the measured waveform is shown on a Tektronix MDO4000B. Finally, the code for a circular color rotating pattern is presented and demoed. The code for the experiment can be downloaded here.

There is also equipment giveaway! A TPI Scope Plus 440 and a Tektronix TDS2232 are being given away at no charge! Please leave a comment on the video or on the website. You must be a resident of the USA to receive the giveaway. A winner will be chosen at a later date and notified via email.

Agilent 53131A Universal Counter Upgrade OPT-030 Analysis and Experiments

In this episode, Shahriar upgrades an Agilent 53131A Universal Counter with the OPT-030 which extends its frequency range from 225MHz to 3GHz. The upgrade kit is a replica PCB intended to emulate the behavior of the original Agilent branded option.

The PCB is examined carefully with attention to microwave layout techniques along the signal path. The datasheet of all the parts are reviewed and the reverse-engineered block diagram of the PCB is presented. The expected behavior of the PCB is then measured in both small-signal and large-signal operation using an active 3GHz probe. The PCB is then installed inside the unit and the functionality of the instrument is verified within its specifications. All the documents presented in the video can be found here.

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