Category Archives: Personal

Personal things that I might be embarrassed to share in certain situations?

I am a College Graduate!

On Saturday, May 19th, 2012, I received a Diploma for my Bachelors of Science in Electrical Engineering Physics Degree from the University of Texas at Brownsville. It was a lot of hard work and a lot of interesting and fascinating topics, and now I am ready to move on to the working world and gain some industry experience! πŸ˜€

Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) Exam

Today was the Fundamentals of Engineering exam for me; I had to wake up at 5am and drive an hour to Edinburg, Texas. What is the FE? In short, it is an 8-hour exam that is the start of my path toward becoming a licensed Professional Engineer (complete with a stylish “P.E.” lastname-hat).

I have been preparing off and on for about 6 months now, and I think I did well; In fact, I am almost certain that I did well enough to pass. That’s all that matters, anyway, because when I get my results in 8-10 weeks, that’s pretty much the only information I will receive; whether or not I passed. Well, if I fail I will get a diagnostic report, but I really don’t think that I failed. πŸ˜€

It was very challenging and exhausting; my neck hurts, but I am glad I decided to bring a pillow to sit on because I think it really made a big difference in my comfort level. The exam is split into two 4-hour sections, the first of which is a 120-question general exam that everyone takes and it covers a broad range of topics. I wish I had spent more time preparing for Thermodynamics, Chemistry, and Fluid Dynamics (a subject I don’t actually understand the reason for having in the general section), but I think the provided reference material helped me do a little better in those areas than I otherwise would have been able to do. The second section is chosen at registration-time by the test-taker to focus on a specific type of engineering (Electrical Engineering, in my case), and I found it to be much more easy-going since I was comfortable with 95% of the topics on the test (versus about 65% of the morning exam). There were only 60 questions for the afternoon section, but they were definitely more involved and some of them required some real multi-level thinking to solve (I’m looking at you, computer architecture questions!).

Like I said, though; I’m pretty confident that I did well enough to pass.

EDIT: I PASSED THE FE EXAM! Now I just need to apply for my Engineer in Training (EIT) License next week! πŸ˜€

14th Annual UTB Research Symposium

As part of my Senior Design II class, I gave an oral presentation (as opposed to my option of compiling and presenting a poster) at the 14th Annual Research Symposium at my University. and won 1st place out of 8 presentations! Below, you can find a link to the slides I put together for my presentation in a conveniently embedded PDF format (if it is hard to read the embedded version on your monitor, here is the link to the actual PDF file), along with the text notes I prepared to remind myself what I intended to say on each slide (despite the fact that I did not get to use them in any way during the actual presentation). I enjoyed myself and had a good day. πŸ˜€

Xmas RGB LED PIC Toy Gift Project

I wanted to make something special for people I know to give as Xmas gifts this year, so I went into engineering mode and came up with something fairly simple, but still fun. Admittedly, this isn’t for everyone, but I don’t care; if they can’t at least pretend to appreciate my hard work and creativity, then they just won’t get the cooler stuff I’ll make next year! That didn’t happen with anyone, fortunately; they all at least seemed vaguely interested. My sister didn’t like the blinking, though, so she gave hers to my mom. Everything was purchased through Mouser.


Close-up of one of the devices (1.25″)x(2.125″).

Essentially, it is a small PCB with two CR2032 batteries (soldered in, because battery sockets seem to cost twice as much as the batteries themselves!), a 5[V] regulator, a pic16f616 microcontroller, an RGB LED, two phototransistors, and some passive components. The PIC is programmed in C (compiled with SDCC, and programmed via ICSP with PicProm), and designed to cycle the RGB colorspace at a cycle rate and PWM frequency which varies depending on input from the two phototransistors.It has many uses! Annoy strangers! Cause epileptic seizures! Run down the batteries and ask me to replace them! Put them in your storage/trash and hope I never ask about them again! It doesn’t matter!


Schematic (created with Eagle 5.11 Light).


PCB Layout (created with Eagle 5.11 Light).


One possible use. Music by The Black Dog. Note: The moving lines are just an artifact of the image sensor on my camera playing catch up with the PWM drive of the LEDs; the real devices do not cause scrolling lines to occur in real world use,

On the long, ranting personal experience and electronics construction details side, this was a very fun and time-crunched project to make. I came up with the idea of making something using a surface mount microcontroller and an onboard battery about one week before Xmas; I had the parts list ready (with a rough idea of how to combine it all) on Sunday and made the order with Mouser on Monday afternoon. Kim ended up paying for them, because I am broke until school starts again; she also helped me with some testing and conceptual feedback, so these were partly her gifts to my family as well. I am very fortunate that Mouser is located in Texas, because I not only get to pay taxes (wait, what?), but Ground shipping only takes two days! I took those two days and used them to make sure my programming equipment was up to date and could work; I was able to get some pic16f54 devices programmed, but it turns out the pic16f616 line is a newer breed that wouldn’t work with my programmer (the passive one on the PicProm website ended up working just fine on my breadboard). I used a 0.300″ SOIC->DIP adapter for the chips, which are 0.150″ wide, so it took some work to get them on there with wire extensions. From there, I just tried various things based on the datasheet and some examples of using SDCC available around the web. I was rushing, but I still didn’t have a finalized design until Thursday evening.


SOIC Breakout board used for prototyping during the design process.

That’s when the real fun began! I’ve been using the well-known laser toner transfer method for a while for making PCBs, as well as a Cupric Chloride etchant (HCl and Hydrogen Peroxide as main ingredients), but I need something better for surface mount work (especially since I will need to use what I learn for my Senior Design project soon; I have some (2mm)x(2mm) ICs just waiting around to be used! The photoresistive process has been backed as allowing much better resolution, little to no distortion, and easily reproducible results. Fortunately, Mouser sells a product by MG Chemicals which is a photosensitive film that can be applied to bare copper (which can be found cheap online at Parts Express, btw). I wasted a 12″x11″ piece of the film because the instructions are flawed, however; they claim it turns from “green to blue” when exposed to UV light, but, in fact, it is BLUE ALREADY! It changes to a darker blue when exposed, as I found out after further testing and concluding that just leaving it outside for 10 minutes or so (even on a thoroughly cloudy day) is enough UV exposure to do the job. None of my compact fluorescent bulbs did the job, probably because they have a UV filter on the inside of the glass tube.

I don’t actually care enough to tell MG Chemicals that their instructions for the 416DFR-5 product are faulty and that the film is never green at any point in the process. I hope someone else trying out this dry film product finds this page and discovers this fact before wasting a sheet or worrying that their new roll of film has already been exposed and tosses it out!

I made a big (7.5″)x(8.5″) board of 24 of the devices, and I had originally intended to use a silver solder paste and a toaster oven to reflow solder everything at once, but the boards ended up coming out inconsistent with a few being too blurry (I need to invest in some plates of thick glass) and a most having missing traces (I need to improve my technique for applying the film to the boards (done in the dark with red an yellow LED lighting, btw!). Thus, I ended up hand-soldering all of them, producing a total of 12 completed devices after staying awake for 24 hours straight, and we left for Houston an hour later. I finished the four I used for the above picture/video today, and the other 8 PCBs are far too messed up to salvage. +163XP and (2x) Level UP!

Semester is Over!

The Fall 2011 semester of school has come to a close, and I passed everything! Yay!

Senior Design I was fun, and the fun doesn’t have to stop! I plan to continue working on my project throughout the break, and I have attached my slides and final report to this post; fun stuff.
This is my Final Presentation Slides (MS Powerpoint format)
This is my Final written Report for the Senior Design Project (MS Word format)

My Digital VLSI Circuits course was fun, too. My final project was to design a 4-bit synchronous counter (at the actual bare silicon level). Supposedly, my prof will be having our circuits manufactured so we can test them, but they probably won’t be available until late next year (after I hope to have graduated).
This is my Report for the VLSI Project (MS Word format)

Matrix Games

I built a fairly cool game/interactive device for my little brother as a birthday present, as alluded to in a previous post.


It consists of a DIY Arduino microcontroller, (8) 8×8 LED Matrixes (total of 32×16 LED matrix), (6) push-button switches, (2) 4->16 line encoders and a 16 channel multiplexer to scan the matrix, a custom-built acyrlic case (some scraps I had around), and a week of hard-paced C-style coding to bring it all together. The video says it all, really, but here’s some pictures as well. This is mostly a one-of-a-kind build, as I’ve never seen anyone else make one (online, much less in real life), but it is a fairly straightforward, off-the-shelf design, so I’m not exactly highly proud of my innovation or something silly like that. πŸ˜›

Please find enclosed, the Source Code.

NΓΌerve Mall

Last night, I had a dream where I got lost in my car after dropping Kim off somewhere, and then found myself on some old walkway where lots of people walked, and there was some strange, unused railway for a small tram next to it. It looked very windy and out of use. Lots of families walking the trail, and it looked like they were shopping. I went into one of the buildings, and they were selling things like it was an estate sale, but from a permanent front counter; there were rooms with personal belongings in them, but it looked picked-through. By instinct, I was searching for musical instruments and anything that I could use to make something cool, but all I saw was an old bongo-like drum. I slapped it, but was uninterested. I walked out another door, and found myself in a corridor; higher end, very new looking, kind of like a new house. I walked into a nearby door, and found a guy siting at a laptop at a desk next to it, and he got up and was very angry that I had intruded. I apologized and told him there was an estate sale next door and assumed this door led to more things, but he shoved me out and locked his door. I continued out the building, which was bare, but still had the air of a long-used home; there was a stairway that looked like it went nowhere. I kept walking outside, and found myself surrounded by asian families. I found a fountain, and a large sign saying this was “NΓΌerve Mall”. I was lost and scared, and I needed to get to school for a final exam.

I’m still stressed out by final exams; I had another dream last night that focused on studying for final exams, but I won’t get into that because it had some disturbingly violent things that I’m trying to suppress from my memory. Why is my brain still scared about final exams? I’ve had my grades for a week now (A,B,C,C; my first C’s in three years), and yet my subconscious is still stressed.

Kim’s birthday is in a few weeks, and then we have A-Kon in Dallas; that should be the vacation I need. Now I just have to worry about money, and I have no job prospects right now.