Electronics Lab Development

Name: Matthew Belz

Type of Project: Artistic and Creative Endeavor

  1. Please provide a brief description of your STEP Signature Project. 

Researched, negotiated pricing, and purchased electrical test equipment for electronics lab.  This lab was used to design and build a battery test system used to test LiFePO4 cells.  This battery analysis device rapidly determines the state of health of battery cells.

  1. What about your understanding of yourself, your assumptions, or your view of the world changed/transformed while completing your STEP Signature Project?

Completing the STEP project has greatly increased my connectivity to the university and led me towards an area for my Ph.D.  I enjoyed working on an independent research project and was able to learn so much by myself.

I assumed that I could finish the battery tester just over the summer and that turned out to be overly ambitious.  I learned that real research takes longer than expected especially when you are forging a path where you learn as you go.  I also learned that while the OSU ECE department teaches a great deal, students have huge gaps in practical knowledge.  I learned skills taught in the 5000 level classes by myself and built a project to reinforce this knowledge.  Things like SPI, I2C, PCB design, advanced soldering techniques are not taught in our curriculum but, are essential concepts for a student in electrical engineering.  The STEP project has been a stepping stone that has propelled me into a summer internship and research position.  I think it’s important to be able to invest in your assets and skills as an EE and the STEP program has allowed me to do this by being able to work on this project over the summer and be fully immersed in it.  It is a unique experience to have your own research funding at an R1 university and be able to take a research project wherever you want to take it!

  1. What events, interactions, relationships, or activities during your STEP Signature Project led to the change/transformation that you discussed in #2, and how did those affect you?

There are two main parts to my STEP experience.  First I researched and purchased equipment for my laboratory which will serve me for years to come.  Second, I designed and built a battery testing system used to test LiFePO4 batteries, the same batteries used by OSU Buckeye Current.

Phase 1: Lab-Equipment

I spent months reading technical specifications and looking for deals on equipment.  I developed a very well rounded set of equipment and I can now test and characterize most any circuit except for very high-frequency RF circuits.  This was by design because RF equipment is very specialized and also usually is in the hundred-thousand-dollar range.  My lab consists of an Agilent DSOX-2014 oscilloscope, Rigol DP832 triple output power supply, Rigol DG1022 Function Generator, Hot-Air rework station for SMT soldering, Saleae Logic 8 Logic Analyzer for decoding digital communications such as SPI, I2C, etc., and Agilent 34401A 6.5 Digit multimeter, ESD mat, and a 1-year license for Altium Designer 17 for schematic and PCB design.  This array of equipment has been thoroughly used to develop the battery tester in part 2 of my project.

Phase 2: Battery Analysis Device

The design of the battery tester is fairly complex.  To understand the area better, I was added as a guest to Dr. Canova’s graduate level class ME 7383 which gives an overview to batteries in regards to chemical composition, thermal properties, SOC modeling using advanced mathematical models and experimental testing.  Collaborating with Dr. Canova, we developed a testing methodology which can be expanded to a number of cells for rapid state-of-health determination.

Since I was only in the introductory ECE classes yet I was faced with an advanced design task using skills that are normally taught in a 5000 level class.  To be able to design this, I read industry articles extensively in the areas that I needed to learn about.  I also watched hours and hours of videos from circuit legends.  I designed small parts of the circuit and then learned how to simulate these blocks in a design software called LTSPICE.  This allows for a close approximation of how the circuit will perform based on parameters of the actual parts.  However, I learned quickly that the non-idealities that are associated with real parts and real wires can produce great effects.  The current sink was very elegantly designed in LTSPICE with good transient performance for fast switching times and no ringing.   When I bought the parts and tried it, the result was totally off!  So another way I learned was through trial and error and experience from what went wrong.  The key in analog circuit design is to learn from your mistakes.  What makes a senior analog designer good is their long list of failed designs.  If they are any good, they learned from all of these design flops.

A Printed Circuit Board (PCB) is essential to high-performance circuits.  I designed this in Altium Designer and it was kindly produced via Advanced Circuits.  A huge thanks to Advanced Circuits at 4pcb.com for making this possible!

I generally got through most of the technical challenges with time but sometimes got stuck and I knew I needed outside help.  I was quite resourceful in this, calling application engineers that make the IC (paid to answer questions from other engineers that are scratching their head!) and reaching out to faculty like Dr. Bibyk at OSU.

Decoding SPI Protocol using Agilent Oscilloscope

Decoding SPI Protocol using Agilent Oscilloscope

Breadboard Prototype testing

Breadboard Prototype testing

 

 

 

 

Prototype work

Prototype work

Lab Equipment

Lab Equipment

 

 

  1. Why is this change/transformation significant or valuable for your life?  

My STEP project has propelled my academic and industrial career.  This project as discussed has greatly increased my technical aptitude and has been a springboard to make connections here at the university.  I am now working on research at the university related to what I studied doing my STEP project.  I am hopeful that this will lead to a Ph.D. in high-performance analog circuits and to become a professor at a research university like Ohio State.  I have made good friendships as a result of STEP and am very thankful to have received the grant and to be included in the program.

Acknowledgments:  I would like to thank STEP and Advanced Circuits for contributing to this project.  I would also like to thank my advisors Dr. Sandra Metzler, Dr. Steve Bibyk, and Dr. Marcello Canova for their help with the technical aspects of this project.logo-step-horizontal

 

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Computer Building and Game Creation

Name: Jacob Rahe

Type of project: Creative Endeavor

1. Please provide a brief description of your STEP Signature Project.

For my STEP signature project, I designed and built a computer, and then used this computer to create a small video game demo. To begin my project, I researched components for a computer that would be the most efficient at processing and rendering a video game. The research consisted of the way that different computer parts function with one another, as well as what would provide me with the greatest performance for video game creation. After research, I assembled the computer and put the operating system and all the other software onto the computer. Finally, I used Unity game design software to make a small game demo by coding through C#, a coding language.

2. What about your understanding of yourself, your assumptions, or your view of the world changed/transformed while completing your STEP Signature Project?

While researching the inner workings of a computer, I was very interested and stunned at the intricacies of what makes up a working computer. There are a lot of different and important components that all need to work together properly and be cooled properly. Although once I learned how these parts worked together, assembling the computer was much easier than I had originally thought. My view of how computers function and all the parts work together was significantly changed. Computers are fascinating devices that someone who is just a casual user may not know the important and interesting way that all the components work together to allow people to do all the tasks they need done on a computer.

My understanding of how video games, something I have a very strong passion for, work and are created has definitely changed. Large scale games require large amounts of people all working together and games in general are not easy to create. There are many very intelligent people, from computer scientists to artists, required to bring everything together. I gained a new-found appreciation for the talent and hard work that goes into creating one of the things I love. I originally set out to make an entire game, but as I realized how difficult it was to create a game and the amount of time that went into designing an entire game, I decided to make a small demo instead.

The largest change that came from doing this project is that I decided that creating video games is more of a hobby for me and less of the career path I would like to follow. This project, along with other circumstances, allowed me to realize that I would like to be in the video game industry, but not as a creator. I switched my major to journalism and I want to cover video game news. This project played a large role in my decision to change my career path. Although I may not be following game creation as my career path, I still would like to create games as a hobby and love that I got to have this experience of creating a game because it gave me a greater appreciation for the video game industry as a whole.

3. What events, interactions, relationships, or activities during your STEP Signature Project led to the change/transformation that you discussed in #2, and how did those affect you?

One event that affected my STEP project was a delay in some of the parts I ordered that pushed my project back a semester. This then required me to try to juggle work, school, and game creation. This came as a setback to me, but I really enjoyed creating the game in general, and I felt that this gave me an inside look at someone who is in the game industry juggling work and family and other obstacles.

During the selection process of the parts of my computer, I worked closely with a friend of mine who has built a computer before and has a lot of knowledge of the components that make up a computer. I discussed all the inner workings of computers with him and he helped me with my research. This interaction played a large role in how well I began to understand computers myself and he was a very large help. This not only helped me learn more about computers but also strengthened the relationship that he and I had with one another. The knowledge I gained from this was a large change in the way I interact with computers in everyday life.

The difficulties that come with and the understanding that is required to create a video game came as a shock to me at first. The realization of the work and knowledge that is required to create something so intricate like a video game made me consider if I was capable enough to do this as a career. With this change of heart, I knew that I should switch and this was a huge part of my decision to switch.

4. Why is this change/transformation significant or valuable for your life?

This change is significant to my life because it led me change majors and gave me a new-found appreciation for computers and the video game industry. The knowledge gained from this is vital to the way I know perceive the way computers function and how something I am very passionate about in video games are created. Overall, I would say this project was a large force in changing my view on the technology we have around us and the great, intelligent people that have created it. Also, the change this helped me make in my life, I am sure, will most likely pay off in me finding a career that I feel I fit into and can succeed at.