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Build a Connected Bear with SparkFun!

Happy IoTuesday! In this week’s edition, I build a connected stuffed bunny for my newborn niece (and yes, even though we refer to it as a bear for title purposes, we realize it has decidedly lagomorphic qualities).   Having recently moved to Colorado, I’ve been dealing with the challenges of living far away from family for the first time. This drove me to design a special method of communication for just my niece and myself—a stuffed animal that would alert me, all the way in Colorado, any time she played with it back in New York.  

Valentine’s Day Box of Talk-lates!

It’s Valentine’s Day, and we know you are ready to pull out all the stops to impress that special someone. Finding the perfectly sweet and personalized gift can be a challenge and outright anxiety inducing. Fret no more! This box of chocolates will send your Valentine sweet nothings via text message as they eat.  

Remote Smoke Machine

Check out our blog post on how to build this tiny, remote activated smoke machine made from an e-cigarette tank and a vacuum pump. Simply fill the tank with glycerin and you can make convincing smoke for cosplay, theater or pranking your coworkers!  

What is a Battery?

Batteries offer a fantastic way to store electrical potential energy in the form of chemical reactions. We take a brief look at the fascinating history behind the invention of the modern battery and explain how they work, complete with animated hand-drawn diagrams.  

What is Voltage?

Voltage is the electric potential difference between two points and is defined as the work done per unit charge to move a test charge between those two points. But how does all that relate to electricity? In this video, we’ll show how electric charges can build up on surfaces, known as “static electricity,” and how those charges can be used to define voltage. Obviously, a static electricity demonstration requires the creative use of balloons.  

What is Electric Current?

When electric charges move, that’s called current! In most circuits, this movement is accomplished by electrons in a conductor. As it turns out, an electron doesn’t need to move very far; it can force other electrons in the conductor to move. In the video, we demonstrate moving electric charges with a tube and some metal balls. We also examine conventional current vs. electron flow and how good ol’ Ben Franklin can be blamed for that bit of confusion.  

Ohm’s Law

Analyzing voltage and current in a circuit is a great place to start to understand what that circuit is doing. In this episode of “Adventures in Science,” we introduce the resistor and use it to help demonstrate Ohm’s Law.   This interesting law of physics was named after Georg Ohm, and states that the current between two points is directly proportional to the voltage across those two points: I = V/R   With a little bit of algebra, we can move the variables around and arrive at the more memorable: V = I x R   In the video, we…

Electric Power

Power is the rate in which work is done, much like kilometers (or miles) per hour is a rate. The SI unit for power is the Watt, and it’s defined as one joule per second. Whether it takes you three seconds or one second to move 100kg to 1m above the ground, you use the same amount of energy. However, it requires more power to do it in one second.   When it comes to electric power, “work done” refers to the ability of the circuit to transform electrical energy into something else, like heat, motion or sound. “Work done”…

Series and Parallel Circuits

Most basic electronic components (at least those with 2 terminals) can be connected in one of two ways: series and parallel. Series connections involve putting the components end to end so that they share a common node. Parallel means connecting the components so that they share two nodes (easy to visualize as side-by-side).   We can calculate the equivalent resistance of series resistors by adding their resistances: Req = R1 + R2 + R3 + …   For parallel, we can find the equivalent resistance by taking the reciprocal of the sum of reciprocal resistances: Req = 1 / (1/R1…

How to Use a Multimeter

Digital multimeters are indispensable tools that allow you to analyze circuits and diagnose problems in your electrical design. Basic models are capable of measuring voltage, current, and resistance. In this video, Shawn demonstrates the various features of a multimeter and how to appropriately take measurements in your circuits.  

How to Use a Power Supply

Bench power supplies, also known as variable power supplies, are useful tools for testing and debugging circuits, as they allow you to adjust DC voltage on the fly. Some units can be configured to act as a constant current source, but in this video, Shawn shows you how to use a power supply as a constant voltage source with a configurable current limit.  

How to Use an Oscilloscope

Oscilloscopes allow you to visualize how electrical signals change over time. This means you can measure periodic and transient signals, which might be too fast for your digital multimeter to catch. Oscilloscopes can be indispensable for debugging circuits.   In the video, I talk about why 10x probes are useful, how to tune the compensation capacitor in a 10x probe, how to measure periodic signals, and how to set up a single capture trigger for a transient signal. I hope that this works as a starting place for someone who might be just beginning with oscilloscopes.  

How to Use Calipers

We made a video showing you how to use calipers! Digital calipers are fairly straightforward, but it can be a little tricky to read dial and Vernier calipers. Don’t worry; we’ve got you covered.   While they are often found in fields like mechanical engineering and metalworking, calipers have their place in electronics as well. Every now and then, I run across a component that has no datasheet, or the datasheet has incomplete information on the required PCB footprint for the part. If I happen to have the component in hand, I can pull out my trusty calipers to take…

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