A blast from the past: Canon control cards

A bit of background: our lab is kind of ancient. It’s also enormous; my advisor owns most of our hallway. The group was once very big (one of those 20-30 people powerhouses), but these days it’s fairly small (~6, plus a couple undergrads at any given time). However, we still have all the space from those massive days of yore, so a lot of the space is… well, let’s just say a lot of the lab space hasn’t been touched in a while. I mean, every room is still used, but there are definitely nooks and crannies that, if owned by a lab that had to be more economical with its space, wouldn’t remain as untouched as they are when I find them. read more

My first boat

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This is my first boat. It’s pretty silly, but was a lot of fun to make.

During the summer before my senior year of undergrad, I was staying at college and doing research on dilute gas simulations using Monte Carlo methods. My roommates and I had rented an apartment for the year (haha, holy hell…Worcester apartments are a special kind of grimy) and the lease started at the beginning of the summer. My roommates hadn’t moved in yet though, so I had the whole house to myself.

I…honestly don’t remember why, but I decided to build a boat. There were a few small lakes and reservoirs near Clark (University, my undergrad school) but I’m not sure I even had one specific one in mind. I had a lot of time, and the space in my house to build it in, so why not? read more

Low power Arduinos, part 1

As part of an ongoing project, I wanted to see how low I could get the power consumption of Arduinos to go. The reason is as follows. When getting back into Arduinos a few months ago, I wanted to try a telemetry project of some sort, collecting data remotely and sending it back. Ideally, the idea would be to collect data from different places and analyze the aggregate in some cool way, but that’s a story for another post.

The point I was going for, though, is that I wanted to put these Arduinos in places that wouldn’t have constant access to power, so that already means using a battery. Using a battery to power an Arduino isn’t a big deal (plenty of people do it for portable projects), but once you’re looking at long term powering without recharging, it’s a different story. read more

Measuring the spinner

This is silly and derpy, but here we are. Read on if you’re having trouble getting to sleep.

Often for research, we need to make a thin film of photoresist, so we can do photolithography or e-beam lithography. Photolithography is cool (technical term) because you can pretty easily (seriously: with a UV flashlight and a home printer; I’ll probably write that up at some point) pattern the film over a wide area. It’s straightforward and easy enough that machines can do it. However, its resolution is relatively limited, down to about 1 micron (human hair thickness: 25-100 micron). I should be careful saying this because you can get better resolution through various methods (like using a smaller wavelength of light), and for industrial applications they can do a lot smaller. However, for research purposes, ~1-10 micron is usually the figure people say (and this depends on definition too; do you mean the smallest linewidth, distance between lines, or precision for a given spot?). read more

The Providence Phoenix’s “Nifty Fifty”

The Providence Phoenix was a Providence alternative newspaper that’s now defunct. It was in what I’d call the “alternative lite” category, definitely having some stuff you wouldn’t see in a more “official” newspaper like the Providence Journal, but also non-offensive enough to be in most businesses around town. To be honest, I think it was a pretty good representation of Providence as a whole.

I wouldn’t say I ever intentionally really read it, but on more than a few occasions I would be waiting somewhere or getting a quick slice of pizza alone (shoutout to Fellini’s for keeping my arteries clogged), and just pick up a copy (it was free) to see what was going on around town. read more

Manual ACKing with the nRF24L01

This one will be very basic to most people who have done this, but it would have been helpful to me when I started with this stuff, so I’m putting it here.

First, a little background:

In the past couple months I’ve been messing around with the nRF24L01 (just gonna call them nRF’s from now on) radio frequency (RF) modules. Arduino hobbyists love them because they’re cheap (it seems like their competitor in this arena were Zigbee chips, which people seem to say are good but very expensive) and relatively versatile and powerful. They operate in the 2.4GHz frequency range and can actually get a pretty hefty amount of range! My roommate and I did a “range test” where I took one nRF that was just spraying out a constant stream of data, and he took another nRF with an LCD attached that displayed the received data. We went to a nearby park, and literally couldn’t get far enough away from each other to make the data stop being collected, which was about 1000′ according to Google Maps. They’re a lot of fun and really open up some project possibilities, which I’ll put here as I do them. read more

“Safe” podcasts aren’t what people want

In the past year or two, I’ve begun listening to a lot of podcasts. I don’t know if it’s sustainable, but currently for my job I often have to do lots of tedious work that would otherwise be mind numbing (like sample fabrication, experiment setup, etc), but is perfect for listening to podcasts. I also go to the gym regularly, and walk or bike around everywhere, all more time to listen to them. In addition, I usually increase their speed: usually about 1.5x if it’s something I need to think about a little, and 2x if the speaker has a lethargic pace (cough, Sam Harris, cough) or spends a lot of time saying dopey stuff (cough, Joe Rogan, cough, gee, I must be getting sick). So my point is that I go through a lot of them. read more

Servo controller box

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Woowee, this is a long one.

This is actually something I did for my job. Here’s the deal: I have this electrochemical bath that has a sample in it; one electrode is a piece of graphite, the other electrode is the sample itself. Don’t worry about what the bath does for now, but it’s important that the longer the sample is in the bath, the more the effect of the bath is on the sample. It’s pretty much linear with time.

Now, I often want to see the effect of different lengths of time in the bath, with all other variables staying the same. The way I’ve done this in the past was to paint nail polish over parts of the sample (nail polish protects the covered part of the sample from the effect of the bath), put it in the bath for some amount of time, then take it out, either remove that nail polish, or add more, and put the sample back in for more time, etc. So basically you can have different length times on the same piece, which is useful for consistency and visually looks good. read more

The worst fuzz pedal ever

This thing is such a piece of shit.

I was feeling sorry for myself, so I thought I’d “accomplish” something by making a fuzz pedal. I’ve now been doing this stuff for long enough that I have somewhat of a critical mass of materials, so I have everything I need to make a pretty simple circuit without ordering more things (unless it’s using some weird IC or a whalebone or something). So because there’s no time impediment (waiting for a part to arrive, etc), often I’ll think “hey, I’ll just make a quick little pedal”…and then the next thing I know, it’s 4AM, I’m dizzy from solder fumes, and I’ve made a pedal I don’t need that’s in questionable operation because I’m tired and making mistakes… and it’s generally stupid, is what I’m saying. read more

Orange Ya Glad: first chassis design

The first of many. So, so many.

So I’ve been making these guitar pedals. Ostensibly they’re about cool musical effects, but, let’s be honest: if you’ve seen any of them on the internet, it’s at least half about how they look. People make really fucking cool designs on their guitar pedals. One of my favorite guys who makes cool designs is this guy Cody Deschenes, though he actually does a different design method than I’ve done here (which you’ll see in a future post!). read more