Joseph Birks studied Physics and Astrophysics at UMIST (now The University of Manchester), but he has had lifelong interest in Electronics, Computing and Technology. While he was a student he did freelance work for the Technology Enhancement Program (TEP), developing products to support the teaching of Technology in schools and colleges. From 2005 to 2011 he was the Electronics Designer at Middlesex University Teaching Resources (now Mindsets (UK) Ltd). This included responsibility for all stages of product development from generating ideas and designing hardware; through prototyping, writing firmware, software and documentation; to overseeing production and offering customer support.
Here are some highlights from the last few years:
Yet another Arduino™ compatible controller! Initially designed for Project Faraday at East Barnet School, the Faraduino includes an on-board motor driver and headers for RC servos. A little extra circuitry is also included enabling the board, motors and servos to be powered from one 6V battery pack. No more dreaded spaghetti wire syndrome! Find out more, or even buy one, from the goldmine that is Mindsets.
A simple flowchart programming environment for use with the Faraduino. Written in wxPython, the software allows simple programs to be drawn and sent to the Faradunio with a single click of the mouse. The source was released under the GPL V3 and is available from the Faradunio page at Mindsets. I hope to return to development in the future to add features and support for other Arduino™ and compatible controllers. It should also be possible to create Mac and Linux versions as it is written in the cross-platform friendly wxPython.
TEP PLC (2008)
The TEP PLC was developed to support the new Engineering Diploma. Based on an ARM microcontroller with a USB interface (the AT91SAM7S64, in fact). Output relays and optically isolated inputs are built in. Connections and are easily made using the screwless terminal blocks. Windows software was written (in C++ using wxWidgets) to allow programming with a simplified version of Ladder Logic. More information can be found at Mindests.
SEP Energymeter (2006, updated 2008)
Developed with the Science Enhancement Programme and the team at Mindsets; the Energymeter was design to help students understand the concept of power and energy. The meter simultaneously measures voltage and current (passed from a load to a source). It can show the instantaneous power, average power and energy transferred. The meter is fully auto-ranging and makes use of the alphanumeric display to show quantities in appropriate units (e.g. mJ, J, and kJ). The SEP Energymeter has been a huge success is available from Mindsets.
SEP Seismometer (2007)