Editor's Letter Insights

Makers and Navigators

Written by Sam Wallace

This month brings a projects-filled issue of Circuit Cellar. Coincidentally, some of these projects share a common theme of beacons and navigation—bike tail lights, compass modules, microcontrollers (MCUs) as beacons, and robots navigating beaches. It’s been fun to note synchronicities such as these in each issue. I guess the old adage about great minds is true.

Carlo Tauraso wanted to be able to control his bicycle’s tail light from his Garmin navigator without having to stop his ride. So, he built a light that does precisely that. His light, which he calls the CtrlANT+, uses Nordic Semiconductor’s nRF52832 MCU and the ANT+ wireless protocol. He repurposed existing features of his Garmin GPSMAP 64st navigator to be able activate the light from his seat. Read the details on page 4. Ride on, Carlo!

March 2023 – Issue #392

Lego king Chris Cantrell tells you how to build your own four-wheeled Lego robot, complete with compass module so it doesn’t get lost in the woods. In his article, “The Compass Bot,” he shows code solutions to address the pesky problem of “hard iron” and “soft iron” affecting your compass. His module solution is cheaper than existing I2C GPS modules on the market, and it’s a great way to learn how to handle distorted compass readings. Check it out on page 18.

Most commercial smart home systems are cloud-based, and thus have problems with privacy, security, and reliability. In search of a home automation solution that doesn’t use the cloud, Dev Gualtieri replaced his X10 home automation system with one that uses a Raspberry Pi Model 3B+ single-board computer (SBC) and Wi-Fi-enabled switches, dimmers, and plugs. Read more in his feature on page 24.

The Cornell Nexus team, based out of Cornell University, are devoted to developing engineering solutions to the problem of microplastics pollution in the environment. Their current project is an autonomous robot designed to collect microplastics from beaches. Angela Loh, co-founder of Cornell Nexus and a recent graduate from Cornell, provides an overview of the project on page 12.
In researching the Technology Feature this month—which covers companies and products that can assist the prototype maker with their printed circuit board (PCB) creation—Mike Lynes discovered something: PCB fabrication bots. Much like the use of 3D printers for mechanical part fabrication, these devices print your PCB for you right in your workspace. He breaks down this burgeoning tech and other key plays in the PCB prototype market on page 32.

In his Picking Up Mixed Signals column, Brian Millier covers monitoring the power consumption of Internet-of-Things (IoT) boards. Battery-powered IoT boards consume power over a wide dynamic range. Brian uses a Teensy 4.1 MCU, high-side current monitors, and analog-to-digital converters (ADCs) to measure the currents these devices consume and the power they draw. Check it out on page 42.

Jeff Bachiochi writes about Bluetooth beacons in his column From the Bench. He shows how to use the advertisement ability of Bluetooth Low Energy—in this case via the ESP32—to determine location, using identity and signal strength as clues. It’s a fun and interesting project. Read more on page 52.

This month’s Tech the Future covers key questions to ask supply chain partners in the face of continuing supply chain disruptions. The right strategies can help mitigate supply chain woes. And check out Datasheet for a round-up of recent digital signal processors (DSPs) and digital signal controllers (DSCs).

Wherever this issue may find you, I hope some of these pieces give you new insight and inspiration in your own work. So please read on, and enjoy.

Issue Table of Contents can be found here,
as articles are made available online they will be linked.

PUBLISHED IN CIRCUIT CELLAR MAGAZINE • MARCH #392 – Get a PDF of the issue

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Note: We’ve made the Dec 2022 issue of Circuit Cellar available as a free sample issue. In it, you’ll find a rich variety of the kinds of articles and information that exemplify a typical issue of the current magazine.

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Editor-in-Chief at KCK Media Corp. | + posts

Sam Wallace - became Circuit Cellar's  Editor-In-Chief in August 2022.
His experience in writing, editing, and teaching will provide a great perspective on the selection, presentation, and clarity of editorial content. The Circuit Cellar audience will benefit from his strong academic background encompassing a Master of Fine Arts in Writing and a Bachelor of Science in Mathematics with honors. His passion for learning and teaching is a great fit for Circuit Cellar's continuing mission of Inspiring the Evolution of Embedded Design.

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Makers and Navigators

by Sam Wallace time to read: 3 min