2011
04.02

Despite the fact that I have apparently been posting on average about once a week for the past little while, I feel like I have been ignoring this blog a bit. As I am approaching graduation, things have been getting a bit crazy and so that influx of activity is likely the culprit. Here is a quick run down of what has been going on.

Over the past month I was doing some serious job hunting. After sending out a bunch of applications to a bunch of places and nervously waiting for responses, I ended up having 6 job interviews and 7 job offers (two offers came from people I asked to be professional references). I have taken a job at Iders Incorporated and look forward to starting full time in mid April. (A side note to those doing job hunting: NETWORK! I always thought it was load of garbage, but all my interviews except for one came from friends or networking events I went to. The one interviewer I went to where there was no network connection was the only place that turned me down.)

Having acquired a job outside the city, I sadly decided I needed to buy a car (I was hoping to stick with biking and busing, but this job just was too interesting to pass up) and ended up getting an ’04 Civic, manual transmission. I picked it up tonight and started learning the ropes. It isn’t too bad once you know what you are doing wrong. ūüėõ

Speaking of cars, the UMSAE Formula Hybrid competition is quickly coming up in the first week of May and so lots of work needs to go into that project. There have been a number of changes made to the CAN controller design due to changing requirements, but the hardware modifications should be minimal. I was starting to add a bunch of software implementations of the Arduino’s hardware features (ie serial, PWM) which was taking up timers and not performing spectacularly, so I am switching over to a spare Seeeduino Mega we had sitting around which has plenty of hardware to spare.

And with school comes graduation. I already mentioned the Iron Ring ceremony, but I also have my grad dinner tomorrow and just one more week of classes followed by one week of final exams before I start working full time.

This additional income is now proving a necessity as Amara and I have started looking for a place to live once we get married this summer. Going to banks and open houses and comparing renting and buying is just another item on the table right now.

Marriage, graduation, car ownership (and relearning how to drive), full time employment, competitions. So many big life things all at once. It’s crazy, but I’m hanging on and doing my best to enjoy all of it.

2011
04.02

Last Sunday, UMIEEE together with UMARS (two University of Manitoba student groups I am a part of) got together to hold an embedded systems workshop on campus. We helped teach a bunch of fellow students the basics of designing and programming embedded systems. We used TI’s¬†MSP430 Launchpad development kit, a super low price dev kit, so that everyone could go home with their project and continue experimenting. While the Launchpad (or rather the MSP430 microcontroller on the board) isn’t as easy to program as something like an Arduino, the Launchpad allowed us to convey some of the more¬†fundamental¬†principles of embedded design like bit masking and timer interrupts.

The morning consisted of getting the tools setup and getting a “hello world” application running. The official tools are Windows only, but the Launchpad does work with Mac and Linux once you figure out how to install everything. It actually seemed to work better, due partly to the fact that the tools are open source and hence not crippled versions of paid software, but also because the environment was less integrated (ie you use a text editor, a compiler, and a debugger all separately instead of a full blown IDE like they use in Windows). The Windows users ofter had to restart the whole IDE when one part of the system locked up for unknown reasons.

After lunch, we dove into making a much more ambitious project: an LED chaser. The design specifications we gave to everyone was something to the effect of “when you press a button, your chain of LEDs will light up one by one until you reach the final one in the string.” The idea was then to replace the final LED with the next person’s button input pin and watch as the lit LED ran across everyone’s boards. The day before, the volunteers leading the workshop got together and pumped out a quick (and admittedly buggy) code for this, so we felt it was an attainable project. We nudged everyone along, showing them how to light individual LEDs, use interrupt pins and timers, and wire up buttons with pull up resistors. I think only a few people actually got the final chaser working, but everyone had a good time.

You can see an abstract for the event along with a bunch more pictures here.