The first two weeks of our research experience were spent in the classroom. I was introduced to the world of Mechatronics. Russ, my research partner, is working on his second year in the program. He is a wealth of knowledge and will be coauthoring the SMART posts on this blog.
The term mechatronics refers to the mixing of mechanical engineering, electronic engineering, and computer science. The three things become so entwined the the lines in between them blur. An easy example of a mechatronic device is a robot. Mechatronics are also the electronics inside your washer machine. A microprocessor(simple computer) runs software that tells a valve to let the water flow in the machine, sends power to the motor that spins the agitator, etc.
Our two weeks of mechatronics instruction consisted of a lecture about an electronic component followed with lab time to work the component. The above picture shows our testing of a seven segment LED display. Our microprocessor is the Basic Stamp II by Parallax. We have each segment connected to a resistor and a digital output on the microprocessor. We had to figure out which segments to light up for each digit. Using PBASIC, we wrote a program in order for the display to count from 1 thru 9. Parallax has an incredible amount of guided activities to go along with their electronic kits. I highly recommend checking out their kits, if you want to learn to tinker. By the end of this week Russ and I will get this blog current. I must get some rest for my work in the lab tomorrow. I will leave you with a photo of me doing a little soldering. Cheers.
This work is supported in part by the National Science Foundation under a Research Experience for Teachers (RET) Site grant EEC-0807286. We thank the Mechatronics Lab and the Soil Mechanics Lab for hosting us during our summer research program.