Electronic Component Oganization

Up until now for every project I have ordered all the parts needed for that project and kept all the left over parts in a Digikey box under my desk. This made it near impossible to find any parts if I ever needed them again since I had to sort through an unorganized box for a certain part. So one weekend I decided to try to organize my parts so that I could easily find parts that I have used before so I can reuse them on new projects.

There are many different ways to organized electronic parts; these component storage drawers are very popular but I don’t have a very big desk so I wanted something more compact and easier to search through since I don’t want to catalog my parts at this point.


I found these business card holder binders that I through would work great for holding components. I have seen similar ones specifically for SMT resistors and capacitors but I also wanted to store SMT ICs and through hole resistors and the business card sized pockets seemed great for that.



I bought a few from Staples and spent a weekend going through all my miscellaneous parts boxes and came up with this:

DSC00424DSC00425 DSC00427

I have one for through hole resistors and capacitors, SMT passive parts (capacitors, resistors, inductors) and one for all my SMT semiconductors. One day I will probably need to put together an inventory database but this seems like a good start.



Wireless Temperature Sensor

Since I am done with school I want to get back into doing some hobby electronics a project I posted about before was wanting to build a home automation system.

This was to consist of multiple wireless sensors and IO points around my apartment controlled by one central server.

To start this project up again I have designed a small battery powered temperature sensor. The idea would be that I could have one of these in each room of my apartment and they would measure and send the temperature back to the central server wirelessly.

This first board is going to be a prototype

Wireless Sensor


I have designed it around the Microchip PIC24F16KA101 it’s a fairly low cost, low power 16-bit mircocontroller from Microchip. I have designed i two wireless trancievers, the XBee module I used on the Quad-copter and a module using the Nordic Semiconductor NRF24L01. The Nordic Semi one is much lower cost and lower power if it works out I will design another board with the chip right on it instead of using the module. But since I have experience with it and there is some risk the Nordic Semi part wont work out I designed in the XBee module as a backup.

This while thing is going to be powered by a singe CR2032 coin cell battery, so battery life will be a concern but with with some good software I think I can get it to last a good long time on that battery.


I will send off the Gerbers this weekend and will post more about it once I have something up and running.


Fundamentals of Engineering Exam

FE Exam

On April 13, 2013 I wrote the longest exam of my whole engineering career; The Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) exam in Seattle, Washington. This was an 8 hour exam consisting of a 120 question, 4 hour morning exam on basic general engineering questions and a 60 question, 4 hour afternoon exam which was discipline specific for which I chose electrical .I cannot talk about the questions in any detail but I will talk a bit about my thoughts of the exam and ho to prepare for it.

I spent the last 3 months studying for this huge exam in which I bought this book from amazon and went through practically all 900 pages:


The book is good and very detailed, I felt most of the questions in that book were much more difficult than the questions on the actual exam. So if you study from this and can do most of the questions in it you should be set for the exam.

I also bought a copy of the FE Supplied Reference Handbook. This is the formula book that they give you during the exam so it is important to know this book well and know where to find things in it.

FE Reference Manual

Since the calculator I have used through my diploma and degree was not on the approved calculator list for the FE exam I had to learn to use a new calculator. I chose the TI 36X Pro. This is a great calculator it was able to handle everything on the exam with ease.

TI 36X Pro

I arrived at Seattle center at about 7:00 am and was done by about 5:00 pm; it was a very long and exhausting day. None of the questions on either the morning or afternoon exam are particularly difficult individually but the length of the exam makes it mentally draining. The exam to me was more of a test of endurance than it was engineering aptitude.

A few words of advice to anyone planning on taking the exam in the future

  1. Do lots of practice exams, and practice doing 120 questions in a 4 hour or less period of time using just your calculator and the FE Reference book. You need to know where thing are in the FE Reference book since you don’t want to spend too much time flipping through it searching for that one formula you need.
  2. Don’t study the night before and go to bed early and get a good sleep; if you don’t know something the night before the exam you wont know it during the exam, cramming the night before is only going to stress you out.
  3. Bring food and water, the exam is long and it’s nice to have something to snack on and drink during the exam
  4. Relax and try to have fun :)


I am glad I took the exam and feel I did  well, I should find out my results in the next few weeks. If I pass the next thing for me to do will be to apply to APEGBC to be an Engineer in Training (EIT), if I failed I will have to decide if I want to write it again.