Tuesday, December 23, 2008


Well, grades are in, and all As except for Engineering Physics 1. Received an 88% in the class, which was just not enough for an A. I still was ranked second in the class, so I guess that helps soothe the hurt of my second B haha. I registered for next semester, with my classes being as follows,
3 Credits = CIS 150 - Computer Science 1
3 Credits = MATH 251 - Introduction to Linear Algebra
3 Credits = MATH 273 - Introduction to Differential Equations
5 Credits = PHY 252 - Engineering Physics II

Only 14 credits as opposed to the 19 this past semester, hopefully I'll have more free time for personal projects. All fun classes, I'm very excited! I also submitted my application to University of Michigan - Ann Arbor, I really want to get in. Still don't know if I'll be able to afford it though, lots of scholarships and loan stuff to apply for and look into.

Friday, November 21, 2008


Less than 4 weeks left! Grades are doing good, have all As except for Engineering Physics, with an 88% in the class. Calculus 3 is a definite A, as I had the highest test score last time (98%) and just need a B on my last test to keep my A. Physics is my main focus, I really need to get an A on the next test. I also need to finish up my biographies for Art Appreciation. Lots of work to finish this semester up, but I'm looking forward to it! (especially finishing my toolbox in MECH-102 for my pops).

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Happy Halloween!

Happy Halloween! Well, at least for next week! Received a 88% of my latest Calc 3 test, which is pretty good. I have a feeling that it'll be hard to get any lower than a B, but I really need to get enough to receive an A in the class. Tomorrow I receive my Physics and Statistics tests back, pretty sure I'll do fine.

Friday, October 17, 2008

New Project, Blender!

Above is a picture of my first blender project. For some time I wanted to monkey around with 3d, and decided to give it a go with blender, a free 3d studio (and a very nice one). I really enjoyed the first project, which I followed using a really nice and simple tutorial. Although I don't plan on doing anything amazing as far as 3d modeling, it is a nice skill to have just for fun/if I ever go into a project requiring test models. I uploaded a video of my first animation just for the hay of it, pretty similar to the one presented by the tutorial. Below is my animation and a link to the tutorial.


Sunday, October 12, 2008

New e-mail working, along with some updates

Nothing new or exciting happening, but I did get salgat@salgat.net up thanks to zoneedit and Google domains. Test next week for math, 2 tests the week after for Physics and Statistics. Anyways, it is 1:30Am and I haven't really done much math homework, although the test is Wednesday. Going to do most of it tomorrow, save Tuesday for Physics. Tuesday I plan on also getting a table in my room and setting up my microcontroller "lab." I may start crunching homework in order to find more time for my hobby stuff, I have this book C Primer Plus that I may start cracking at. I have found that my biggest issue is not the language as much as the compiler. I am still not familiar with how to control the compiler to do what I need it to do, linking and whatever other things exist out there, along with the best techniques to use with programming. I'm afraid if I go too far I'll develop a horrible approach to programming haha. Well, October has arrived, and I am thinking of going out and getting some Apple Cider, which sounds delicious right about now...

Friday, October 3, 2008

First round of Exams are over

Last week I received all my test grades back. First the good news, 94% on my Calc 3 test. Hurrah to Vectors! Now on to Physics...64%! 

When I saw this test score, I had this feeling of grief that I really screwed up. This was made even worse because I snuck a view at someone elses test grade as I walked in, 84% on his. As we went over the test, I realized one reason why I did so bad, I wrote the answers to one question on the wrong part of the test, and he never marked it off. Thankfully he allowed me to get the extra 12 points for it, boosting my grade to a 76%. Unfortunately, I discovered two days later that the equations sheet I was handed for the test was missing half the equations! I lost at least 5% of my test grade due that. I showed this to my professor the next day, but he showed me in the top right corner that it said "Page 2 of 2." Although it isn't exactly fair, I don't hold it against him for not compensating for the lack of that half of the equations sheet that everyone else was able to use. I gained a life lesson from this experience, I need to be very proactive about making sure that I get what I need, to check these things over, and I know I can make up for it in future tests (afterall, my test score was 3rd highest in class, not counting those lost points from missing half the equation sheet). Furthermore, he did provide an extra credit lab that I was able to complete for an extra 5 points (which essentially, or at least for the most part makes up for that test goof up). Overall my professor is pretty cool, and I enjoy his humor.

I received a 88% on my Statistics test, and have an A in that class. I still have to play catch-up on the papers for Art class (behind one week), and need to finish 3 sections of Math homework tomorrow, along with finding time for Physics. Overall, this semester is doing fine, and although I'm pretty pressed for time during the week, I am enjoying it. All this commotion is helping pass the time, 5 weeks have already passed!

I have some plans for the new XMEGA 8-Bit AVRs coming out sometime later this year, or early next year. I'm going to limit my classes as much as possible next semester, probably will only take a C++ programming course, Engineering Physics 2, Introduction to Linear Algebra, and Introduction to Differential Equations. I hope time isn't constrained for that semester, I really want to play with my microcontrollers!

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Too much work

Math consumed my entire weekend. I have no time for my electronics. I'm bummed. Next week is 3 tests, I still have 3 more chapters to finish homework wise in Calculus 3 before I will be ready for Wednesday's test, the teacher crammed in 4 chapters last Thursday. Engineering Physics test also coming up, should do well, but still have homework for that to finish also (2 chapters). Statistics is my one salvation, I hope. I have to do some homework for it, which will be due either Thursday or next Tuesday, but the problem is that it requires the lab which is open at the worst times for me. Hopefully I can do it all on Wednesday. Typically the first string of tests sets the mood for how things will be in the future, and gives me an accurate idea of what the teacher's expectations are for us. Wish me luck!

Saturday, September 13, 2008


Just got back from IMTS 08, located in Chicago at the McCormick Center. Was pretty fun, and saw a lot of machine tools. The robotics impressed me the most, Fanuc did one heck of a job with their huge displays. One had a robot holding a car frame, with some 10 welders working on it. Overall I had a lot of fun, and was able to stay in a nice hotel and everything. Thanks goes out of Monroe County Community College for paying for all of this!

Thursday, August 14, 2008

A few updates...

Nothing too exciting to post about, but a few things have changed recently. My job status has changed, I only work Fridays at SHAINC as of now, and am picking up a new job as the Electronics Student Assistant at Monroe County Community College. Not sure if I'll keep my SHAINC job, I know it's only Fridays, and it is an extra $80 a week, which is a lot, but thats a whole day each week that isn't devoted to potentially more important things. At SHAINC they want me to setup a new inventory system to make things easier, I plan on just setting up a bar code scanner and having a database store the inventory and its location. The main issue they have with inventory is not finding something that is in the back room, but whether or not it's there to begin with. This will take out that difficult process of finding this out.

I've been wondering if I should change my plans about College. While I really want to go to Lawrence Technological University for my Electrical Engineering Technology degree, I've been thinking of going to University of Michigan - Ann Arbor or Dearborn instead and pursuing a Computer Engineering degree first. I really love Computer Engineering, and I know this is what my future career will be. Instead of paying $21,000 at LTU for a Technologist degree, I may be better of paying $11,000 per year for 2 years and going for the Computer Engineering degree. I seem to have all the requirements for UM fulfilled by the end of this year, and if I do get accepted to UM Ann Arbor I will likely take that route (7th in the country for Computer Engineering). I know for a fact that UM Dearborn will accept me, and while they are still prestigious, I'm not sure if I will take that route. The one thing really swaying my opinion is the facilities. LTU's facilities are...archaic. I visited once, and was pretty dissapointed. They are a great school, but nothing compared to the godly North campus of UM. I'll send in my applications to the three schools probably in November/December and see what scholarship I can get. I know a lot of people will say so and so school is over-rated, but with over $700 million invested in the engineering department, it's hard to argue with one of the country's best engineering schools.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Schools over, still busy with work though!

Spring semester has finally finished. I earned a 907/1000 and reached (barely) the 4.0 mark. My passion for that class quickly sank, and near the end I was heavily procrastinating. I am very happy that the class is finished with. Technical Writing was a very interesting class, but with my time devoted to work, I just couldn't appreciate the work I had to do, since it was usually on limited time and therefore rushed. I'll definitely make sure not to have a job interfere with school this Fall semester.

I earn $12/hr for an electronics assembly company. Although the pay is very nice, at $16 in gas per day working and 1.5 hours spent driving each work day, the pay after factoring in these two variables comes out to only be $8.42 an hour, a very significant decrease ( ( 8 * 12 - 16 ) / ( 8 + 1.5) ). Although I haven't told my manager or anyone at my company yet, I may stop working at my company sometime in August in favor of a tutoring job. I was offered the tutoring job by Monroe County Community College, and the job provides a wage of $7.15/hr with reduced tax. In essence, I would earn $1 an hour less than at my current job. In addition, I wouldn't have to work Fridays, freeing up more time for school. My current job is somewhat stressful, usually because I'm constantly being rushed to finish jobs that require absolute perfection. It does get old fast when your boss is giving that angry look of "why aren't you done yet!??!?!" when you know that you are going as fast as reasonably possible. This just introduces more stress on the job and makes me cause more mistakes, which I really don't need once school starts again. I don't need the responsibility and concern of doing jobs and trying to maintain what is going on while trying to learn several subjects at school. I really like my job, but it is becoming more unrealistic as I work there longer for me to continue working there. I can't say anything for sure, but with another student being hired to do the same job as me, it will help if I decide to depart from the company.

I have finally received a hard copy of my diploma. Although my education is far from over, it is nice to have a diploma that represents two years of hard work, along with a nice official transcript showing my good grades. I achieved Summa Cum Laude, and feel that this diploma is just one more tool that will help me to get an engineer internship next semester. With experience at an electronics assembly company, experience tutoring for electronics and mathematics, and my personal hobby knowledge of digital electronics, I really hope that I can get a Computer Engineering Internship. Those type of internships seem rare, so all I can do is hope and constantly keep an eye out for opportunities.

I also spent a decent chunk of change for Pimsleur's Japanese 1. I bought it used on Amazon for half the price, and plan on re-selling it soon. I am currently on Track 9 of 30 and feel like I am learning a lot. I can ask basic questions like what are you going to buy or eat, can say good morning and afternoon, and other basic things. Since I drive 45 minutes to and from work everyday, that extra 1.5 hours time is put to good use studying a language. I decided to learn Japanese for two reasons, one being that I have no radio and so have a lot of free time when driving for something like this, and secondly, this is a skill that I have seen in several job listings. I love Japanese entertainment, and have no issues with spending otherwise wasted time learning something like this.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Updates with Pictures!

I decided to upload several pictures to show what exactly my little area looks like. I keep my soldering stuff off to the side, since what I mainly do deals with plug in prototyping and breadboarding. I realize my area is messy, but I do get things done.

This is my desk's electronics section, situated to the right of my computer. Since most of what I do involves interfacing the computers to program the microcontrollers, it works out to be a great spot. I'm thinking about putting a table next to my desk, but my parents probably won't like that idea. As you can see, my power supply is still being used to its fullest, making that $50 investment so worth it. You can also see my programmer and my STK500 and some paperwork.

Heres a closer shot of my microcontroller, GLCD, and the power supply. As you can tell it is extremely messy with wires, but as far as I'm concerned if they are connected right then why bother wasting time neatening it up. As you can see there is a Slurpee positioned right next to a power supply and sensitive electronics. I did not put that there, and I only realized it was there after I started taking pictures.

Here is the JTAGICEMKII that I bought recently. This thing is amazing, and was totally worth the investment. In fact, the debugger came in real handy earlier.

Just thought I'd include a picture of the STK500 since it is lying right next to the JTAGICEMKII. On the far right you'll see the header that connects to the JTAGICEMKII, which is very nice for quick programming and debugging.

And finally, a picture of my GLCD in action. Unfortunately when moving all the equipment for the electronics lab renovations at my college I forgot to backup all the programs onto my flash drive. I spent today redoing the entire program, and was able to make a better version of it. I next want to make it go through images like a slideshow, and that will require use of the PROGMEM feature of the AVR to prevent each picture from being loaded directly into RAM upon startup. Each 128x64 pixel monochrome image takes up 1024 bytes, or a quarter of the RAM.

Well, there it is, my work area. It isn't much, but it will be much once I get the STK600. I can't wait to move onto more advanced areas such as GPS, Wireless communication, Color GLCDs and 32 Bit processors.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Just received the JTAGICEMKII!

I am the proud new owner of the new JTAGICEMKII! I consider it to be a present to myself for taking up this job. It was very expensive, but very awesome. You could look at it as an investment, since its use covers nearly all the AVR devices. This thing both programs and debugs in real-time. When running AVR Studio 4 you simply choose the jtagicemkii as your debugger platform and the rest is done automatically. Instead of the usually debugging which is done all in a simulator on your computer, this thing works in real time single stepping through your program and displaying each step on your microcontroller. I am just amazed at this thing. No more worrying about whether or not it will run correctly after loading the entire thing onto the flash. With this I can manually guide the microcontroller through its functions and see for myself what is going on (instead of hoping that a 50mS blip of port changes worked correctly). I'm thinking about buying myself one more toy over the summer, the STK600. The STK600 will allow me to expand my options to the SMD world, and give me access to the AVR32 line of microcontrollers. I definitely want to have a good go at trying 32 bit processors, especially since I have a programmer (the jtagicemkii) that will work for the AVR32. This programmer/debugger cost me about $300, and the STK600 costs $200, not including the two socket adapters I'd buy for it. All together I'll probably need to spend $400 on it to get the best selection, opening up my options to most of the ATMegas, the CAN AVR, the AVR32 Flash microcontrollers, and finally I expect it to come with the TQFP-100 socket allowing me access to the ATXMegas coming out soon. Is it worth the investment? Well, $700 for the ultimate AVR setup should be worth it.

The only reason I'm planning on getting all this stuff is that it does dramatically aid my education in the field I am majoring in (Computer Engineering). Knowing this stuff will give me an edge over other people. On top of that, it seems as though I may be working more than I originally expected. Lately I have been working full time hours, and have been working late and through my lunch. This all equates to cash that I can use for both school and my personal hobbies. To put it simply, this past week more than covered the cost of the device I'm using now. I'm still saving the majority for school, but buying things like the jtagicemkii gives me an incentive to work and grows my hobby options. The unfortunate drawback to working is that it heavily cuts into my hobby time. I figure if I'm going to sacrifice so much time for work, I might as well make up for it. Hopefully my boss hires another part-timer so I can have more time for my personal work. I love my job, but it is taking up so much time.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Working Now

I now am an employee of SHA INC, an assembly company that takes printed circuit boards and adds the components to them. My job so far seems to be operating the machines that place the components onto the boards. I'm very happy to have this job, and the pay is good (although if gas goes high enough it may not be so great haha). Although this job is in a different area of electronics than what I'm going into, I still enjoy the first-hand experience I get from this. I've always wondered how they produced these things. The company has one location and is family owned, and seems to do mainly prototyping (but not always). They take jobs ranging from 1 to 300 (and even more) PCBs to assemble. My only concerns about working there is that they may want me to work more than I first expected, which could mean a lot less personal time for my hobbies. I was really hoping to get started on my K&R and haven't read that much due to work. I usually fall right to sleep when I get home. This seems like a good job though to keep through school until I am ready for a higher level job (something along the lines of design and engineering). In addition to operating the machines, I also help around with odd jobs and even have the opportunity to use Visual Basic, which coincidently I decided to take last semester as an optional class. Visual Basic is used in Macros for Excel, and they seem to use quite a lot of Excel.

I also received my grades for the Winter Semester. I am glad to say that I was able to get all A's. All the A's I received were expected except for Sociology. Sociology was a wild card, and I was pretty confident I was going to receive a B in the class. Oh well, all for the better. This Thursday my Spring semester starts, I am taking Technical Writing as an online class. I really hope that with my job and class I will find a good amount of time for my personal studies, I really hate to sacrifice my education at this point.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Good News!

The other day I was awarded, by Mr. Harrill, the "Outstanding Student Award" for Electronics and Computer Technology. I was honored by him two days ago at the Meyer theater and my family attended (including my sister's boyfriend). This honor is definitely a resume booster. On top of that, I received a call the same day for a potential job. I was out when I was called, and had to call back. I go in for an interview on Thursday, after all my finals are finished. I'm really excited, if I am able to get the job this will be my first real job in electronics. I also receive my Electronics and Computer Technology Associates Degree after I finish this semester, and I expect to have at most one B for this semester (in Sociology). This has been a great week, and I'm really happy.

In addition to all the important things, I also have finally gotten a GLCD to work properly. Mr. Harrill purchased one a few weeks ago and unfortunately it only came with a single page for a datasheet that gave a potentially wrong pinout. The darn thing wouldn't work after 3 hours, and after extensive debugging of the program I checked the wiring over again. I happened to touch the controllers on the back of the GLCD and noticed they were extremely hot. After that fiasco I went and bought my own off of Sparkfun since they provided heavy documentation (to note I was the one who told Mr. Harrill to buy the faulty GLCD from Mouser). The Sparkfun GLCD used the same controllers and after plugging everything in the program worked great. As of now it is a very simplistic program that displays a line (simply to test the thing). I intend on making a quick picture displaying program for it after I finish with finals this upcoming week. It should be great for the presentations we (Mr. Harrill, Alex and I) do for the Electronics section at various High Schools. Mr. Kelly and Alex suggested a simple game, which I probably will end up doing. A simple scroller where you control a horizontally stationary sprite that navigates through a path, similar to this.

Over this weekend I have to wrap up studying and any leftover homework. If we manage to box up most of the lab (for the lab renovations) before the weekend I will be able to finally start reading K&R. Ugh, 8 classes with 8 tests next week. Thankfully I only have 19 credits next Fall semester, the free time for personal projects and a possible job will be amazing. Below is my schedule for the Fall,

ART-155-01 (13466) Art Appreciation
MECH-102-01 (13902) Manufacturing Processes
MATH-162-02 (14052) Introduction to Statistics
PHY-251-01 (14065) Engineering Physics I
MATH-271-01 (14061) Calculus III

Don't mind the Art Appreciation, that's for the Computer Engineering Degree. After all, I need to be "well rounded." :)

Monday, March 24, 2008

Learning C Programming

I've decided to take up learning C for the AVR 8-bit microcontroller. Although I enjoy programming in ASM, larger scale projects require C programming. I suppose the LCD program was a wake up call as to how useful C programming is. I wanted to create a function in C that would output a string to the LCD display. Essentially I wanted to be able to type LCDPrint("Testing!"); and have "Testing!" appear on the display. After a few days working with C, I came up with a simple program that does just that. Arrays are fabulous for just this type of thing, and this was a great chance to learn the language.

Mr. Harrill, my electronics professor, has requested a project on outputting a keyboard to a LED display. I plan on interfacing the keyboard to an LCD display and then having that output go to the larger LED displays. This LCD program I made is the first step in that process. Since I don't want to have a large bundle of wires going to every LED controller or setting up extra hardware such as shift registers on the LED end, I need to work on doing USART communication between microcontrollers, and also interfacing with a keyboard. The keyboard seems to be quite easy, since I could probably setup an interrupt based system where it reads the bit value after each clock pulse. USART will be used simply because it's easy to use and is supported by nearly all AVR microcontrollers. I wish I had more time to work on all this, I barely had time to setup the LCD program. As stated earlier, classes, in this case macroeconomics, are crowding up my free time. Anyways, attached in this post is the program to interface with the 2x16 character LCD.

EDIT: Oh and did I mention I got a new job at the college?

LCD Interfacing Program: http://salgat.googlepages.com/LCDInterface.zip

Friday, March 7, 2008

Pictures and a Video of my Simple DVM Project

Today I took some pictures and a video of my DVM project. I really wish I had potentiometers to calibrate this thing, oh well, this is more of a learning project than anything else.

A picture of the DVM in action!

A view of the entire circuit, although the voltage dividers are kind of hidden behind the LCD display.

This video shows it in action. This circuit uses a ATmega644 microcontroller.

Picture of Assembler/Simulator: http://salgat.googlepages.com/simulation.JPG
Project Folder including Source Code: http://salgat.googlepages.com/AVRDVM.zip

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Updates on my Life

Just wrapped up a project I have been working on the past 2 mornings. I wanted to learn both ADC and the 2x16 character LCD, so I found a suitable project to incorporate them both, a simple DVM (digital voltmeter). The result is quite pleasing! In under 300 bytes I made a simplistic program that outputs "Voltage: XX.XV". The internal 2.56V reference isn't working for some reason, so I just used two 330 Ohm resistors in series to half 5V into 2.5V. If you take that along with the divide by 10 resistor network for the ADC input and the 10% tolerances of the resistors, it becomes understandable why it isn't perfect in accuracy (at lower voltages, the accuracy is within .1V, while at the upper limit around .8V). Since I knew anything beyond the tenths place wouldn't be close to accurate, I chose to use only 8-bit accuracy for the conversion. The program runs great and the display updates ~4 times per second (although this restriction is strictly aesthetic). The total cost of this high impedance DVM with decent accuracy is around $10, and higher accuracies will be obtained once I find more accurate resistors and fix the internal reference voltage problem.

I wish I could say that my devotion to my electronics is equivalent to my devotion to my school work. I have neglected all my school work this entire spring break, and now have 3 days left to play catch up. I hate to say hate, but I am absolutely sick of all my classes not related to my major electronics. Sociology, Business Management, and Economics in particular are becoming a nuisance. I find myself diverting almost all my attention from electronics to maintain my performance in those classes (although I do admit that I spend almost all my time on Friday-Sunday on Video Games, but that is to keep me sane through the rest of the week). As much as I love school, I dislike classes that while provide some life-long benefit, tend to be unnecessary. $1,400 and ~140 hours of my time going towards those classes, I hope that later in life they make up for their cost.

Another class that I have an aversion to is Visual Basic Programming. Although the class is neither required nor necessary by any means, I still decided to take it due to the many employers out there asking for experience with it. I absolutely enjoy programming in Assembly. The feeling of absolute control over what I am doing is amazing. My comparison between learning Assembly and learning Visual Basic is the difference between learning Math and English. I don't receive the same enjoyment from designing windows and programming in a manner where the computer does everything for me. I suppose it's the syntax that gets to me. Assembly on the AVR consists of 120 instructions. That's it, no more, no less. Visual Basic consists of thousands of different rules and instructions, all of which I have to learn. I have never liked English class, and I did poorly in my Intro to French Class. I am not surprised that I have a B in Visual Basic. I have found that the greatest challenge in taking 24 credits this semester is not the work, but the lack of interest. Last semester was heavenly, all electronics classes and a math class, which is why I could handle 23 credits with all A's. This semester however, I find it hard to find any interest in 5 of my classes. The possibility of several B's this semester is strong, but I'll probably drudge through it and increase my grades anyways. After all, I really would like a Scholarship or two for Lawrence Tech.