Saturday, October 2, 2010

Epoxy Glue Basics

Assalamualaikum to all VE readers,

This'll be a very simple article from VORTEX ELECTRICA's structural personnel which will be referred in future articles, especially for the ones who love getting their hands dirty and assemble stuff with an eye for aesthetics in constructing things.

I'm not trying to make things rigid here, but the best one I used is made by Bostik, called Bostik Epoxy Super Steel. It costs a bit more than the other Bostik type (which is still sticky after drying out half of the time, and the strength is only so-so), but I'll have to say that if you're looking for durability and sheer strength, then this is the glue for you. Also, it'll be incredibly handy for other construction of prototypes as well.

The picture above shows a very simple info about this component:

i: The Epoxy Super Steel, its full fury and sheer strength trapped within the tube containing it

ii: After pulling out the tubes, DON'T THROW THE PACKAGING! The highlighted area in green is a perfect space to contain the components for mixing

iii: Mixing of equal parts of both components (1:1 ratio) and..... I used a toothpick, which is perfect for an artistic job rather than use the "spatula" provided, which will be a mess if you use it.

After the glue dries up, it's practically a hard lump of plastic which can be sandpapered and drilled! So... right now you just have to have your pile of junk, a small saw, a cordless drill and your imagination to build yourself a prototype!

Take note that you should wash your hands immediately if your skin comes into contact with the glue. There is nothing to be afraid of, they're very easy to remove unlike the nasty, nasty, nasty, naaaaaasty Elephant Glue (Yuck!!! I'm never buying those anymore!). Epoxy glue is a hundred times better.

I take no responsibility for accidents which may happen if you don't take precautions. Wearing gloves is the best, and if you're not then just be careful.

Take care,

Friday, October 1, 2010

Jumper Cables from Junk

Ach-tung to all VE readers!!

I think I owe an apology for not regulating this site, since we're all out of the juice needed to write articles here. I'll be giving some simple, very simple stuff which no-one has done yet, at least in my circle.

Beautifulmind and Deathclaw are pretty busy engineers at the moment, and I'm kinda busy too.. but in a different way since I'm not working or continuing my studies yet, and yes, I'm going for the latter after this. So... Enough of my lugubriousness here... we'll get to the topic now.

One aspect of being an electronics hobbyist is that we'll need to channel voltage/current supply to our circuits or motors or even a single LED to a Wall Wart or a DC Supply or a battery. Rather than using wires to touch the terminals using your hands, or doing that messy temporary soldering to connect the terminals, people like to use jumper cables.

Heard of this one before?
"The strength of a chain lies in the weakest link"

This is also the golden rule with jumper connectors. No matter how beautiful or strong the grip is, you'll always end up with broken jumper connectors with the usual crocodile clips. This is because the wires are not adhered to the clips properly. You'll notice it takes more than soldering the contacts to have good quality jumper cables.

There is absolutely nothing going on here except that you'll notice: You don't need to buy the jumper cables, you don't need to be a geek to build one, and you certainly don't need to fish out three or four bucks for each jumper connectors which USUALLY don't last and will need to be repaired after some time due to wires breaking off after some time, which is due to the mechanical stress.

So.... Naturally mistakes were made, and better solutions were discovered...According to five years of experience of building my own jumper cables, I'll name a few ingredients needed for this recipe (assemble your junk collection and you'll get more options, these are only the ones I made, you might be able to make better ones):

1. Name Tag clips, which are made out of steel. They're very strong, and the grip is MUCH stronger than the generic crocodile clips., they have holes which aid in knotting or fitting in other strengthening elements. Here's my collection after extracting 'em from various name tags:

I used pliers to pull out the aluminum rivets which hold the plastic and the steel clip together. Notice that the rightmost one is an anomaly, that one is cut from plastic name tags which has the metal clip part on it. It serves a lot of purpose too.

2. Wire. (Duh!!) I got mine from radio wiring, they're very sturdy and thick, which means the tolerance is much higher if you're considering heating problems in your connections which require a large current.

To be taken into consideration: We're building jumper cables, which are prone to a lot of mechanical stress (wear and tear) so it'll be nice if you have the type of wires with a groovy and fancy-looking insulation at the end of the wire, which may be salvaged from basically all type of appliances. Something like this:

The fancy-looking "grooves" on the wire will be very helpful in making the glue bond between the wire and the clip very strong and durable.

3. Epoxy Glue: Please view this link.

The steps are pretty obvious, so I wouldn't want you to waste time reading details which don't matter, but I'll put up a single picture to show how I did it:

The picture above shows the soldering process (solder sticks pretty properly, don't worry). And a combination of the full-steel clip and the half-plastic half-steel clip is VERY useful for some applications.

The picture below are the variations of my construction for other cables:

a: The red highlighted area is the part which will be soldered, note that the wires are wounded around the upper part before putting it to contact with the metal surface of the clip. This aids additional strength of the connection after gluing.

b: The next sequence shows the contacts are soldered generously, and the "groovy" part of the fire is fitted into the hole of the clip, which again adds a significant durability to the "weakest link" (yes, in my experience, this is the frustrating part) after the applied glue to the crevices dries and hardens up.

c: This picture shows another technique used; I looped the wire around the hole (which is why name tag clips are just the thing for this purpose) and I glued the loose part.

After all of this is done, my collection is displayed as follows:

When everything's all said and done...... BOW DOWN!!! You have your own collection of the strongest type of jumper connectors for your electronics projects. Connect it to motors, LEDs (with resistors, I must remind you people), breadboards (stick a male connector into it and clip to the revealed part), and so on.

I know this article is pretty light and simple, but I find that these cables provide to be more than a chain to the missing link (intended there) which is called: convenience.

InsyaAllah, may God be pleased with us for living our lives trying to spend less (by improvising and recycling more) and use the money for better purposes.


Sunday, July 4, 2010

For the Electrical Department's consideration (Lecturers and Students alike)

Assalamualaikum to all Vortex Electrica fans.

One of the problems faced when we, as electronics/electrical students do projects is that very little practical environment pervades within the department. Aside the fact that we all have laboratories, an electronics store to distribute components with the permission of supervisors, some geeks carrying around toolboxes with some perfboard circuits inside, there is still so much to learn regarding electronics.

Kudos to the current Head of Department of Electrical Engineering for making changes to the department, for a lot has changed for the better then, and it is time to move on to further our experience in doing circuits and introduce some tweaks as well.

So how do we start?

For ambitious students, a full fledged tutorial on PIC microcontrollers is the best way to go around it. However we must account for students who are only willing to do simple projects which will make them appreciate the beauty of electronics. And most students are unwilling to spend much money on buying components.

I am not saying my suggestions are the best, but for a lot of subjects, very valuable experiences can be provided to students who do some projects which pertain to the subject itself. Electrical students are divided into four, in my experience:

1. The ones who just want to finish their degree and nothing more
2. The ones interested in doing projects in hardware form (electronics, power, etc.)
3. The ones interested in software/programming
4. The ones who are not interested in anything.

The second and third will be our discussion.

This is the layout of Universiti Malaya's Electrical Engineering curriculum (download the file for a complete listing) which can be used as a medium to do projects:

First year

1. Electronics 1:

-Construct a temperature sensor using an IN4148 diode and some transistors, best marks goes to the ones who manage to linearize the output of Temperature versus Voltage (and the hardware can be passed for further research on low-cost sensors). Should cost only RM10.00 max.

-Drive a relay using different transistors, a report can be done with each team using different transistors, response time, backward EMF study due to relay chatter, how to suppress relay chatter, etc. Costs perhaps RM5.00

-Build a bridge rectifier (Reaaaaaalllllllly frustrating when EE students don't know how to use a damn diode, OKAY!!!) for AC signals. The best marks will be given to the ones with lowest drop-out voltage, and fastest response time, with lowest ripple, and so on. Cost? perhaps RM3.....

-Build a H-Bridge to control motors using transistors. Best marks to the ones who manages lowest drop-out voltage, highest input/output current ratio, efficiency, etc. Each team will use different transistors, zero marks to duplicate circuits. Cost?.. I think RM15.

2. C++ Programming:

-Change it to C programming, and let 1st year students blink an LED or two at the generic PIC main boards. Using a PIC12F and some perfboard, the circuit can be completed in one day, costs at most RM 10. More advanced programming? Drive a motor speed using PWM. More? Interrupt. More? At your discretion.

3. Digital Systems

-Build logic gates using diodes/transistors. Each team will be assigned to different types of diodes, and different gates as well. Cost? Less than RM5, assured.

-Learn to use Flip-flop ICs/Logic Gate ICs and do some applications. Cost? Less than RM15.

....And so on.

2nd year

4. Electronics 2:

-Amplify signals from the heart using any type of sensor. Cost: RM 20. Best marks go to the ones who manage the best accuracy compared to a standard ECG.

-Make different types of filters/instrumentational amplifier using op-amps (SAY NO TO THE LOUSY 741 ICs!!!) Cost: RM 5

-Process signals from various sources using a software in a PC. Like quantifying heartbeat signals, bird calls, light intensities, temperature, and so on.

-Build an oscillator using op-amps.

.....And other millions of op-amp projects.

5. Instrumentation

-Start using PICs to drive motors, detect readings using ADC, display signals, use temperature signals, strain gauges, range sensors like IR diodes, RF modules (315 or 418 MHz ones), drive relays to operate a 30V motor, for instance... and so on. This project has most options actually. Cost: From RM 20-100.

6. Electric Machines

-Build motors... Now this is very fun. Different motors for different teams, so students can build stepper motors, DC brush motors, brushless motors, relay switches, alarms, etc, anything which requires electromagnetism and mechanical motion. We managed to introduce this culture during our 2nd year. Voila!!

3rd Year

7. Electromagnetic Theory

-Build RF modules. Longer ranging, the better. Give some restrictions: Doesn't introduce interference to the existing signals (otherwise it'll jam things up), low power, and so on.

-Build inductive current sensors, like the ones used in Power Electronics Labs.

8. Microprocessors

-NOW.... proceed to using higher quality PICs and give 'em any kind of project which involves sensors, robots and whatnot. Too many projects are on the 'net. Build a frickin' Asimo if they want.

9. Energy Conversion & Power Transmission

-Again, we manage to be the pioneers of projects involving generators. We can settle down with the DC/AC generators, or also explore Solar Cells, Wind Power Turbines, Thermal Energy, and so on.
Example: Make a portable battery charger using a small water tank which is heated up to propel a turbine to charge a cellphone. Campers can use it when they're going in jungles, so when they make bonfires, they also can charge their cellphones. Also, with solar cells too.

10. Feedback Control Systems:

-Aha.. there is so much we can do around here. I suggest: Build a coffee-maker using stepper motors, which need to be modeled using Laplace/Fourier/Z Transforms. This utilizes transient responses of the motors as well. Usage of PICs required.
Also, we can build a simple pick-and-place robots using PICs and servo motors too.

11. Power Electronics:

Build your own buck, boost, buck-boost, Cuk, and so on Regulators. Is it so difficult? We'll never know if we don't try. The problem is many EE students don't even understand the meaning of Power Electronics.

There is one very interesting circuit:

It demonstrates the usability of a nearly dead cell to power up an LED! Therefore it 'boosts' the voltage, demonstrating the significance of power electronics and boost circuits. This project can be assigned EASILY!!! So why do we hesitate in giving students such simple projects?

In conclusion, look at how much projects can be done with just Googling around. To the ones who think it ain't important, I'll just ask one simple question: What do you remember during lectures? Even for a geek like me, I remember nothing except jokes from lecturers!! BUT I remember nearly every detail of projects done by our Team VORTEX ELECTRICA, and it is the memory which made me value the experience in the University. I'm sure all the other members felt the same way.

I hope future Malaysian students who take up EE in any university will ask their lecturers to give projects like these. They're fun and most importantly, life is a lot about memories, and this is an experience which will be hard to be obtained in the times you are already working.

And oh, if you're going to bitch about cost of the projects, remember that you have spent more on food in a single day than most of these projects! So to the lecturers out there (if you're reading this) just give the projects to them and you'll be surprised how capable Malaysian students are actually! This SHOULD be the main part of the continuous assessment for the students. Honestly, I'd put 30% on projects, and 10% on tests/assignments. The rest is exams, and it's fine by me. To me, all that mattered during my tenure (academically speaking) in UM are three things: Kind lecturers who demonstrates "formidability", the three projects in hardware form assigned by lecturers themselves, and finally our final year project. The rest will be very scantily remembered, sorry to say, even the labs and equipments don't mean much to me except the times I actually needed it.

Vizier87 is signing out.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Solid-State Weather Systems Electronics: Part 2>> Acoustic Disdrometer Rain Sensors

Hi guys.. I've just finished my thesis project documentation, now I'm taking a break in my home. This is the next part from my final year project in this blog, a continuation from the article: Solid-State Weather Systems Electronics: Part 1

Where the first article has the least difficulty regarding detection of three weather parameters: Ambient temperature, humidity and Barometric Pressure.

---------------This article has a moderate difficulty level in construction.--------------

Remember that the documentation regarding this article is pretty scarce, since most of the sensors out there are tested using million-dollar equipments, therefore they are patented technologies. I'm just doing this project from a hobbyist perspective... so if you manage to build an industrially-challenging one, good for you! References in the internet regarding rain sensors can be done by yourselves, but I'm gonna put forward ORIGINAL research and WORK done here... and the RESULTS are all original as well... So hopefully we're not part of useless Google searches regarding DIY Rain Sensors.

So.. We have come to the next parameter, which is pretty complex to process, but the hardware required is pretty simple. Yep, we're gonna do a rain check here.. So what is the importance of reading rain? Not important at all, if you are a common guy, but it may have a lot of significance to a farmer who wants to monitor his crops for farming precision. Remember that agriculture is a very-very important field in Malaysia, where a paddy field in Kedah,Malaysia will certainly benefit from precision in rain-reading, Insya-Allah.

First things first- how do you sense rain? How do you know if it's a torrent or a drizzle out there when you're sitting in your home snoozing or drinking milk tea? You know the answer, but it is difficult to answer it using technical terms. So I'll do my best to describe what I'm doing here to a layman.

There are several techniques used, apart from the standard but disgustingly bulky rain gauges (if you don't know about rain gauges you can do a quick wiki here.)

As for rain detection, the following electronics solid-state designs are briefed after processing the 'net's worth of info. NOTE: There are surprisingly very little amount of documented projects regarding DIY rain sensing.. so the combination of info is siphoned into a useful collection of info, hopefully... :)

i) Drop count: Water drips from an orifice that produces drops of known size which are
usually counted optically (which means the usage of optical sensors like Infrared, or light intensity fluctuation detection>> How to imagine the function: It's like seeing a mutilated image of a person at the back of an aquarium, since the water produces aberrations in the light... oh well that clears THAT.). This design is good for light rain, responds quickly to the changes, but requires a reservoir be maintained at a certain level. Ain't good if you're measuring light rain.

ii) Optical rain gauge: This technique uses scintillation effects to detect/calculate rainfall. This
is an electronic solution which is very pricy, since optics requires a lot of complex analysis. This
design is good for rates, but it is easily deceived by fog and mist. Used by Malaysian weather researchers or whatnot MOSTI... The concept is similar to the one used in the drop count. Xenso (A company making sensors) sells them at $99 (RM 300) to 'em weather guys in Malaysia.

iii) Self-siphoning capacitance gauge: This contraption uses a collection tube with a level
gauge, which is self emptying. This is a good method for measuring rainfall accumulation, which not good for light rains. Hard to DIY. No explanation needed since I don't understand it anyway.

iv) Doppler detection: This method uses reflected microwaves to determine intensity. This is an electronic solution which requires a high level of technology, meaning high cost issues. Even I could find much documentation regarding this thingy. Again, I still don't understand it too.

v) Ultrasonic sensors: This method is also an electronic solution, and also very pricy. It
measures rain by detecting the interference signals generated by the raindrops in an array of
ultrasonic network systems. EXTREMELY hard to DIY. And again, I don't understand the details much too. :(

vi) Disdrometers: AHA!! Bingo!! This concept uses impact of rain, where rainfall is measured by detecting the raindrop impacts via a piezoelectric sensor, which produces a voltage proportional to the volume of the raindrop. Used in the $3850 WXT510 Weather Transmitter (You're a fool to not sense a hint of sarcasm in this sentence)

Heh heh.. But this last option above proves to be the easiest to reverse-engineer and DIY, since Vortex Electrica is ALL about saving money and still being able to do kick-ass projects!! Credit needs to be given to Rolf Hut in his Instructables project.
The details regarding the electronics and techniques of detection are original, from Vortex Electrica though.

So.... what are DISDROMETERS? It is a meter which detects impact, simply put. A raindrop has impact, therefore a disdrometer reads it. The simplest analogy I can give is: Imagine a microphone being tapped by your finger. What does it produce at the speakers' end? TAP! TAP! TAP! Similarly, when you're sitting in your room, you know whether it is raining heavily or not. Now... to make it analyzable and quantifiable... we're gonna start on the construction:


1: You'll need:

a. A plastic CD/DVD platter (or something flat, take your pick)
b. A piezoelectric transducer, like shown here:

......which can be scrounged from broken telephones, or broken clocks or.. anything which produces monophonic sounds.

c. Some electronic components, which are pretty simple:
a) an op-amp IC like the LM358 or LM741.
b) A potentiometer
c) A schottky diode
d) A donut perfboard.. of course.

2. Glue the piezo transducer to the CD platter using EPOXY GLUE.. very important. The one I did looks like this:

3. Construct the rest of the electronics according to this picture:

This is called signal conditioning... where the output spike is isolated from the rest of electronics by freewheeling the negative spike voltage produced by the piezo transducer using an IN5817 Schottky diode, where it is a diode with a forward voltage of 01-0.2 V only, where a lot of op-amps can only withstand -0.2 inverse voltage at it's non-inverting input, and also the signal is amplified by the gain setting using a single potentiometer. If you don't understand, never mind, just build the circuit. :P

4. The finished product in my project looks like this:

5. Now, you can at least observe the output from a location by placing a voltmeter between the output terminals of the circuit. The output is with regard with the raindrop volume, the higher the volume of the raindrop, the higher the output.

Quantification and calibration techniques will be dependent on the transmission of the data to a PC, where we can utilize the full power of a PC computer to do an acoustic analysis of the signals of the raindrops. We'll cover the data conditioning in further articles, since it is a fully different entity of hardware which needs to be discussed, which is also pretty complex.

Conceptually, the area under the graph depicts the raindrop volume, shown below here is me testing my disdrometer (The graph can be predicted according to the typical output shown in the oscilloscope):

The cost of the network is only around RM4.00... impressively cheap if you're daring enough.
For now, enjoy seeing the output which comes out when rain hits the drum!!
In the following article, we will uncover my most difficult part, which are solid state wind sensors, or anemometers, also built by myself, also with not much documentation in the 'net.

See ya all real soon, InsyaAllah.


Wednesday, May 19, 2010



Are you an electrical engineering student in Malaysia?

Do you feel that engineering education is a waste of time when you will not be using much of what you've learned in school after entering the industry?

Therefore this blog invites all Malaysian bloggers who publish articles regarding electronics/electrical/ software engineering to join this blog and contribute your unique projects.

This blog concentrates on simple projects which are done with unique approaches, so that we don't become part of the dilution of the information in the 'net. Put simply, you shouldn't be finding us as part of a useless blog link after Googling for "motors" or "PIC" or "comparators"... You will find some info in this blog unique which is not featured in other articles.

REMEMBER: This is a hobbyist corner. Anyone interested in building their own RC car, for instance, can refer to this blog if provided. The terminologies used here are simplified and explained at its best for a layman, hopefully for you guys (Or gals?)

Here is a short description of Vortex Electrica's current members (more will join, hopefully):

Fakhruddin @ Deathclaw, specializes in Software development and will be feeding us info and news regarding programming for software gung-hos! A drum enthusiast as well.

Electro-tech's Halim @ Vizier87, from Photonics Research Group, will be giving insights on improvising construction of mechanical and electronics' networks... his eccentricity includes one rule: 95% percent of stuff used to construct gizmos must come from scrap appliances, a strict Recycletronica.

Shahril @ Beautifulmind, specializes in electronics and PICs and other things as well... He is also plays guitar during his free time besides doing projects. His articles will be focused in a combination of PIC and electronics projects, done in our own way.

All the articles in this blog are not to compete with other companies, but an expression on how we came around and jumping on stepping stones to achieve our own mastery in our fields regarding Electrical Engineering Curriculum in Malaysia, which is not very easy. We hope to share our knowledge to pave an easier way to realizing projects and inspire future generations to take this course seriously.

Enjoy reading 'em! And please comment constructively too. :)

Contact either: ,,

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Construct your own Electric Generator!

Establishing Server Connection to VE headquarters......
Connection secured.

Hi guys, (or gals?) this is an overdue article on our third year project on Energy Conversion and Power Transmission, by our lecturer, who was our also our Electrical Machines lecturer. I figured out that now I have some time to impart the depths of the Vortex Electrica secrets which should be shared. Since our DIY motor project has gained a reputation with our lecturer, he was inspired to tell us to build a generator. The VE bloodline is again revived!! So here we are.

The most satisfying aspect of building a generator is you can see a form of energy that can't be harnessed properly, and it transfers itself into something that can be properly used (like charging a battery from wind flow, an so on). See the video:


Output Demonstration

Why did I post the video first? This is just for you guys who are skeptical at our product. So we'll just impart it all for you to see. This generator generates 30V at around 3500 rpm (revolutions per minute) with no-load (that means the terminals are directly fed to a voltmeter/multimeter. So how are you gonna build it? The concept is too simple since you guys can also see the link regarding our DIY motor: Here

Basic concepts and physics regarding generators can be read from the wiki here:
Concepts on generators
.... and please read 'em properly if you're a complete newbie.

Anyway, here's a simple diagram on our construction (this diagram is property of Vortex Electrica, references must be with citations) :

From the diagram, (study it carefully!!) The construction is pretty simple, and saves a lot of time regarding analysis. The reason we used this design (which is not the best, since industrial generators use more complicated but efficient windings) is to save you from the trouble of winding and re-winding it due to mistakes. Trust me, the biggest problem in construction of this thing comes from winding the coils, which may be up to thousands of repeated windings. You'll not want to unwind 1000 windings after discovering that the generator has problems regarding orientation or discontinuity of the coils. The details regarding winding configuration will be covered in the following sections.

Here comes the important part: Construction.
What are the ingredients we used? Here you are:

1. Broken hard-drives:

We'll need the permanent magnets from these hard-drives, which are NEODYMIUM magnets. These magnets are the strongest magnets ever produced in the industry. A good documentation regarding hard-drive magnets can be seen in this link: Neodymium magnets
A very good tip: You can get them virtually for free or for very cheap prices if you haggle the prices properly in some shops selling computer hardware, where they usually keep scrap hard-drives for scrap metal, but they'd gladly sell them to you for RM2-RM5 apiece.

2. A non-magnetic metal shaft (can be found in CD-drives)

3. Copper coils is pretty easy to obtain cheaply, from broken transformers and so on, but we bought CRT field coils (from old TVs) for RM10 from a shop selling CRTs. You can get yours for free if you have broken TVs in your attic/store. Haha!!

Here's some pictures:

CRT field coils : RM10, undismantled

Extracted copper coils

It takes great patience to extricate the coils, which are bonded together with resin, but you'll manage, InsyaAllah.

Now, the basic ingredients are covered. Now, we'll proceed to construction, where the other materials will be described as we go along.
A) First Sequence:

Framework for the generator

1. Neodymium magnets on brackets

2. Separated magnets, that's how those magnets look like

3. Halved for polarity isolation (see the documentation regarding Neodymium magnets on the link above. In our case, since cutting it in half using non-magnetic blades is not an option, we used a steel hacksaw to make a dent at two positions for weak stress points, then carefully snap 'em in half using your bare hands, they ARE that brittle, so make the dents sparingly)

4. Armature built using the non-magnetic shaft (usually you can get 'em from toys/CD/DVD drives) we held together the magnets with the tubular structure using epoxy glue (A VERY IMPORTANT COMPONENT!!!). The white tubular structures are actually ballpoint pen casings. Very strong and reliable structural material!

5. Materials for the generator frame (we omitted the metal screws for they produce a very large reluctance in the armature movement.)

6. The basic framework completed, note the neodymium magnets' orientation, please use this configuration.

B. Windings:
The pictures here are simpler, just to show the coiling progress:

Winding orientation: Two planes of separate winding (Singular winding shown in the figure is for simplification, you'll need to wind as much as you can for both planes SEPARATELY, combined after completing the space provided by the generator framework.)


1. Coiling like normal: Remember, the coils are separate between the two planes we used to maximize the space usage. Combination between the two planes are done after the winding is completed.

REMEMBER: We coiled one plane, then the other after completing each layer alternatively, this way the coils are uniform (imagine this like doin' hamburgers, you don't make two big layers, you put thin layers of goodies but lots of it alternatively, like bread,meat, salad, dressing, then fried egg, then dressing back, salad, meat and bread in the bottom)

2. Hmmm... are we done? The CRT coils are still abundant.

3. We added an extra nozzle (the white plastic thingy) to increase the winding space and to avoid the coils from colliding with shaft.

4. Covered some of the parts with tape to hold the windings in place, they tend to loosen after a 2 cm layer worth of coils.

5. Looks like an egg ain't it? That's what we called it, "The Golden Egg"... the thing can roll like one too. Hahaha!!

6. VERY IMPORTANT: Make sure you test the output from the coils after completing a number of thin layers. Just directly connect an LED to the terminals, if there is no output you'll just have to unwind a small number of windings rather than unwinding the whole damn thing.

C: Finalization

Finalization on Structure and Testing

1. Covered with electrical tape to rigidify the fuselage

2. A presentable platform, using plastic frames from the CRT and some other scraps, held together using screws and epoxy glue.

3. Testing the output by connecting the generator shaft to a shaft of a DC motor.

4. The outputs are indicated using LCD display (Special division of programming of the PIC by Mr. Fakhruddin (Deathclaw)

Alhamdulillah, the result is extremely satisfying as we've managed to produce the prototype properly and met the objectives with the best output/efficiency (30V DC output for us, other teams got 3V at most, smallest weight/volume and weight/output power ratio also).

Both the outputs are rectified using our own Bridge Rectifiers, each windings got one. Both the rectifiers are connected in series to produce a combined DC output:

Vortex Rectifier Circuit Diagram

This is the final picture of the presented prototype:

All the personnels are involved in the completion of this project:
1. Abdul Halim Poh (Vizier87), Electromechanical Systems
2. Shahrilhafiz (beautifulmind), Power Electronics
3. Fakhruddin (Deathclaw), Programming
4. Nazmi Zulkifli, Team Manager
5. Mr Lew Han Kit, Misc. Assisting Personnel.

There were many mistakes made and we rectified the problems one-by-one, not to mention the pain we experienced due to the wires which tore after the sharp edges of the revolving magnets cut it for being too close, and at one time the magnets flew apart because of the unbelievable velocity of spin, and also two scrapped major designs, each taking a LOT of bloodshed, and for the ones who wish to add an external revolving field similar to this:

.... With the assumption that it will make the output larger with denser magnetic flux, IT'LL NOT WORK, and the output will be even less. This is true for our case and another team's generator. Anyone who can submit the reason, please do so, and your name will be embedded in this article for giving the explanation.

Thanks to everyone involved. May Allah bless us all with the understanding of His creations and ultimately seek refuge under his mercy.


Sunday, March 21, 2010

Vortex Electrica Dominion

Hi.. it's been some time. I'd like to dedicate to all the Vortex Electrica brethren with lyrics I made on my own, cryptically telling stories of the virtual bloodshed we went through in nearly four years in our university to achieve what we have attained now.

Only some people will read these lyrics in the way I perceived!

Here we go:

Vortex Electrica Dominion

How long did it take to realize
All the time we spent together
Lies only in the smoothed edges
In a scarred piece of lumber

Masters of our own carved pieces.... So REMEMBER!!

Still marching forward to make a kill
Histories of our own time
After conquering the thrill
How long did it take to finalize?

Reliving the chronologies down to a dime!

I am the the Vortex
Living in each of us

Forged a brotherhood of elders
And branded each members
"Keepers of our own knowledge"
"Harvesters who are always at the edge"


Still pounding forward to make a kill

Histories of their own time
After dominating the thrill
How long did it take to finalize?
Reliving the chronologies down to a dime!

I am the the Vortex
Living in each of us


None of us will stay forever
As we will go through the never
Zealots of our own cause
Masters of our own force

I am the Vortex..... Vector SWIRL!!!

Still marching forward to make a kill
Histories of our own time
After conquering the thrill
How long did it take to finalize?

Reliving the chronologies down to a dime!

I am the the Vortex
Living in each of us

Zealotry Seal branded on this page

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Solid-State Weather Systems Electronics: Part 1

This would be one of the didactic posts I'll be putting here... since we're gonna talk about electronics... but wait.. I can't be serious for a minute! So here we are breathin' and talkin' electronics like we're talking 'bout football (except I DON'T talk about football).

Let's start with the first three weather parameters which doesn't need secrecy: Ambient temperature, humidity and barometric pressure. To newbies in electronics, keep this in mind: DOWNLOAD DATASHEETS OF ANY COMPONENT YOU'RE USING, EVEN IF IT IS A DIODE!!!

Ah, I'd like to note: I won't elaborate too much on the electronic connections and circuitry because Google contains billions of 'em, including crappy ones. The best testimony that can be obtained by an electronics hobbyist is a hands-on experience, so please don't expect things to run smoothly after you've connected every terminals with that thinking that you followed a RANDOM circuit you took from Google is said to be FUNCTIONAL by a RANDOM blogger, so your circuit must work. Anyways, you'll still make that mistake everyone commits: the thought that "the circuit is provided, problem solved." so be my guest, make the mistakes, and you'll learn it the hard way.

Firstly, an LM35DZ is a simple thermal sensor which I used for ambient temperature detection, manufactured and used by the billion, so there's nothing much to it. In stores they usually cost RM5.00 (about 1.50 USD) and Farnell (an international electronics components distributor) offers much better prices.

Figure: LM35 Centigrade Sensor

To anyone using it, or who wants to use it, remember that there is a very important rule: connections! See the figure below:

Note that it is a BOTTOM VIEW!!!! I made this simple mistake and wasted a lot of time so don't mess your sensors!!
So after this, give it a supply of 5V from a voltage regulator LM7805. This'll cost another RM1.50.

Second, humidity sensors... I used HCH1000 capacitive humidity sensor, which is the hygrometer for my weather station and the cheapest by far, around RM26. See below:

Figure: Honeywell's HCH1000 capacitive humidity sensor

This sensor needs to be conditioned according to a circuit provided by the datasheet for HS1101-HS1100 here and the circuit is here:
Figure: Circuit for HCH1000 capacitive humidity sensor conditioning

You'll need to adjust the ratio between R4 and R2 and I added a 10uF non-polar capacitor in series to the HCH1000 to make the response readable by my Digital Multimeter (DMM) in frequency read mode (Buy a good DMM, not the cheap Korean or Chinese ones). Note that it took me a lot of time just to find the right links to introduce these fine adjustments so go figure if yours didn't work.

To test the sensor, put a damp cloth or tissue near the sensor, and the frequency of the timer output will reduce. This frequency'll be used to be translated in PIC microcontrollers (See Deathclaw's intro into microcontrollers in this blog if you don't know anything about microcontrollers here) or you can visit this page: Nigel's PIC page.

Third part: Barometric pressure sensors... I chose the cheapest one, MPX4115A available with a price of RM39.00 by Farnell. This sensor is very simple but the documentation regarding it sucks in the 'net. Don't look at the the datasheets if you're figuring out the pinouts, they'll confuse you with three 'styles' of terminals... see this figure which is painfully extricated from a book by Ibrahim Dogan:

Figure: MPX4115A pin descriptions

This sensor detects changes in barometric pressure, translated in outputs of voltage, so it's simple because its output is from 0-4.8V for a supply of 4.75-5.2v (plug-and-play component, no amplification needed).

For what's worth, I've presented 6 months of research (finding each sensor took a lot of time!!) and labor where the simplicity of these things are evident. Mistakes have been made and rectified, so I hope this'll pave an easier route for weather systems' researchers who wanted to build a solid-state weather system on their own.

Alhamdulillah, all this experience is very humbling to me since the more work is poured, the more I realized how much I didn't know about the complexity and beauty of electronics in the human body (no one has been able to explain why images in the brain, in the region of nanovolts doesn't get mutilated in the presence of even the strongest magnetic fields like in MRI- Magnetic Resonance Imaging machines, where electronic cameras get fuzzed easily with Electronic Jamming devices.) Masya-Allah. This is also the case in weather systems, even with the advancement in technology nowadays, weather prediction are always done with a certain amount of certainty, but it is never certain.

I'll cover the more powerfully complex parameters for the electronics in the next part, which is rain precipitation, wind speed and wind direction. Stay tuned with Vortex Electrica!!!!

Allah has made Vortexes ubiquitous in nature!


Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Verdict: Silver!

Alhamdulillah, Vortex Electrica gained a silver medal in MTE (Malaysia Technology Expo) 2010 for the Solid-State Weather Transmitter.

Personally, I am genuinely very thankful to receive this award since we are undergraduates competing with the larger party of projects done by postgraduates which are far more sophisticated. The 'but' part comes butting in when you can't but feel a bit disappointed with the way the other innovations are being judged in this expo.

I have seen other 'gold' projects which are slammed with only silver or the worse bronze medals (where my university received substandard evaluation, in my opinion), and the reverse also occurred: Projects which are unfit to be called innovation but made their way through the expo. Also, some of the innovations which received 'gold' are an eyebrow-raiser. I'll spare the details to avoid any controversy.

All of what I mentioned are not meant to discredit the judges since my opinion is not the only one which matters, but there are fields where I concede fit to be within my jurisdiction, at least in electronics and structure. I HAVE seen electronics exhibit in the expo which in my kinder words would be said as "redundant". I am totally sure if these projects are uploaded in Electro-tech online (an electronics forum I'm actively involved) they'll pelt these 'innovations' with remarks fit for complaints to moderators, to put simply- they'll CRUCIFY those projects. (Trust me, I have 500 +/- posts in that forum, I know how the Americans and Canadians will respond to news like this)... but don't worry... I won't do it.

Therefore it is highly important we have judges which are not going to be biased; this is analogous to having Pepsi come and evaluate Coca-Cola's latest beverages- of course what you'd expect is "this stuff is nothing much, ours is better 'cause blah blah blah" and all that rubbish.

No offense to any party who felt offended, since there are some innovations which deserved what they got. But I won't say our university were fairly judged except mine. PERIOD.

If any MTE 2010 JUDGES read this, and felt this article is a face-slammer, just take it as a feedback not from me, BUT FROM MY SUPERVISORS!!


Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Surveillance Sentinels: Recycletronics

Did you know that mountains are assigned to the most skilled sentinels? They look out in far, and report in silence using signals oblivious to anyone else except their clan. This is one of the most popular combat tactics' topic: intelligence. But fortunately, we are just waging a war against our own superiors who needs the job to be done. (Wink)

Also, snipers (who may reside in mountains) have additional senses: that humidity, temperature, wind speed and direction or even the earth's centrifugal force (Coriolis Force) is in the mind when aiming at a target.

Here's my picture of the mobile weather station for the MTE 2010:

I heavily improvised the structural part using scraps like telephones, bicycle chain, CD-ROM drives, radio parts, Norslan incandescent light bulbs thrown by my father (if you can't see a trace of it you really need a pair or glasses with the size of an aquarium-just joking guys), marker pens, CD platters, a good amount of screws, some epoxy glue and shafts from printers. This is also a concept in do-it-yourself (DIY) I'd like to promote: Recycletronics and as I coin the term, I'll be heavily featuring this concept through my artcles in the past (see my article on battery packs!!) , present (you're looking at it) and future. The complete structure will be unveiled in a final article on this prototype.

I admire both of the aforementioned concepts , therefore I will elaborate a bit more on weather surveillance:

Most weather stations are mostly mechanical in existence, therefore vulnerable to a lot of factors like extreme conditions and wear-and-tear effect. Also, electronic solid-state equivalents of such systems are very costly. Remember the mercury barometer and thermometer we used to have in secondary school? Scrap that, because solid-state electronics is making way!

The challenge is to reproduce this system with minimal resources for various applications like agriculture (farming precision: raindrop monitoring for precise use of additional water for crops, humidity regulation, etc), events’ planning (wind speed and direction for launching airborne systems, atmospheric hazmat conditions), early warning system (vortex and storm prediction), environmental studies (monitoring system for solar output, wind, and water quality, hazardous materials carried by wind) and so on. So basically the more access we gain over our surroundings, the better it is for ambient precision controls.

The techniques on solid-state wind speed and direction reading features latest improvisation using lower-cost resources with comparable sensitivity as opposed to the sonic technology featured in more advanced and costly designs.

Some details regarding structural characteristics and electronics are discovered and is a genuine implementation of some discoveries, which is true for the solid-state wind sensors, and the rest are mostly improvised, with a small amount of plug-ins to complete the design.

There'll be another article on how I built some of the sensors, so stay tuned with Vortex Electrica!


Saturday, January 23, 2010

EYE (coordinate measuring machine)

What don't kill you made you more strong..I'm here to present you the project that I currently work with. The others Vortex Electrica members already show up their final year project. Now, it;s my turn. ;p

I'm not really sure about my thesis title because it always change due to the time. But there are basic targets for the system to operate which :
  • System should be able to do coordinate measurement by using single camera and a laser pointer.
  • System have the ability to perform basic detection of external object from a predefined area and pointing the laser mark on detected object.
FIGURE 1 : Laser Pointer Mechanism.

I'm more interested doing research and experiment in the field of sensor and how an electronic system interact with outside world. This project will cover a simulation of how the interaction of an eye and the brain with the help of light reference can perform a task in doing polar distance approximation.

Mobility of any robot really depend on their sensor. Image processing offers variation of algorithm than can replace infrared and ultrasonic range sensor. For a distance measurement, stereo vision is used. But to give more narrow and precise coordinate measurement, multiple camera needed.

FIGURE 2 : Plan view of trigonometry distance approximation.

There are no extra-ordinary super complex method implemented here. The idea is to try the other method rather than stereo vision system for distance approximation to mono vision system with the help of light reference for coordinate approximation. From Figure 2, simple trigonometry is used to make approximation calculation using a distance,d and other two angles reading from internal image camera angle and mechanical laser pointer rotation angle.

FIGURE 3 : View from inside camera and image angle calculation.

The precision of the system should be as precise as a narrow laser point area on the object. Rather than measuring a distance of the object to the system, perhaps this system will give a coordinate from a point on the object surface to the system after critical mechanical calibration.

To get a better servo motors response, fuzzy-controller is used to make sure the laser is pointing directly on the interest object(red dot in FIGURE 3) with less oscillation error. This process monitored using real-time image processing(MATLAB).

Challenge that will be faces will be error in coordinate calculation approximation due to non-precise mechanical construction and non-linear of camera behavior. Artificial Neural Network will be a good solution for those non-linearity approximation but the speed of system response should be consider.

This is just a brief introduction about my project. Technical stuff will be discuss later. Hopefully we do have time to share all the ideas together. All the best guys!!

Friday, January 22, 2010

Vortex Electrica Swizzled!

The Vortex Electrica logo Swizzled by yours truly.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Vizier of Weather Systems

(Crackles knuckles) Here we go.

Being a final year student, the thesis titles brought up to the attention of the Electrical Engineering (EE) students are somewhat watered down to suit the students' capabilities. Like I said before, we are all seriously underestimated by some of the lackadaisical lecturers, so let's just say that I measure students' barometer by the level of pride they put in their work in their thesis projects. It doesn't need to be 'fanciful' (the type with acronyms of techno-savvy stuff with superfluous words... oh you'll get it when you get there), but being meaningful is what this is all about.

My thesis supervisor (beautifulmind's as well) went for a technology convention in Geneva 2005 (check out for a smart cane for the less capable) and out of 1300 exhibits, his innovation came out Number ONE. How did he do it? In my own words, I say "An idea which is expressed with authenticity and meaningfulness is always favored over the ultra-complex fuselage of engineering enigmas which is not unknown" ..

So, my interests has always been about being a hacker in electronics amalgamated with structure and with a dash of moderate programming (ask my fellow bloggers) so I googled for low cost sensors for the scrooge and found out about low cost humidity sensors using scraped carbon film resistors, then the next two months' worth of Googling, a solid idea came through: An electronic weather station featuring mobility, solid state per se, fully constructed and improvised by a Vortex Electrica member!

I can't spill out the details now, remember it is a patented thesis, (or so I was informed) but I'll be glad to share the rest of the circuitry, the electronics, and the structural integrity which is essential in the construction, all in this blog after the submission of my dissertation. Some are original discoveries, some are improvised, and some is the icing on the cake, so to say.

I truly spent a lot of time gathering information on this, so see the pictures with the knowledge I spent nearly a year building it. This project is due for exhibit for the MTE 2010 in Putra World Trade Centre, Kuala Lumpur between 4-6 February

Here are the pictures of my work:

Figure: CRAE Solid State Weather Sensor System

Figure: Some of the electronics

This system is designed to measure:

a) Ambient temperature
b) Barometric Pressure
c) Humidity
d) Rain precipitation
e) Wind Speed, and
f) Wind Direction

The cost of the electronics is around RM100 as opposed to the commercial weather transmitter, WXT510 which is around USD 3000 (around RM10000). If this may replace the current model, oh my. The discoveries (Bi'iznillah) with Allah's guidance include the wind sensors improvisation which helped me complete a solid-state wind sensing system.

Figure: Commercial Weather Transmitter WXT510, priced at USD 3850 (

The rest of the details will be uncovered in four months time, InsyaAllah.

That's all for now. See you again!
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