*According to Social Security Administration actuarial tables
Here are a few projects I've worked on. Click a thumbnail for more pictures and a short description.
Theremin (Fall 2012)
For Olin's Modeling and Control class, I build a functional RF theremin. If you're not familiar with theremins, you can see a professional theremin being played on YouTube. I wasn't able to build it on a breadboard due to its exreme sensitivity to stray parasitic capacitance, so the circuit needed to be dead-bugged on a piece of copper clad. I designed and laser cut a box out of MDF for the theremin, as I wanted a polished final product. Due to funding cuts, I spent an inordinate amount of time making knobs out of brass on the lathe. The final deliverable was a report, and you can download the PDF here.
I've made a of couple power amplifiers - the first was free-soldered with the LM3886 chip. I used free samples from National Semiconductor (before it was acquired by TI) to build it and most subsequent amplifiers. To get the free samples, I acquired a free domain, and set up emails for sample accounts. For my second power amplifier, I designed a PCB for the LM4780 and sent it to OSH Park for fabrication. The second power amp is housed in a laser-cut baltic birch case, with a LED-illuminated laser-engraved acrylic faceplate and a 21-step attenuator for better channel balance than a standard potentiometer. Most of my power amplifiers have been powered by toroidal transformers, acquired at my favorite surplus store, Apex Electronics in Sun Valley, CA.
Laser Rangefinder (Spring 2013)
For Olin's Real World Measurements class, a team and I designed the optics and circuitry for a laser rangefinder. It was designed to send out a pulse from an infrared laser, then measure the time it takes for the pulse to be returned and detected using a photodiode. Avalanche photodiodes are commonly used for this, as they have high gain and fast response times, but our budget did not allow us to use an avalanche photodiode. We used a 22μS-resolution timer chip, and the team had to learn to use Olin's reflow oven to solder the QFN package. Unfortunately, the project failed due to problems with the firmware, as well as optical alignment issues.
3D Scanner (Fall 2013)
In Principles of Engineering, before doing the final project, I made a 3D scanner with a partner. We designed and 3D-printed a pan-tilt gimbal, with an excessive bearing (which, despite being 3D-printed, was a very good press fit) to support the sensor. In the image above, you can see the scanner facing a mug with some chopsticks. The image to the left is the scan of the chopsticks, with the colors corresponding to the distance (click for a larger size).
I built a hexcopter around the RCT800 platform. It uses six 12" or 14" carbon fiber propellers and an Arduflyer 2.5 flight controller (with an external GPS). The booms are injection molded plastic and I've added carbon fiber landing gear to mount a brushless gimbal, which is great for filming from the air.
For an electrical engineer, I've spent quite a bit of time in the machine shop. I used a combination of brazing and TIG welding turn hammered sheets of copper into a rose. The widget in the preview image is turned from aluminium; instead of using a die to make the threads on the front, I used a single-point threading tool and the gearing on the lathe to make the threads.
The Confectionery Cannon (Fall 2013)
With a team of four, I built a face-tracking pneumatic marshmallow launcher. It uses OpenCV and Python to find faces, then comminicates with a microcontroller to fire the marshmallows and reload itself. You can read more at confectionerycannon.com, which I designed and
In Computer Architecture class, I designed and built a basic element of computer logic using vacuum tubes with a partner. Our writeup of the project is on the CompArch Website, where we talk in extensive detail about the circuit's design and functionality, in addition to providing tips to other students looking to continue our work or work in a similar area.
Jawbone Intern, Advanced Projects Division
As an intern on Jawbone's Advanced Projects team, I assited with testing and bring up of the revolutionary bioimpedance sensors in the UP3 in addition to other responsibilites involving hardware, firmware, and general prototyping for future Jawbone products and concepts.
Mixed Analog and Digital VLSI: Tunable Gain Amplifier
In Olin's VLSI class, my team of three designed a stereo amplifier whose gain can be digitally adjusted via a SPI interface. Even including the fairly large output transistors, we had room to include our faces on the chip. Once the IC gets fabricated (estimated Spring 2015), we will be (as far as we can tell) the only people in the world with our pictures on an integrated circuit!
Custom Active Studio Monitors
I built a pair of speakers out of 1/2" MDF, and designed an active amplifier circuit. I haven't completed the active crossover yet, but running the speakers with simple passive crossovers sounds pretty good! They're excruciatingly finished in "glacer white" automotive paint and clear coat, with a laser-cut backplate concealing the amplifiers.
Droideka Rolling Robot
At MakeMIT 2013, my team won 3rd place in the second round with our bluetooth- and wifi-controlled rolling robot. I was responsible for the electrical system, the music, and running around excitedly.
For Elecanisms (Spring 2015), my team built a Wack-A-Mole game where the moles run away from the player. More info is on the website the team created for the project: fbourke.github.io/elecanisms/ or by viewing our YouTube video.
Apple Hardware Engineering Intern
The summer of 2015, I was an engineering intern at Apple. Unfortunately, most of my work is covered under a strict NDA, but I was working on analog electronics design as well as assorted prototyping.
I enjoy analog photography using a variety of media. I hand-process all of my black and white film, including 35mm, 120 (medium format) and 4x5" (large format). More of my work is found on my Flickr profile.
In Fall 2015, I made a series of close-up portraits with my Speed Graphic on Kodalith film for my Arts and Humanities capstone project. The image above is one in the series, and more examples are on Flickr.
This section is for random things I might want to write. Essay is probably too grand a term.