Author Brandon Marcum

NI
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Brandon M. takes us on a tour of NI’s incredible circuit simulating software. His review will both take you through the getting started process as well as provide a overall analysis of the browser-based tool.

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Our Team
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It’s no secret that Digilent has gone through some major changes over the last couple of years. We were acquired by National Instruments, which has been very beneficial. Along with that has come the realization that it’s time to re-brand ourselves, updating our website and associated documentation.

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STEM Culture
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Alan Shepard became the second man and the first American to go to space when he piloted the Mercury-Redstone 3 mission into space on 5 May, 1961. John Glenn followed a few months later when on 20 Feb, 1962, he piloted the Mercury-Atlas 6 mission to three complete orbits around the Earth. These flights, among several others, were the necessary testing and training precursors to the Apollo moon-landing missions already in the planning stages. Apollo 11 was the culmination of years of work, when American astronauts Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong became the first humans to set foot on the Moon on 20 July, 1969. What is the common thread between all three of these monumental events? Katherine Johnson.

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STEM Culture
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Compilers take your source code and convert those instructions into a language that the computer hardware can understand, almost always a low-level binary machine language. Douglas Hofstadter compared looking at raw machine code to trying to read DNA one atom at time. It’s doable, but not easy, so it makes sense that we use higher level languages, like C, and then run them through the compiler to generate the machine code. But where did the idea of a compiler come from? Enter the Queen of Code, Grace Hopper.

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Tutorial
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If you’ve been keeping up with Digilent over that last couple of years, you may have heard about our merger with National Instruments. We’ve collaborated to create new products, and we’ve expanded our capabilities to work with more of NI’s products. One of those products is Multisim, a full-function testing and simulation environment for analog, digital, and power electronics designs.

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How-to
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Take a look at a circuit board and chances are you’re going to find a resistor or two. Most boards today use surface-mount device (SMD) technology, so the components are almost too small to see sometimes, but they are on there, I promise. How do engineers decide which resistors to use in the design? Sometimes it depends on how you want that portion of the circuit to perform, as in the case of an op-amp. Other times it’s to prevent too much current from passing through a given point in a circuit, which is why they are often called current-limiting resistors. Maybe you want a simple way to divide the voltage or current. The reality is that there are numerous ways to use resistors, and oftentimes, the defining the resistor value is up to you.

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Tutorial
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If you’ve been around electronics for a while, you’ve probably noticed that components like resistors, capacitors, zener diodes and inductors come in some odd values. Looking at the chart above, there seems to be no clear rationale behind the values, but there is a pattern. 47kΩ resistors and 22μF capacitors are everywhere, but not 40kΩ or 50kΩ resistors, or 20μF or 30μF capacitors. So what’s the deal? It all has to do with preferred numbers.

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Tutorial
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Hysteresis is something that is all around us. Its effects can be found in many disciplines, like economics and biology, but especially in engineering and physics. But what is it? How do we use it? Let’s do some digging to find out.

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Microcontrollers
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I really enjoy what I do here at Digilent. I get to work with some of the best tools available for students, professionals, and hobbyists alike. One of the things I like most is how easy it is to get your hands on a good quality microcontroller board, like the chipKIT Uno32. But even once you get a good board, it will still need to be programmed.

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