My Favorite Product: The Voltage Regulator Module


As it is Thursday, today I decided to throw it back to one of my favorite products from my student days. When I was an intern working on the many projects for the shows we go to, there was one little board I couldn’t seem to go without; the VRM (Voltage Regulator Module).

The voltage regulator module

No matter how hard I tried, I seemed to always need something that would take my beloved 12V Lipo batteries, down to 5V AND supply enough current. I explored my options on the internet of course. I looked at combining multiple switching regulators to achieve up to 6A, and I looked at non-switching regulators, but those just wouldn’t cut it. It also seemed like a lot of unnecessary work. There had to be one module out there that could do what I wanted.

A photo of the claw game not doing what I want…

Luckily, James happened to have just the thing: the VRM. Capable of dropping 12V down to 3.3V or 5V and supplying up to 6A, this was just the item I needed. On the Zybot the servos alone peaked at 2A, and on top of that there was the Zybo, the camera, the motors, the WiFi dongle.

The voltage regulator on the FPGA ARM robot

The VRM on the Zybot. It is hooked up to the 2 12V motors, 2 5V servos, webcam, wifi dongle, and Zybo board.

Then of course there was the claw game. With 4 stepper motors, a servo, the Basys 3, and the joystick to power, this left a lot to be desired (a lot of current anyways).

The voltage regulator module in the claw game

The VRM is used in the claw game to power the 3 stepper motor drivers and the Basys 3 board.

The VRM was always there to keep my projects amped up. Even today, I always have a few VRMs on my desk, and keep one in the demo fix it kit.

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About Author

When I started school I wasn’t interested in any of things I’m passionate about now. In fact originally I started out wanting to study art. But then I decided I didn’t want to have people telling me what to create, so I changed to music. Then I decided I didn’t want to ruin a hobby by making it my career. At the same time my Physics class was teaching a unit on the physics of music, and I thought that was way interesting, so I changed to physics. Then by the time physics was over I decided that the coolest part of physics was electricity and magnetism, and I may as well get a degree that transfers directly into a career. So while all this was happening, I was attending Shoreline Community College, and during that time I found my passion, or rather presented itself repeatedly, until I realized, maybe I should take a hint from the universe. While at community college, I was asked to help at the high school by tutoring chemistry students. Then I was asked to help at the elementary school by being a math Olympiad coach. I continued both because I found I really enjoyed it. I also had an opportunity, and was hired to be a tutor in the Math Learning Center at the Community College, a job I really loved. At the same time I was working as a Nanny, which I had been doing for several years, the main reason because I could and would answer the hard questions the kids asked honestly (i.e. why is the sky blue). I then was recommended by the patrons of the MLC to the transfer tutoring center (private tutoring,) and developed a wait list of students. Through all these opportunities at some point I realized that I loved watching people go from totally lost, to masters of a subject. I was also forced to admit that having all these opportunities continually renewed, I must have been somewhat good at it. So I decided I wanted to teach, which fits with my mission oriented personality. I saw a serious lack of passionate ECE professors in the institutions I attended. At WSU I continued this trend by being ask to TA for computer science and electrical engineering, being a TA for a total of 4 semesters. This continued by getting an amazing opportunity in my first semester at Washington State University to work at Digilent, an educational company. So even if I didn’t want to teach, turns out I can’t avoid it. Luckily it is my main passion.

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