New Product: OpenScope MZ Makerspace Bundle

Today we are introducing the OpenScope MZ Makerspace Bundle. This bundle contains everything you need to get a makerspace stocked with instrumentation for your makerspace members. It contains the ten kits of the OpenScope MZ, Small Project Box, microUSB cable and sticker sheet.

The OpenScope MZ is a portable instrument that implements an Oscilloscope, WaveForm Generator, Power Supply, Bode Plot, Data Logger, and simple Logic Analyzer. This suite of instrumentation tools can give members a first touch on instrumentation in a simple and portable interface. WaveForms 2015, the software interface for the OpenScope MZ can run offline, in a browser, or on a mobile device, giving members access to debug their process in a wide variety of situtations. If mobile debugging is needed the OpenScope MZ can even communicate with WaveForms 2015 over WiFi.

Why is instrumentation so important in electronics?

In the most basic sense, the world of electronics is largely unseen, and instrumentation helps you see the unseen.

Here’s another way to put it:

We often use the following analogy with new users to help them better understand electronics:

Working on electronics projects can be compared to being surgeon. When a surgeon sees the patient,
they see the symptoms from the outside; they see a knee that doesn’t bend quite right or is causing
pain. In your project, you may see a motor that doesn’t turn at quite the right speed or even turn at
all. A surgeon will likely be able to guess what the problem is, and if they have a lot of experience
they might even be correct on the first guess – just like you may be able to make an appropriate
guess as to why the motor is malfunctioning. But just as a malfunctioning knee might be caused by
the bone, the cartilage, or the muscle, your malfunctioning motor might be caused by the signals
coming from your microcontroller, a fried pin on the microcontroller, a fried motor controller, or a
broken motor itself. A surgeon will likely use X-rays or an MRI to see the unseen in their patient
and determine the exact cause of the injury. The MRI and X-ray are the surgeon’s instruments. You
can use an oscilloscope and logic analyzer to see the unseen in your project. First, you can look at
the signals coming out of the microcontroller pins: do they seem correct, and are they even there?
Then if those are right, look at those coming out of the motor controller: do they look right, and
are they even there? You can even use a pattern generator to output the correct motor signals to test
the functionality of your motor.

Sure, the surgeon could use exploratory surgery as the first diagnostic tool, but it’s more efficient
to use instruments that were created to see the unseen and pinpoint the exact cause of the issue
without having to waste time and money. In electronics, instruments can help you pinpoint the
exact cause of a strange behavior, and teach you more about the functionality of your project. We
have taken apart projects, replaced components, gone through the code, and ramped up our levels
of stress and frustration only to take out a scope and discover that one of the pins was fried. What
we learned was that taking out the scope should have been the first step.

While the OpenScope MZ PCB isn’t encased itself, the durable project boxes provides a safe storage and checkout vehicle. In addition files are available for a 3D printed or laser cut case, that can be customized or fabricated in the makerspace.

Since it’s likely that some makerspace attendees may not have experience with Instrumentation, we’ve provided a workshop designed to get users a first touch with the OpenScope MZ, and give them confidence to be able to use the tools. If you’d like to host the workshop you can download the workshop slides with accompanying presenters notes. The slides can be used as is or customized to your specific needs. On the Digilent Youtube Channel you’ll find the OpenScope MZ workshop training, this video will show you what’s covered in the workshop, what materials are needed, and common questions or issues that might come up during the workshop. This workshop also demonstrates an often underused feature of instrumentation, it’s great for teaching and demonstration. Someone in the makerspace doesn’t understand how servo signals work? Show them on an Oscilloscope!

A slide from the OpenScope MZ Makerspace Workshop, with presenters notes.

For members that want to get a little more hands on you’ll find the OpenScope MZ workbook free to download on the Digilent Wiki. The workbook includes an introduction to Instrumentation, a guide for setting up the OpenScope MZ, and a set of exercises designed to get users familiar with each of the tools on the OpenScope.

One of the pages of the workbook.

If your makerspace needs to stock some parts, there’s also the option to add a couple of Analog Parts Kits to your bundle, each kit containing about 200 parts!

With the OpenScope MZ workshop, workbook, and Makerspace Bundle you can instrument your makerspace with tools that will help increase discovery and decrease frustration. Random side note, the OpenScope MZ Makerspace bundle also gives you an automatic 20% off!

To learn more about the OpenScope MZ check out the store page or head over to it’s resource center.

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