#MakewithMaxim Inspires Engineering Inventiveness

March 22, 2018

Christine Young By: Christine Young
Blogger, Maxim Integrated 


Are you invigorating by inventing? Transfixed by tinkering? If you're a maker at heart, passionate about solving problems in new ways or turning your creative ideas into unique electronic applications, then it’s time for you to #MakewithMaxim.

As Maxim celebrates its 35th anniversary this year, we're also taking the opportunity to celebrate engineering ingenuity. To that end, we've got development platforms, component modules, and system platforms that are suited for a variety of design engineering projects. Over the years, we’ve teamed up with the likes of All About Circuits and Hackster.io to host #MakewithMaxim design contests and hackathons. The entries and efforts resulting from these events offer inspiration for engineers of all skill levels.

Temperature-Sensing Design Projects

A recently completed #MakewithMaxim contest, sponsored by Maxim, All About Circuits, and Mouser, centered around the MikroElektronika Thermo 6 click board featuring the MAX31875 low-energy temperature sensor; the MAX31856EVSYS Evaluation System featuring the MAX31856 thermocouple-to-digital converter; and the MAX31865 Evaluation Kit featuring the MAX31865 RTD-to-digital converter (see Figure 1 for a block diagram). Contest winners documented their projects, including instructions, source code, and schematics, in blog posts on the All About Circuits website. The first-place winner, Fabio Rocha, created eNurse, an embedded device to non-invasively monitor health signs in small children. Rocha wrote in his blog post about the temperature-taking project: "The idea for eNurse came to me as a personal life experience. As a father of a baby girl I had to face the problem of taking care of a sick child at night which should be constantly watched for fever. My nights were not easy as I ended up waking my daughter when trying to measure her temperature. I have to say that once in a while I was so tired by lack of sleep that I was not sure about her meds nor their periodicity. I decided to do something about it to help me and help other families too. As a result the eNurse project was born." eNurse, based on the MAX31875, measures and sends temperature to a mobile app, which displays the data graphically. An alarm sounds when the temperature is outside the normal range.

The second place winner, diamondjimkoehler, created a Raspberry Pi Solder Reflow Oven Controller using the MAX31865. This oven controller automates the process of using a simple toaster oven for reflow soldering of PCBs. The designer published a journal article a few years ago about this type of application. He notes in this oven controller blog post, "There have been a number of Web descriptions for using a toaster oven or similar, but the real secret is to monitor temperature somehow and, in that article, it was all done manually. For the MakewithMaxim contest, I proposed using a Raspberry Pi Zero W, along with a Maxim temperature sensor circuit, to automate the entire process." Finally, the third place winner, Stephen S. Madeira, created a self-diagnosing power inverter with the MAX31875. While his project was intended for electric vehicle (EV) applications, he noted that it could also be useful in a range of different equipment because the main focus was on power inverters that drive motors. Madeira explains in his self-diagnosing power inverter blog post: "In high power applications, a fail in any inverter's leg may be catastrophic, not only for itself but for the device connected to. So, the ability of self-monitoring and self-diagnosing may prevent accidents and bigger damages. And here is where MAX31875 saves the day. The tiny package allows precise monitoring of each IGBT, making possible not only just [monitoring] the system but [predicting] failures and [adjusting] power output to work always at the most efficient range. An additional sensor measuring ambient temperature may give one more info to the system, helping it to adjust its behavior for every environment condition."

MAX31865 block diagram
Figure 1: MAX31865 block diagram

Rapid Development Platform for Connected Designs

Last spring, Maxim co-hosted a contest with All About Circuits and Digi-Key around our MAX32630FTHR board (Figure 2). The board is essentially a rapid development platform that equips engineers to quickly implement battery-optimized solutions such as intelligent sensor nodes and actuator nodes with the MAX32630 Arm® Cortex®-M4F microcontroller. The board includes the MAX14690 wearable power management IC (PMIC) for power conversion and battery management. The contest’s grand prize winner, Djdesigns, used the board to create a model rocket data acquisition and telemetry application. Djdesigns wrote in his rocket project blog post, "I have, since I was a child, wanted to shoot a telemetry package up on an Estes rocket but [had] never gotten around to it until now. Now I get to share this with a new generation of children and get the benefit of technology like MEMs sensors and digital radio." On a custom 3D printed base, Djdesigns mounted the MAX32630FTHR board as well as GPS and RFM95W featherwings from Adafruit, a MAX31865 amplifier/AD board and PT100 temperature sensor, a solid-state light sensor, and a small LiPo battery. According to the designer, “The rocket flew well, up until the point where the added weight of the payload tore the strings from the parachute as it deployed. Amazingly both it and the electronics package survived the fall back to earth. Helped, no doubt, by landing among some weeds. The system worked and transmitted data throughout the entire flight…"

The second place winner in this contest created the HYGROMAX 630, a low-cost, digitally controlled portable hydroponics farm. Hydroponics is the science of growing plants without soil. According to the project designer, Avitron, controlling this type of environment successfully involves scanning sensors periodically, collecting and storing data, and making this data available in the cloud for remote viewing and monitoring. Notes Avitron in his hydroponics project blog post, "The MAX32630FTHR suits this requirement perfectly. An Arm processor which comfortably processes all the sensor activity, SD card on board which is used here to set up the unit (configuration), a gyro and accelerometer to monitor and alert the user if any disturbances occur, and BLE to be able to use a mobile phone or tablet to view data and also to upload the data to the cloud."

Finally, the third place winner in the contest, bowenfeng, used the MAX32630FTHR as a virtual reality (VR) controller. His project consisted of two parts: the VR game and the BLE controller. He modified the Unity Roll-a-Ball tutorial, a simple rolling ball game that teaches the principles of working with Unity. bowenfeng created the BLE controller by collecting data from the MAX32630FTHR board, sending it through I2C to an Arduino Pro mini, and then passing it on to a Tiny BLE development board to be exposed as joystick input data. He noted in his blog post about the VR controller, "MAX32630FTHR is a really powerful board with quite a lot of onboard peripherals. Most [notable] are the built-in accelerometer and the dual-mode Bluetooth low-energy chip which unlock the door to use this board as a VR controller without any additional components."

battery life
Figure 2: The MAX32630FTHR is a popular development board for the maker community.

University Students Flex Their Engineering Muscle in Hackathons

I've highlighted just a few of the creative designs that inventive engineers have brought to life through #MakewithMaxim design contests. The #MakewithMaxim movement has also been integral in hackathons that Maxim has sponsored at universities. Read about projects ranging from a Braille board to a computer lock that encourages exercise in Kris Ardis’s blog post, "Future Engineers Make with Maxim at Yale’s YHack Hackathon." In my blog post, "Aggies Invent: 48 Hours from Idea to Prototype," you can learn about creations from Texas A&M students during a hackathon sponsored by Maxim, Banfield Pet Hospital, and the university’s College of Veterinary Medicine.

Learn more about the development platforms, component modules, and system platforms that are part of the #MakewithMaxim world on the #MakewithMaxim webpage. And if you’re a history buff, follow Maxim on Twitter and look out for our #MaximRoadto35 tweets to see how it all began.