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time to be realistic

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ghostman11

Well-Known Member
i have been reading up and trying to learn as much about electronics as i can, i spend most my free time doing this.
as some of you know my end goal is to be able to improve the way our farm operates and to be able to custom make our equipment here, it may sound like designing thermostats and egg turners is reinventing the wheel but its not, there just isnt the comercial equipment availiable to do exactly what i need it to do, or if there is the outlay far exceeds any return we would get.
we are not a normal chicken in the sense that we only keep and breed rare and endangered species (apart from a hundread or so birds i keep because i like them). in our case every egg we place in the incubator matters, it cost alot of time and money to produce each egg from some of theese birds, and some of theese breeds have a low tolerance to conditions to hatch the eggs.
any way my point is this..................
it is becoming clear that it would take me a very long time to learn what i need to in the way that i am studying at present. it seems very hap hazard as i am not so sure in wich order concepts are best explored and learnt. after talking with my familly i have decided that next sept i will go back to university and study electronics full time. i would be very interested to hear your thoughts on this wether they be positive or negative
 

mbarazeen

Member
learning always is possitive for your life. you have interest and definitely this would lift you a lot. make your steps forword and you will see the world full of what you studied some day.
 

Blueteeth

Well-Known Member
Hmm,

I comoletely agree that university, or any form of higher education is great, especially if you are very keen on the subject, and not just going to start a career... (makes lectures and coursework actually 'enjoyable; which was my case).

However, given the cost of a degree these days, even with your own accomodation, it is very expensive indeed. And with a subject like electronics, the internet provides far more resources than a university ever could...apart from perhaps being able to ask professionals face-to-face about things. I'm not saying self-teaching is better, but, you already have certain technical problems that you wish to solve, and thats is, IMHO, one of the best ways to learn. Start with an idea, something that needs to be built to perform a certain task, then research on methods...then research on specifics, then experiment :)

It must be noted that, perhaps this was purely the course I took (Electronic Engineering BEng) but it was VERY software heavy. A majority of the students were very apt at high level programming, C, C++, VB etc.. but could not solder, nor recognise basic passive copmonents...let alone design any form of circuit. This was even the case in the final year. it seems, because of the way industry is going, it is quicker and cheaper for companies to rely more and more on computer designs, or embedded cofigurable 'modules' to perform tasks. These require only basic code to do almost anything, qithout requiring any form of hardware knowledge whatsoever.

Home learning, IS hap-hazard. No real structure, and with so many different websites explaining idea's/methods/theories in different ways (some even getting it awfully wrong) its a minefield.

Perhaps this may not be an option depending on where you live, but, is there some form of short college course you can do before hand? These lower courses, altohugh not at all degree level, are far more practical, cheaper, and will cover the basics of 'electronics' rather than VHDL, Verilog, C++ and all other forms of language. Its gerat knowing how to program FPGA's to form a fast 32-bit DSP from scratch...but for the sorts of circuits you are likely to need for your farm, its over kill.

Just my two cents. Not trying to put you off, but I was somewhat disappointed with my university course. Since I chose it purely out of interest (and now I work as a surveyer...nothing to do with it at all).

Blueteeth

Edit:

Ooooh you're from Devon! lovely place :) I'm sure college courses would be a great start...plus, if for some reason you don't wish to work on the farm anymore, they are more helpful in getting jobs in the industry trhan degree's. Since...jobs that ask for a degree, almsot always ask for 'plus 4 years experience' - which you can't get without a job, or a college course :)
 
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ghostman11

Well-Known Member
where i live (middle of nowhere!) the only other course i could take is actualy in the same building as i would do a degree in, i fully intend to stay in farming i love the job i do. i just feel that i am not learning in the most efficient way i could wich i am finding frustrating, i would gladly study at home if there was more structure to it.
i havnt considered correspondence courses but maybe i should???
 

Pommie

Well-Known Member
Most Helpful Member
Well, if you want to just try and get your projects working then post away. I'm happy to try and help.

The best way to learn is to actually build something. So, what is your first project?

Mike.
 

ke5frf

New Member
Let me present another point of view from my experience.

I have formal training in electronics, but not an EE degree. I began my training in the US Army Signal Corps, which is radio communications. I spent 3 months in something called AIT school on the basics of radio communication. For the most part this was systems level training with some focus on overall theory and troubleshooting technique. Not much of this was component theory.

When I got into the private sector, I was employed by my present company as an "apprentice" for four years of OTJ training that included classroom study. This was trade specific "instrumentation and control systems". The training was broad in scope including pneumatics, fluid and thermal dynamics, mechanical systems, chemistry, trigonometry, physics, electromechanics, electrical, and electronics, as well as equipment training specific to the work. A solid 2 month of modules and study went into basic electronics and component theory, AC/DC.

Now, I will tell you that I got a lot of exposure, but only the tip of the iceburg. And while the training was thorough it wasn't always structured in logical progression of concepts.

Here is the key to my study through my career and personal life. I have taken the time to:
1) Read books on my own
2) Experiment, read datasheets and application notes, design practical circuits on my own, etc.
3) Take up electronics as a passion, a hobby, which led to my studies, FCC licensing, and experimenting with "amateur radio".
4) Continue to learn through resources such as this website and other internet resources. I also make it a point to share my knowledge as sharing is reinforcement. Helping others solve problems is a way to refine your own knowledge as well.

Having said all of this about ME, I would say this with absolute conviction: I wish that I had went to a formal university (I did for a year but not in electronics) and got at least a 4-year EE degree.

The reason? Well, the structure of that education might have made my knowledge more thorough. If I had been forced more to work out complex math problems I might not feel like the mathematics is like "pulling teeth". (I hate working out formulas)

Also, while I have a career type job that pays well, I would not mind having more options. I know as much about electronics as many EEs. I just don't have the paper that proves it.

Just some random thoughts from my experience to help you.
 

dougy83

Well-Known Member
Most Helpful Member
Although I don't want to admit it, I actually learnt a fair bit at uni. I learnt even more when I was working and actually applying what I'd learnt (the basics/ground rules) to provide real-life solutions.

Practically, I wouldn't recommend attending a full uni course on electronics to design a chicken incubator.

For a basic grounding, I found that learning-electronics books were very useful; e.g. Colin Mitchell's Electronics Notebooks series seemed quite good for a basic understanding & were very cheap.

Once you have some basic knowledge, I believe that it's very quick to figure out what you know and what you don't (& therefore what you want to learn) by attempting to design something (whether it works or not doesn't matter so much). There are plenty of people on this forum (& others) that are only too glad to try to help.
 

mbarazeen

Member
my experience before i got in to uni i could do much better in electronics, started from books and small projects, then reparing of varities of items etc.

when i started to learn at uni, my hand on experience helped a lot to understand many basics very easily.

since you are late to begin with a uni and your interest is only for your job related knowledge, you better start from mini projects and learn much about the basic behind them parellerly.
 

3v0

Coop Build Coordinator
Forum Supporter
Everything said so far is good.

But know that an EE degree is one of the most demanding things you can study for. You study enough math to earn a math major. You take much of the same chemistry and physics as the majors in chem and physics.

In some/many universities the first circuits class (2nd year of study) is traditionally use wash out students. Failure rates can exceed 50%.

3v0
 
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birdman0_o

Active Member
Do no let that scare you away, you learn to think in EE, how to manage your time and your mind opens up :)

Most EE's don't end up practicing in the same field, theyr problem solving skills are so refined they can do whatever they want :)
 

ghostman11

Well-Known Member
thanks for the replys... i probally should give more background info, i currently at present hold a high end masters degree (MPhil) in biological celluar systems and control. Through my research relating to chickens i know that eventualy i can build a better system for the way things are done, i know exactly what i need to achieve in terms of the biology of egg production however i dont have the electronics to get it done.
the cost of getting someone else to design and implement what i want to do starts in the region of £500k wich i do not have nor can i get, plus at the end of it i wouldnt understand exactly how it works. A chicken incubator sounds simple and indeed on most levels it is..... but to put it in perspective i know i can up profit and turnover 3 fold at least. think of it as a artificial "super chicken" i will start of simply in my modifactions, as a scientist i would do this anyway in order to have more complete data. It isnt just incubators i want to design and implement a complete system throughout the farm in all areas of operation, in some ways this will never be completed but that dosnt matter someone else can continue after i have gone (our farm has operated like this for 6 generations).
as for my first projects... well i have just built a really simple knight rider type of LED displays for the kids!! very very simple but to be honest i am very chuffed with it. i have a june bug on order :D and when it arives here then i will realy get down to study wether it be at home or uni.
i agree this board is excellent source of help and i will continue to use it. i am just worried that as things progress here at the farm (i have a 5 year plan) i will eventualy reach the limit of what i can learn on my own, and it wont be enough to complete what i want to do. Plus i need to fully understand all the systems i wish to build. Again it may seem like alot of work for a chicken but some of our top show stock rare breeds we sell in excess of £1200 each. so every egg counts. once again thanks for the input it helps to way up what i need to put into a degree versus what i will get out
 

DirtyLude

Well-Known Member
I think your going to get annoyed that 95% of what you learn will have no practical use for what you intend to do.
 

ke5frf

New Member
I think your going to get annoyed that 95% of what you learn will have no practical use for what you intend to do.

This might be true, but he may open doors to new ventures as well.
Furthering your education is never a bad thing, even if not formal.
 

3v0

Coop Build Coordinator
Forum Supporter
Given your background I think you could do a lot with few specific classes.

Several semesters of computer science including network theory
Digital logic
Microprocessor development
Circuits I and II


Modern control systems require programming abilities.
Once you have that and know you way around microprocessors you can do amazing things with just a bit of fundamental electronic knowledge. It would be good if you knew your way around programing on the PC is some language so you could interface micros to PCs. A class in networking would be helpful.

If you want to do sensor design or get deeper into the electronics you need the circuits classes.

As mentioned you can pick a lot of that up online.

3v0
 
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Blueteeth

Well-Known Member
Here here on the logic and microprocessors (specifically microcontorllers, AVR, PIC, or both).

As massive as the field is, these days, few 'practical' and useful devices can't be done with a micro and a few support components. If you break things down into 'modules', for input (analogue, switches, potentiometers frequency) and output (lights, displays, actuators, motors etc..) and try to examine various circuits, then for actually 'making something work' you're already way ahead.

I constantly find myself reaching for a micro from anythign from even the most basic lighting system, all the way up to wireless digital audio/video. Easy to interface with a PC for data logging and more 'umph', sensors for real world, and virtually any peripheral chip for special functions.

Just look at the application notes for the PIC from microchip, of the AVR (attiny, atmega) from atmel, and you'll see just what these little bad boys can do.

And of course, knowing the basics of passive comonents, is a must....but you don't really have to worry about the heavy maths involved in forier transforms, analogue filters etc.. deal with that when you need it.
 

ghostman11

Well-Known Member
Given your background I think you could do a lot with few specif classes.

Several semesters of computer science including network theory
Digital logic
Microprocessor development
Circuits I and II


Modern control systems require programming abilities.
Once you have that and know you way around microprocessors you can do amazing things with just a bit of fundamental electronic knowledge. It would be good if you knew your way around programing on the PC is some language so you could interface micros to PCs. A class in networking would be helpful.

If you want to do sensor design or get deeper into the electronics you need the circuits classes.

As mentioned you can pick a lot of that up online.

3v0


great advice and makes alot of sense........unfortunately my bigest problem round here is lack of classes!! i can find nothing worth doing within a 100mile radius from here unless its a full time degree, the part time classes dont seem to cover what i need :( but given the option i would probally do it the way you have outlined!

i have to admit i am finding the whole electronic thing very adictive.
as for pics i am getting mikro c and will learn that, i cant do much pic wise for three weeks as i have to wait for the junebug to turn up :D so i will spend time learning mikroc (is there any diff in mikroc and normal c?), i also fancy getting to grips with assembly code
 

tcmtech

Banned
Most Helpful Member
I went back to college some years ago when I was in my later 20's and had some years of real life hands on work experience in how things are done. IT was not as great and wonderful or as educational as my first college education was.

I did find the classes fun for the most part but honestly half of them have no real application or relevancy to what your true objective is. Expect that if your after a full degree your going to feel about half your time and money is basically wasted in the end.:(

Also being you have real life experience and knowledge expect that you will most often find that to be looked down upon an will be a handicap and not an asset. Knowing the easy way and practical way is not the college educational way.

Going back to school now knowing whats relevant and what is not is a hard pill to swallow. When your 18 and have no experience other than high school you will never see that part but given some years of real life work and problem solving skills development your going to likely have a much harder time swallowing some of the the BS and run around they may want of you. I did any way.

Overall I would still encourage anyone to go and get more education but if your work does not actually need that little piece of paper that says "I is an Engineer" you may be far better off in educating yourself just by signing up and taking what classes you find interesting and meeting the basic requirements to get into them. :)

Reverse engineer your core classes and toss the non relevant junk. You may not get the piece of paper but in the end you will still have as much knowledge as the other guys but for far less money and time. :)

But unfortunatly you will not be able to name every artist and politician or social activist for the last 500 years. And you will have no clue as to how the Peruvian culture influenced the artistic movements in the Mayan dynasty.:rolleyes:
 

3v0

Coop Build Coordinator
Forum Supporter
Embedded c's have to have non standard features to deal with the micro controller itself. Things like data direction registers that control the ports (TRIS on PIC) and several types of memory come to mind. There are also some things in standard c that are difficult to implement on a micro controller. The down side is that each compiler vendor implements all the non c stuff differently. Embedded c is still much more portable then embedded basic but it could be better.

Most of the embedded c compilers are decent. I try not to be a language or compiler bigot. Use the best you can find or afford. Some some degree advice on which compiler seems to be more of a fad here then based on any reason other the the person suggesting it uses it. We could use a good PIC compiler comparison based on real information but it would be real work to do so too.

All I have seen is what others have said about the MikroC compiler. I was not impressed but do not know enough about it to form an opinion. They all have warts to some degree.

I do not know why you would have to be a full time student to take classes. As long as you pay the money and have the prerequisite classes most universities are glad to take your money. There should be a way. Maybe register in university studies (code word for uncommitted student) if they will let you register as an undergrad. Maybe enroll as a CS student and take the digital logic and embedded systems (micro controller) classes as options. Make sure that you take the math classes required for the circuits classes if you choose to take them. etc

3v0
 
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