I know it’s been almost two years since my last post… but the site is still active, I am still updating things, and I do have hopes for it in the future. This is just a quick note to let anyone interested know what’s going on.
It’s a translation (and expansion) of the analogue simulator; the Silverlight application that I used the most. You can find the current pre-release version here:
For some reason the amount of spam comments getting through onto this site has dramatically increased recently. Annoying. I’ve had to respond by shutting down comments on most pages… sorry about this – but you can always email / tweet me to get in touch.
If I could find a spam filter that would automatically delete anything which has a question mark in the middle of a word that would get rid of most of the problem… amazing how often spammers put question marks in curious places. Or perhaps they are using some accented characters which I can’t display to avoid detection as spam… but I don’t know of anything that detects this either. If anyone knows of such a thing, please get in touch.
After all this time – someone reported a bug in the analogue simulator, and it’s a stupid one. Connect two terminals of a potentiometer together, and the simulator can’t cope, it gets the currents entirely wrong. Fixed now, but I do wonder why it’s taken so long for someone to find and report it.
What else is new? Well, I’ve finished importing the analogue and digital simulation engines into the circuit theory / quiz application, so it is now possible to set students a problem like “design an amplifier with a gain of 3 using only the components shown”, leave them to wire them up, and then test whether whatever they produce does have the right gain. On the digital side, I can give them a random truth table, and ask them to wire up some gates to implement it. Should result in some rather harder, but more engaging, problems. Perhaps I might need to implement a level four?
The paper about this quiz app is currently with the referees for REES 2015 conference in Dublin. I’ve got my fingers crossed; with more publicity I might get more people interested in using it. We teachers don’t get as much chance to travel as the researchers, a trip would be nice; and I’ve never been to Ireland.
This is quite exciting. I’ve just heard (thanks to ResearchGate) that “An Introduction to DANSE” has been cited! Ivan Minakov and Roberto Passerone have discussed it in their paper “PASES: An energy-aware design space exploration framework for wireless sensor networks”. They do a review of other energy-aware simulators out there, and mention DANSE as a particularly user-friendly simulator. Thanks guys!
Just one point about their paper: it is possible to extend DANSE by adding new protocols. In fact the way we use it here it students are required to design and implement their own protocols to pass the module.
It is true that you need the full source code to add protocols, and this isn’t on the web-site for free download yet, you have to contact me and ask. (Complicated reasons to do with the licensing and students confidentiality which I really must get sorted out.)
But it’s nice to know that someone else has noticed it, and if anyone sees this paper and comes across this blog post, they might want to evaluate it, and we can extend the DANSEing family.
I think I’ve got all the types of questions I want to have into the circuit theory app now, and sorted out what problems I know of in the calculator. It would be really helpful if a few people could test this before it goes live to the students in October.
OK… so I’ve been working on this new thing. I was going to call it “MathPad” until I googled it and realised that there was already a MathPad. However, the names of solutions in Visual Studio are really hard to change, so it’ll have to stay MathPad to me for now, even though to the external world it’ll have to be called something else. You can have a go at it here: New Math Thing Demo. At first sight it might look a little boring, since it’s just a blank white screen (apart from the logo, of course).
However, if you double-click somewhere, a textbox will appear. Try typing “3^2-3” into the textbox and pressing return. Open another textbox, and try “x^2-3 = 4”. Open a third and try “y = x^2 – 3”. Double-clicking on a textbox closes it.
This was written to help me make videos – I wanted something that could do maths quickly with the minimum of fuss, so I could get on with explaining the electronics.
It uses the same core as the maths solver in the theory quiz demo, although I’ve had to make a few changes in that. I hope I haven’t broken anything…
Just a check of things in progress and things coming up.
1) The circuit theory test app is almost complete now… although I’d like to add a few more questions (one set about how to read oscilloscopes, and another about Thevenin equivalent circuits), however it’s comparatively easy to add new sets of questions. Submitting the responses automatically has hit a brick wall: you can’t send email from Silverlight client apps (not surprising really, it would be heaven for spammers) and I can’t use any server-side techniques since I’m hosting this on an Apache server. So the score (along with a few other details) is all wrapped up into a encrypted string, and people will have to copy this into an email and send it to me. (The fact that .NET has a crypto library built in was very useful.) Might be something for a student project at some stage: automating this, with a web-page which keeps the high-scores, or something?
2) The digital circuit simulator has a problem: wires would sometimes get confused about which way round they were (in the digital simulator (unlike the analogue simulator) wires have a direction: from the output to the input). So I thought – how hard could it be to detect this was happening, and then automatically change the direction of all the wires so the run from the outputs to the inputs? Shouldn’t take more than an hour or two, I thought? How wrong can you be… it took days. I still can’t quite believe how it took that long… I guess I must have missed a simple algorithm and done it a really complex way. Anyway it’s done now, so that should make the simulator even easier to use.
3) I’m starting to write a series of “Short Introductions To…” for my new first-year module in basic electronics for those without a strong maths/physics background. This is proving interesting, so I’ll start to put them up here for comments and feedback from anyone who happens across them. I know I’m cutting corners a bit in some of them, and leaving some things out in the effort to make them accessible; I just hope I’m not going too far. They’re designed to be simpler than just about any textbook I’ve come across (which is the whole point of writing them really), they’re for a course that leads to a technician qualification, rather than a full design engineering career. I’ll add these to the reorganized “Chapters” section of the web-site as I finish them. I’m planning on one a week from now until October; that way I’ll have enough to hopefully replace all of the lectures on the new module, and try out a “flipped classroom” model.
That’s it for now… I’ll just go and reorganise the Chapters section…