h5. How did you get into electronics/ engineering and when did you start?
I remember getting chewed out for taking the vacuum cleaner apart at around 9 years old, but I did manage to get it back together. I begged and pleaded for a 130-in-one electronics kit from Radio Shack around the same time. Soon, I became fascinated with antennas and got my Ham Radio license, when I was 11 years old.
h5. What are your favorite hardware tools that you use?
Agilent/HP DMM, Power Supplies, scope, Hakko soldering station, Cuisinart coffee maker, and of course, I never leave home without my TI-89 (O.G. edition).
h5. What are your favorite software tools that you use?
Altium Designer, LTSpice, Switchercad, EZNec, Eaglecad (mostly for hobby work), and my browser of choice, Google Chrome.
h5. What is the hardest/trickiest bug you have ever fixed?
I had trouble with a charging circuit at one point. After checking nearly every component, I eventually noticed the FET drive from the charge IC wasn’t quite high enough. Under a microscope, I took a look at the chip and noticed that the markings on the chip were different than that of the typical part. The control IC turned out to be a counterfeit. Always evaluate your assumptions when debugging!
h5. What is on your bookshelf?
* The Art of Electronics, Paul Horowitz (Obligatory and worth reiteration)
* Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman! (The best non-technical book I’ve ever read)
* Motor Control Electronics Handbook, Richard Valentine
* The ARRL Anntenna Compendium Vol. 5 (A fantastic series)
h5. Do you have any tricks up your sleeve?
I really like thermal imaging devices. For power electronics especially, they’re indispensable. You can actually visualize the power loss!
h5. What has been your favorite project?
It’s hard to pick a favorite, but what comes to mind right now is my “touring” electric bike. I love multidisciplinary engineering projects. Originally, it had 5.5 kWh worth of Lithium-Ion cells. This was enough to travel >250 miles on a charge! I built the brushless controller with upgraded MOSFETs, and modified the regulator, from the original design to run at 84 Volts.
h5. Do you have any note-worthy engineering experiences?
In 2010, I managed to get 2nd place in the Rochester Institute of Technology’s “Green Vehicle” competition. Normally a 2nd place finish would not be terribly noteworthy. However, the first place team had a fully recumbent, carbon fiber bike, built by a team of mechanical designers with an enormous budget. My entry was my everyday commuter ebike, with an efficient controller and a meager current limit, which I rode 20 miles just to get to the event! I never really intended to be competitive, but my attention to the electronic details allowed me to be take home second place.
h5. Do you have an experiential stories you would like to share?
I remember in the 6th grade, becoming very interested in the mainframe computers we had in school. They were capable of running windows 3.1, but generally ran from a DOS mainframe environment. I eventually figured out ways of dialing into different schools in the district, over the ISDN lines. I “accidentally” found the master admin username, which was never assigned a password, while running various commands in the directory structure. Shortly after, I showed the credentials to a friend who used them to broadcast the message “Get to Work!” to every computer in the school. My computer privileges were revoked after the administration was made aware. Without access to a computer that year, I spent more time hardware hacking, which is probably why I became an EE.
I also frequently worked in the basement in my childhood, deconstructing radios, TVs and any other piece of electronics, which I could drag home in a wagon behind my bicycle. On one occasion, on a hot summer day, there was a brownout. Scared for my life, my Mom immediately screamed for me down the basement steps. She was relieved to see me walk upstairs, but I had to prove to her that the other houses had also lost power before she would believe that the power interruption was not my fault.
h5. What are you currently working on?
At work, I’m working on an industrial mesh networking platform called WiYZ. At play, I’m working on a bicycle seat-post battery pack for charging devices while in the saddle, a hybrid sailboat drive system, and of course eBikes!
h5. Can you tell us about TroyRank.com?
I created this site a few years back to capture some of my projects. To date, there isn’t as much electronics content as I would like. However, it has become the impromptu home of the Electric Bike Nerd Podcast which I record, with the help of some friends. If you’re at all interested in power electronics, batteries or bikes, "have a listen":http://troyrank.com/category/podcast/!
h5. What’s the purpose of your podcast?
I started the podcast to spread the word of the most supremely energy efficient mode of transportation, the eBike. There is a growing eBike hacker scene, with some brilliant engineers, who are changing transportation as we know it.
h5. What challenges do you foresee in our industry?
The amount of business people interested in gaming growth is troubling for the industry at large. That is not to say that I don’t have respect for talented business-focused individuals, but I think that engineering has become ancillary to business growth. Instead of investing in products and companies for the long term, investors focus on short term growth which can undermine engineering development. I believe It’s important to focus first, on making something great.
- The Way I Work: Interview with David Haboud, Product Marketing Engineer at Altium
- The Way I Work: Interview with Natasha Baker, founder of SnapEDA
- The Way I Work: Interview with Todd Dust, Senior Staff Systems Engineer at Cypress Semiconductor
- The Way I Work: Interview with Bel Haba, an engineer with 400 patents