My Final Video

My final video and complete documentation is below with me explaining how my project works. Please check it out and feel free to leave comments!

COMPLETE DOCUMENTATION: Stethoscope Documentation 10.10.12

Excellent: What More Is There to Say?

Bluestamp. What can I say about it? Well to start off, this is the second time that I have the honor of participating in such a fabulous program. I can truly attest to the fact that Dave and Robin have really worked out many of the kinks since last year by getting a larger, more organized space, more interesting guest speakers, and most importantly, more students. Yet, they have also managed to maintain BlueStamp’s unique qualities that really attracted me last year, such as focused, hands-on learning, knowledgeable instructors, and a DIY, figure it out yourself kind of attitude. The fact that they are now bringing this awesome program to over 25 students in two cities is great progress. I really feel like it will continue to expand at the same rate as long it keeps its distinctive characteristics. I have friends who have done summer engineering programs at Cooper Union, Stony Brook, and other prestigious programs and they loved them. However, after speaking to them about their projects and curricula, I have found that BlueStamp is unparalleled in what it offers. It really is a program that wants to teach students how to succeed on their own, solve problems, learn what failure tastes like, and how to embrace that failure. It wants you to learn how to do things yourself, without aid from the instructors. In addition to all of that, it teaches you how engineering applies to real-world applications, the importance of documentation, and the basics of getting a company based on technology started. It shows its students what is a proper business models, and brings in entrepreneurs who can actually show how their ideas work in practice. No program gives its students that much freedom, depth, and ability to pursue your interests.

While this program, which Dave and Robin first conceived of on a couple of inner tubes on the Great Lakes, deserves more praise, I think I should probably speak about my project since this is its final blog post. I think you should know that last year I built a real-time robotic arm, which required a lot of time programming (for the real-time part) and doing mechanical work. Other than soldering a few wires to protoboard and connecting everything to an Arduino Uno, there was no electrical engineering involved. I was a bit upset about that last year, since I had delved much deeper into the large engineering fields. This year, when the time came to choose a project, I wanted something that incorporated biomedical/bioengineering (the field I would eventually like to enter) and electrical engineering. Unfortunately, it is extremely difficult to do a project that requires blood and other bodily fluids so that limited my options. Fortunately, the most stereotypical medical device, the stethoscope, is easy to test and doesn’t require blood. Since this is an engineering course that tries to incorporate a bit of everything, I thought a digital stethoscope was the best idea. My project is based on a similar project made by two Cornell students for their final senior project which can be found here. While I tried to stick to their design as much as possible, my stethoscope has fewer features because (1.) some of what they did was too complicated for me (I mean they had completed four years of engineering courses at an Ivy League school!) and (2.) I thought some of the features they had were unnecessary. My stethoscope is able to read a person’s heart oscillations, transfer them over serial, and graph them on a chart created in MATLAB. As you can guess, this project is at least 75% electrical. Other than drilling a couple of holes in a plastic box for the stethoscope and the power source, mechanical engineering was never something I had to deal with.

When I say that I learned about electrical engineering, I really mean that I learned about it. It was the first time that I used a microcontroller without an easy GUI (such as an Arduino) and an op amp. I also had to learn about microphones in depth and how to solder more quickly, more efficiently, and more accurately, which was very important when I was dealing with extremely small components. My project really depended on learning these things. To simply explain the crux of my project, there is a stethoscope head with an implanted microphone that is connected to an op amp circuit that amplifies whatever it detects. The microphone has such a low output that it must be amplified to actually look like something in MATLAB. The op amp circuit connects to the microcontroller (an ATMEGA 644 in this case), which is programmed to transmit that through serial to MATLAB. MATLAB takes the serial data, creates a graph, and graphs the change in voltage every millisecond.

I would like to step back now that I spoke about my project in order to speak about the impact BlueStamp has had on my life. Since I was little, I have always built small devices. I built a couple of simple robotic arms and RC cars before I came to BlueStamp. Over the past two summers though, BlueStamp has really expanded my mind and opened new doors for me. I now am able to look at a schematic or read a blog and wonder, “How can I make this better?” or “Is this worth building?” since I can now make many of the projects that are on project hubs (like Instructables). I can really understand how something works and solve problems as I face them. BlueStamp doesn’t end when you leave. It ends when you want to leave. It’s your choice to build on what you’ve done. It gives you access to professional advice for any future projects. Dave, Robin, and the rest of the instructors want to see you succeed on other projects. They are more than willing to aid you if you just take the time to send over an email. The guest speakers that come in are also willing to help out. Guests from MakerBot, as well as other companies, come and give you their emails. They want you to expand your interests as much as possible. I know firsthand that this works because I’ve taken advantage of these resources. For example, I am currently designing and building an LED lamp that responds to music. I am doing this all alone, but when I hit problems or need advice on the next step, I have contacts who I can reach out to. I have already had a problem because I am trying to run 100 LEDs on the same wire so they are very dim. I simply had to ask an electrical engineering instructor his opinion to get better results. Although it is still not working 100%, I am now trying another method that he suggested.

Another way that the information that I gained at BlueStamp has helped me is that I started an engineering club this year at my school. There has never been much to appeal to students who are interested in applied sciences at my school. I started the club to fix that problem, but to do that I had to rely on many of the skills I had recently learned. I ended up having to teach the classes and help out when the projects did not work because there was no faculty member who knew engineering well enough to teach it. In just six weeks, I learned enough to teach the club for the year. Dave and Robin were crucial in helping me out during the rough times, especially when there were problems that I could not solve myself. Through email, they gave me advice on how to get the projects working, as well as management skills that they had used to keep BlueStamp in order.

Lastly, BlueStamp tries to get its students involved in the engineering world. It tries to get its students to keep the passion that led them to BlueStamp in the first place. While Dave and Robin bring in great speakers who encourage students to contact them, they also help out during the year. They encourage us to get into the engineering world by going to MakerFaire (I went for the second time this year) and other engineering events. They encourage you to open source all your projects so that you can be a creator as well as a person who copies someone else’s designs. That is what the engineering world is based on after all. They also encourage you to enter competitions like the Element14 video challenge I entered this year. In late December, they emailed us and said join this. I submitted my project the next day, and won the project of the week. I got cool, free stuff with the element14 logo, as well as various components. That is what BlueStamp is really about. It’s not just a summer program, as they advertise. That’s an understatement; they are too modest to admit how deep it really goes. It’s an immersion program. At the end of the program, you are left in the middle of the engineering world, regardless if you finish your project or not, and all you had to do is continue to do what you love doing. It should be easy to see why I decided to come back.

David’s LCD Working with AVR

I connected the pins on the LCD to the ATMega644A that I am using in order to get this to work. When I post the schematic, it will have the pin numbers. After that, I just had to connect the AVR programmer to the microcontroller, run a test program in AVR studio, hook everything up, and watch it work as explained in the video.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9Ts_E49wpqs

UltraSonic Parking Sensor

This is my Ultrasonic Parking Sensor, and how it works:

Summer 2011

A Small Room Can Go a Long Way

Although at BlueStamp we always seem to be put in the tightest rooms available, I would bet that more is accomplished in that room than any other in the building (71 West 23rd street if you were wondering). Even though each student is confined to a small amount of space, his or her project is able to take shape using tools and parts that fellow peers may not even see before college. The nine other students besides myself are always working as hard as I am (or harder) to accomplish their goals for the day. Like the overall obstacles with the space, each student must endure his or her own hardships pertaining to their individual projects. To work so closely with other individuals who are so dedicated to solving their own problems, it really creates an environment where you feel that with you could accomplish anything if you set your mind to it. That is why BlueStamp sets the bar for high school programs.

I built a robot arm which was controlled by a graphical interface based on the design by Justin Dailey as found here. I made several changes so my design files are below, and don’t forget to check out my videos!

MECHANICAL DESIGN FILES: Base mounting bracket Bottom Arm Elbow Wrist

ELECTRICAL DESIGN FILES: Schematic Robotic Arm

SOFTWARE AND FIRMWARE SOURCE CODE: Robotic Arm Code

BILL OF MATERIALS (BOM): BOM

Showing 2 comments
  • Dika
    Reply

    Hi David,
    I am also interested in going into biomedical engineering, and was wondering what basic skills would one need to create projects like yours? For example, basic Java coding, any mechanical skills, physics knowledge etc. I am also interested in joining BlueStamp, so what skills did you previously know before the program that helped you in the project?

    • David
      Reply

      Hey Dika,
      That’s glad to hear it! It’s a fantastic field and it’s really going to be making leaps and bounds in the coming years. I think it really depends on what you do. There are a bunch of different ways to pursue the field, such as through electronics, prosthetics, nano particles, and other cools approaches that are currently being developed.

      Even for BlueStamp, I think it’s important you think about what you would like to focus on. I decided to build the stethoscope partly because I wanted to get more involved with electronics since the year before I build a robotic arm that was almost entirely mechanical. While you can never really do one without the other, you can still have a huge say in what you would like to do most of, which in turn will help you develop a scope for your project. All those skills you listed are great and it helps to be well-rounded, but at the same time you might be using some of them a lot more than others.

      I think just a basic understanding of everything going and getting any exposure to thehands-on skills would help if you have the resources available, such as a couple of tools or an arduino with which you can just make an LED blink. Your physics knowledge doesn’t matter that much I would say since high school physics doesn’t go that deep in depth and I did my first year at BlueStamp without it just fine.

      I’d say go out and find what interests you and focus on the skills that those projects require. Anyhow, I’m sure you’ll make the right decisions!

      -David

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