CB FI 423

Circuit Break Podcast #423

Magical Semiconductors of Pixies

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March 26, 2024, Episode #423

We’re joined by Alexander Vartanov, an electrical engineering student with a knack for hands-on projects. He discusses his journey from early soldering mishaps to his behind-the-scenes role in creative YouTube projects. We delve into his experiences with rapid prototyping for YouTube, his favorite solder, and shopping for surplus aerospace materials. Additionally, we explore his unique projects, including transforming ordinary alarm clocks into machines that shred money or douse sleepers with water. Tune in for a mix of engineering insights, student life, and tales of creative projects.

🚨Contest Announcement 🚨

Introducing a new Circuit Break contest! This contest is themed around building food-related electronic projects. We’re offering over $5,000 in cash prizes, themed trophies, and free prototyping from MacroFab. The deadline to submit is March 31st, 2024. Thanks to Mouser Electronics for sponsoring the contest prizes!

Discussion Highlights

  • Educational Journey: Alexander shares his experiences transitioning from high school to community college, emphasizing the shift in student and teacher mentalities, and his plans to transfer to California State Northridge for electrical engineering.
  • Choosing Electrical Engineering: Discussion on why Alexander chose electrical engineering despite its challenges and the conversation extends to the hosts’ own educational paths and changes in majors.
  • YouTube Projects and Experiences: Alexander talks about his involvement in YouTube projects, including some unique alarm clocks and LED installations on vehicles.
  • Childhood Inspiration: Alexander's initial fascination with electronics was sparked by his father giving him LED lights to experiment with.
  • Early Soldering Experiences: Alexander shares childhood memories of learning to solder, emphasizing the hands-on approach and learning from mistakes, like burning himself while reaching for wire.
  • Impact of YouTube Projects: Discusses how rapid prototyping and pacing for YouTube projects have refined his engineering approach, teaching him to achieve functional results quickly.
  • Favorite Solder and Surplus Stores: Alexander expresses his preference for Kester 60/40 solder and shares experiences sourcing materials from Apex Electronics, a surplus store with historical aerospace inventory.
  • Advice for Aspiring Engineers: Alexander encourages finding passion outside of work and pursuing it professionally, ensuring a balance between enjoyment and responsibility.

Relevant Links

Alexander Vartanov

Alexander Vartanov

Engineer vs YouTube

Engineer vs YouTube

About the Hosts

Parker Dillmann
  Parker Dillmann

Parker is an Electrical Engineer with backgrounds in Embedded System Design and Digital Signal Processing. He got his start in 2005 by hacking Nintendo consoles into portable gaming units. The following year he designed and produced an Atari 2600 video mod to allow the Atari to display a crisp, RF fuzz free picture on newer TVs. Over a thousand Atari video mods where produced by Parker from 2006 to 2011 and the mod is still made by other enthusiasts in the Atari community.

In 2006, Parker enrolled at The University of Texas at Austin as a Petroleum Engineer. After realizing electronics was his passion he switched majors in 2007 to Electrical and Computer Engineering. Following his previous background in making the Atari 2600 video mod, Parker decided to take more board layout classes and circuit design classes. Other areas of study include robotics, microcontroller theory and design, FPGA development with VHDL and Verilog, and image and signal processing with DSPs. In 2010, Parker won a Ti sponsored Launchpad programming and design contest that was held by the IEEE CS chapter at the University. Parker graduated with a BS in Electrical and Computer Engineering in the Spring of 2012.

In the Summer of 2012, Parker was hired on as an Electrical Engineer at Dynamic Perception to design and prototype new electronic products. Here, Parker learned about full product development cycles and honed his board layout skills. Seeing the difficulties in managing operations and FCC/CE compliance testing, Parker thought there had to be a better way for small electronic companies to get their product out in customer's hands.

Parker also runs the blog, longhornengineer.com, where he posts his personal projects, technical guides, and appnotes about board layout design and components.

Stephen Kraig
  Stephen Kraig

Stephen Kraig is a component engineer working in the aerospace industry. He has applied his electrical engineering knowledge in a variety of contexts previously, including oil and gas, contract manufacturing, audio electronic repair, and synthesizer design. A graduate of Texas A&M, Stephen has lived his adult life in the Houston, TX, and Denver, CO, areas.

Stephen has never said no to a project. From building guitar amps (starting when he was 17) to designing and building his own CNC table to fine-tuning the mineral composition of the water he uses to brew beer, he thrives on testing, experimentation, and problem-solving. Tune into the podcast to learn more about the wacky stuff Stephen gets up to.

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