Hi all, I'm looking for advice about being an embedded engineer. I have a BS and MS in electrical engineering, an MBA and a certificate in embedded systems en gineering. After completing my last degree (mba) in 2005 I spent 9 years be ing a web designer in that same university where I had been studying. The j ob involved simple web design skills and the work was not related to my ele ctrical engineering background so that part of my career doesn't look good on my resume. I would have gotten out of it sooner but I had some health pr oblems which are better now.
Since the last year or two I had been trying to get an entry-level embedded job and I got a handful of interviews but no offers. Most positions requir e experience. I am passionate about automotive electronics so recently I ha ve gotten a test technician job in an automotive audio equipment manufactur ing facility. They make audio amplifiers and car stereos with navigation sc reens, audio etc. This job is very different from my last web design job an d its also much more demanding; 12 hour shifts spent walking and standing a nd carrying a radio trying to maintain test equipment that may have failed for any random reason. I am not 100% sure about what I want to do with my c areer and I'm over-qualified for my new job but at least I am closer to whe re I want to be: electronics and probably automotive electronics. I think I want to be involved with cars or green energy in some way.
Like anyone I want to get to a point where I get multiple job offers and jo b security for work that I genuinely enjoy doing. In my new company, other job titles are test engineer or process engineer and I could try for them a fter a year or two with my current technician job but I feel I may not want those jobs because they're all related to maintenance of test equipment in one way or the other. I want to be creative, participate in the developmen t process and work directly with software and hardware/electronics. The new company has another facility in another state that has these types of jobs but like for any new type of job I would need to significantly improve my resume. Since I don't have actual work experience in embedded engineering, what can I do at home? I could do projects but what kinds? I do have a few ideas for my present job to create products that could be h elpful for everyone. The automotive plant uses a lot of wire harnesses to t est amplifiers. The harnesses have multiple wires between various connector types. I could make a micro-controller based harness continuity checker th at connects to a PC via USB and tells us which of the wires are broken and need replacement. The existing procedure is to use a multi-meter to check i ndividual wires manually and a few of them have specific resistances betwee n the connection points. The new tool I would make isn't a huge necessity f or them but it will be a nice exercise for me and it may improve my job pro spects later. It could be a big project depending on how complex I want to make it. I am excited about it and it should be pretty cool when its comple ted. Another idea is creating a special testing unit that looks like the car ste reo unit and tests the test probes to make sure they are making good contac t. I will keep thinking about what else I can do. I told my boss about thes e projects to make sure he was OK with them and he was so I'm glad to have his approval.
Besides doing projects at home I can also take online training from India s uch as programming in Linux, writing device drivers etc. I will look at job descriptions and other resumes to see what I can do to learn those skills. Every little bit can help and I am willing to spend any required time or m oney doing these things. I can also buy embedded kits some of which I alrea dy have left over from the certificate I did.
I can elaborate more on various things but I wanted to be as short as possi ble to save people's time.
I once did a cable tester in my apprentice years using some old selextrix motors and relays. We had loads of 48 way plug&socket cables that needed end to end testing for shorts and broken wires.
If you have enough harnesses to warrant automated test then building a cable harness tester be good. Home projects are also useful. Document any of these projects as you do them to show that you cover the design appropriately. Good embedded systems engineers also maintain interests outside of their own specialism, for example, in other engineering disciplines. You also need to build your network of contacts. If you can, get to some of the shows and conferences to do some face to face networking and explore what those contacts can do for you. Set up a profile on LinkedIn and keep it up to date. Join in discussions that interest you.
Paul E. Bennett IEng MIET.....
hi Paul Thanks for responding! Great to know that you made a cable tester in the past. If and when I get mine working I'll let you know in case you'd like to know more about it. Thanks for your other suggestions. In 2006 when I posted to this group with a similar message I had a lot more replies (about 50 in that thread). Maybe my post was different back then or maybe the group has changed. In any case I'll go back and look at those replies as well. Alex
It's probably the group that has changed. The signal-to-nose-ratio is the same as in 2006 if you count political debates and insults as today's signal. ;-)
But I can only support Paul's advice, network and do projects on your own. I would always prefer somebody who has real hands-on experience than somebody who can only present many courses. Even if the experience was "only" made at home. And create something presentable from your projects, document them.
I am surprised that you hadn't got a few more responses to your post. Mine was a clunky affair, made lots of noise during testing. It was back in the early 70's though. Next project was a 6800 based controller (such a different challenge).
Hope there was good relevant advice in those earlier messages. I hope you are building a network of contacts as these will prove useful at some point.
You say you are in an automotive plant at present. That is a wonderful environment for embedded control systems of all kinds. My apprenticeship was in such a facility. I was attached to the Electronics Section which was part of the Facilities Department. I was quickly made responsible for organising Production Line Safety Devices, Emergency Lighting, Electro-coat Power Supplies (500V/1500A), round plant communications and inter-plant communications, and some of the build data transmission systems to the production line. (not so many robotics in those early days). You have to get good at looking out worthwhile automation of tasks and knowing how to build the business case for them (to show management the worth of ideas you are generating). That will involve knowing how you ask the company for money for projects, but they usually have forms that need to be filled for that sort of thing.
Paul E. Bennett IEng MIET.....
Thanks for the encouragement! I hope I can make full use of it. I didnt kno w there was a 6800. I worked on the 68000 (another zero) during my bachelor s for class projects. I didnt build anything exciting. It was just learning exercises for basic interfacing with the memory and stuff. Thats great that you were made responsible for all of those things. Sounds like you were great at what you did. I hope to be as good as that. I'll con tinue to be on the lookout for what else I can do.
I have a 3 day break coming up. Hopefully I can make some progress on the c able tester project. Speaking of which I wonder how I should go about it an d if I should use Arduino or something else. This is going to be a big proj ect. Hopefully I can complete it. That reminds me I need to look at the company's website and see what langua ges/environments they use for embedded development and I can start learning those and use those in the project.
Hi Reinhardt, thanks for confirming Paul's message!
Then you probably also missed the 6809 and the great 68 vs. 86 debates. No waday, it's ARM vs. x86 or Android vs. iPhone.
Which bring me to my main complaint, things are too complicated. My mom wa nts a mobile phone, but she is smart phone challenged. She cannot even get through the standby click and swipe action. She can make use of some pre- programmed features, but not a full feature Android. What we need is a sin gle function dumb phone with hard on-off switch, perhaps like a phone cradl e or something with on/off hock.
This would be a good project for someone to learn and tackle the issues.
There are several phones out there targeting the senior market. Jitterbug appears to be one advertising pretty much just that set of features (big numbers on the screen, big buttons, simple, etc.). I've never used one, but they do seem to target just that audience.
Amusing anecdote: A few years ago I sent my mom to Europe to visit her family. Since she was going to be traveling alone, I rented her a phone that would work there, but didn't buy here any minutes. Just emergency usage, like her cell phone here. Anyway, she gets there, and calls me that she's arrived. The call goes to voicemail, which is fine, she can leave a message. Unfortunately, after the message, she just turns the phone over on the kitchen table. So the call continues until my voicemail system times out the message after 15 minutes, or so. Yes, at 95 cents a minute, I have 15 minutes of kitchen noises on my voice mail. Even better, half an hour later she calls again, again voicemail, again 15 minutes of kitchen noises.
kinds. Thanks for the encouragement! I hope I can make full use of it. I di dnt know there was a 6800.
Nowaday, it's ARM vs. x86 or Android vs. iPhone.
wants a mobile phone, but she is smart phone challenged. She cannot even get through the standby click and swipe action. She can make use of some p re-programmed features, but not a full feature Android. What we need is a single function dumb phone with hard on-off switch, perhaps like a phone cr adle or something with on/off hock.
appears to be one advertising pretty much just that set of features (big n umbers on the screen, big buttons, simple, etc.). I've never used one, but they do seem to target just that audience.
Most of them have micro USB charging, which is another problem on it's own. Yes, the connector is supposed to go in one way. But people found way to jam it in the other way. I have seen physically damaged plug and port to confirm it. What we need is 4 pins coaxial usb plug that can't go wrong. Or big contact pads like cordless phones.
mily. Since she was going to be traveling alone, I rented her a phone that would work there, but didn't buy here any minutes. Just emergency usage, like her cell phone here. Anyway, she gets there, and calls me that she's arrived. The call goes to voicemail, which is fine, she can leave a messag e. Unfortunately, after the message, she just turns the phone over on the kitchen table. So the call continues until my voicemail system times out t he message after 15 minutes, or so. Yes, at 95 cents a minute, I have 15 m inutes of kitchen noises on my voice mail. Even better, half an hour later she calls again, again voicemail, again 15 minutes of kitchen noises.
Your mom has a good point. Why can the phone be smart enough to turn itsel f off when facing down on the table? A simple photo sensor can do the tric k.
Probably impossible to make small enough. And people will figure out a way to break that too.
If we're going to require special hardware, why not go wireless?
Besides, then we have the charger connection standards (you're going to have trouble selling something with a non-micro-USB charging port in Europe, for example).
More than a few smartphones can do that, but a photocell would likely be rather difficult to make even semi-reliable - exactly what would it be looking for? The usual smartphone technique is to use the accelerometers to detect the phone being turned over, and then being left stationary for some time.
And most cordless phones need you to hit the "end" button too.
ll kinds. Thanks for the encouragement! I hope I can make full use of it. I didnt know there was a 6800.
s. Nowaday, it's ARM vs. x86 or Android vs. iPhone.
mom wants a mobile phone, but she is smart phone challenged. She cannot ev en get through the standby click and swipe action. She can make use of som e pre-programmed features, but not a full feature Android. What we need is a single function dumb phone with hard on-off switch, perhaps like a phone cradle or something with on/off hock.
bug appears to be one advertising pretty much just that set of features (bi g numbers on the screen, big buttons, simple, etc.). I've never used one, but they do seem to target just that audience.
wn. Yes, the connector is supposed to go in one way. But people found way to jam it in the other way. I have seen physically damaged plug and port to confirm it. What we need is 4 pins coaxial usb plug that can't go wrong .
ay to break that too.
ave trouble selling something with a non-micro-USB charging port in Europe, for example).
The cradle itself can still be micro USB, but never disconnected.
family. Since she was going to be traveling alone, I rented her a phone t hat would work there, but didn't buy here any minutes. Just emergency usag e, like her cell phone here. Anyway, she gets there, and calls me that she 's arrived. The call goes to voicemail, which is fine, she can leave a mes sage. Unfortunately, after the message, she just turns the phone over on t he kitchen table. So the call continues until my voicemail system times ou t the message after 15 minutes, or so. Yes, at 95 cents a minute, I have 1
5 minutes of kitchen noises on my voice mail. Even better, half an hour la ter she calls again, again voicemail, again 15 minutes of kitchen noises.
self off when facing down on the table? A simple photo sensor can do the t rick.
rather difficult to make even semi-reliable - exactly what would it be look ing for?
If it's too dark to even see the reflective light from the LCD, then it's l ikely to be facing down.
phone being turned over, and then being left stationary for some time.
Most device detect only H & V position, and get confused about level positi on. I don't think they can detect being facing down.
But placing them back on the cradle is automatic off (on hook).
I have a tablet with broken micro USB charger socket. The lead gets pulled sideways if used while charging (this is for kids to use), and eventually it broke. (The socket twisted, the tiny pins at the back snapped, and it was too small to resolder. I only got it charged by soldering Gnd/5V flying leads nearby, leading out of the case.)
I've seen other people having problems with them too.
But, why does it have to be that small? And since it's only for charging, why can't the cable terminate in something more reliable, and harder to insert wrongly, like a co-axial jack?
decide to buy a new unit, might have been a good reason for manufacturers to prefer the delicate micro USB socket.)
[These *tend* to be "custom hardware" -- though the hardware may be farmed out to another firm, etc. This is significant as many embedded systems jobs rely on deploying COTS hardware and "writing code" to make it work -- a very different sort of job than developing the specification for and design of the hardware that will host your "application"!]
The two have some overlap -- but, can be wildly different! E.g., residential photovoltaic systems count as "green" (we'll table that argument, here :> ) yet have nothing to do with cars.
Note, also, the sorts of markets and the types of "players" that you will likely encounter in those markets. E.g., designing car stereos tends to be a higher volume, more cost conscious market than, for example, designing MRI scanners. Or, devices to track cattle on *a* (single!) rancher's grazing lands (which might be a big job -- but one that only sees ONE deployment!!)
Your best bet (from my personal value system) is to do something that addresses a need that *you* see. Ideally, something *for* you! This keeps your motivation/interest high/focused (it's not "just a job") and may push you to come up with more creative solutions -- especially as they will have to fit within your "means" (financial, skillset, etc.).
They also show a potential employer that you were willing to invest your time and talent in something with no direct monetary benefit. I.e., you weren't doing it "because it was your job" but, rather, because it was of interest to you, personally. You *know* why there was a need -- because
*you* felt the need. You know what the constraints placed on the solution were -- because *you* placed them there! ("Gee, I can't afford to spend thousands of dollars for a custom circuit board to do this. Maybe I can repurpose something that I can easily acquire -- that still meets the OTHER design constraints that I have imposed?")
And, if it addresses one of YOUR needs, then *you* are far more likely to actually *use* the "finished design" -- and, be in a good position to CRITICIZE what you have done right/wrong. Perhaps even opting to go back and tweek the implementation or even start over as your experience with it exposes shortcomings or unanticipated needs!
[Being able to identify the wins and losses in a design is a key part of the process. That's how you *learn* and adjust your skillset to new challenges.]
Your "design/solution" needn't reflect how a *business* would approach the problem, either! *YOU* don't have the resources that a business does so pursuing a similar solution would be foolhardy. E.g., I like to track gas mileage on our vehicles as an early indicator that something may be awry ("Gee, why has my fuel economy fallen so suddenly?")
A car manufacturer (or, a car appliance manufacturer!) might integrate this into their engine management package and automatically track the data for you (along with other maintenance activities -- especially for folks who rely on car dealerships for these services!) Maybe a "screen" that lets the user/driver indicate when certain actions have been performed (that the vehicle can't detect for itself... maybe it prompts you for the amount of fuel you have dispensed INTO the tank each time you open the fuel access door?).
My simple solution was to keep a PDA in the glovebox and manually enter odometer mileage, fuel cost and fuel unit price (lets me track fuel price variations as well as determine *accurate* fuel quantity!). Likewise, all maintenance and repair activities.
And, I can SneakerNet this information to any of the computers in my house without having to have created a "communication app" that ran *in* the vehicle!
[Of course, you could do something similar with a smart phone]
Tackling something like this (even this trivial) gives you the opportunity to speculate about how you would do it "with other resource constraints -- or lack thereof". Because, you would see how you ACTUALLY used the "device" (or, if it was just too tedious because of its current implementation -- then, why was it tedious??)
The distinction that I alluded to above (COTS vs. custom) is pertinent because it refines the markets that you are interested in as well as the sorts of skillsets that you may want -- or NEED -- to acquire.
E.g., if you are more interested in "programming", then a COTS "module" that provides the hardware that you need (for a project) -- coupled with a prebuilt library of routines to access that hardware -- lets you free yourself of the details associated with the hardware and concentrate on the software aspects.
OTOH, if you are more interested in programming on bare iron *or* developing your own hardware, then a COTS approach (and, any market that will likely follow that development model) will be useless to you.
Make sure you think this through completely! By tackling it, you will (potentially) increase your visibility. You will be chagrined if you fail to accommodate some *possible* case that eventually turns up (e.g., if you assume each conductor has two ends -- and never *three* or *four*!).
Similarly, if you are expected to actually *implement* the design, your choice of components becomes critical. The harnesses that your firm is probably using are undoubtedly not expected to endure many mating cycles (how often do people uninstall and then reinstall their car stereo??). So, the connectors chosen for the harnesses *and* the kit (stereos, etc.) have probably been selected for that sort of use -- DOZENS of mating cycles?
The natural inclination, when tasked with building your tester, will be to fetch some spare mating connectors from the stock room and use those to build the tester! (i.e., you KNOW they will mate successfully with the harnesses you are making).
Then, a month or two down the road, you start "detecting" an unusually high number of "faulty harnesses". When the harnesses are examined closely, they discover that the harnesses are PERFECT -- but, the mating connectors on your tester are now fatigued and your *tester* is the problem!
How is it likely to fail? (What happens if something is connected to one branch of a harness that you hadn't expected -- like a power supply that is ON??) Can you do things differently to make that less likely to happen? Can you design/fabricate it so it can be repaired quickly and economically? What if your boss decides he wants/needs a second one so two different harnesses can be in production at the same time? Can your "template library" be shared? Or, does it have to be duplicated?? How do you ensure that "both" copies remain in sync with each other?? And, with the Engineering department's idea of what the harness *should* be?
You should also consider how the device could *ideally* be used. E.g., should it accept "schematic drawings" (netlists) from the Engineering department and use that information to drive the tester's configuration (for this particular wire harness)? Or, should be responsible for typing in some configuration information (a netlist)? Or, should it be able to LEARN the current cable harness's configuration (from a sample template) and possibly feed that information *back* to Engineering (to create the "drawing" *for* them?)
Should it have the capability of examining a "harness under test" and telling the operator WHICH harness it is? (by comparing the results from its probe() of the sample harness against a library of harness data that it maintains)?
How should it indicate discrepancies to users? "Connection XY is missing"? "Connection ZQ not expected"? Or, should it do this graphically (perhaps just highlighting a "missing net" in a pseudo-schematic)? I.e., how would this information be most useful to the folks charged with *fixing* the harness??
Having designed The World's Best Harness Tester, have you *documented* it? Or, are you the only one who can use it? Reproduce it? Repair it? etc.
Each of these questions represents an opportunity for you to add value to your design/implementation. And, it shows your understanding of The Organization's (YOUR CUSTOMER) needs and usage criteria. You didn't just build a fancy "continuity tester"!
Don't spread yourself too thin. Then it looks like you aren't serious about your real goal but, rather, are doing "anything you can" just to "get a job". Find something that you will enjoy and for which you think a real need exists.
Lastly, think *hard* about your choice of industry: will you want to be dealing with car stereos 10 years from now?? (many people get stuck in specific application domains -- especially if their employer thinks they are "good" in that role.) I know many (very well-paid!) people who dread going to work and are "stuck" due to money, family obligations, lack of different opportunities, etc.
Good luck, regardless of the life path you choose/end up with!
That rather violates the spirit of the charger standard, unless you make the wireless charging pad itself the new standard, so it's not tied to a specific device.
So long as you don't take your phone outside on a dark (moonless and starless) night, and keep it pointed away from anything nearby.
My old Galaxy S2 did it (not that I used it, I was just playing with the features, there was a "turn over phone to hang up" setting someplace. I haven't paid too close attention otherwise, so I may be incorrectly assuming that 3D accelerometers are more commonly implemented than they are.
"Turn over to hang up" is a convenience feature. Saves you the trouble of pushing a button, swiping the screen, etc. (because that is *so* tedious :> )
If you want to guard against "unterminated calls", you could just "listen for silence" on the local end (you've already got the transducer to detect sound *and* the horsepower to encode/analyze it digitally)
Sure, picking a time constant would be a "research opportunity". But, not impossible. And, not likely to be of major consequences if the phone opts to hang up because you were "away from it" for too long.
[Sort of like motion sensing light switches that sometimes turn off the lights while you are still in the room -- but motionless!]
I apparently spend more time in listen-only mode on conference calls than you do. In any event, in the case in question, I got a voice mail (two, actually) with 15 minutes of kitchen noises, so not silence.