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Why Sensors are Super Cool

SensorsHere’s some info from Christalee and Daniel, who are teaching the Intro to Sensors Class in a few weeks. They wanted to explain a bit about why they think sensors are super cool, and why you should consider attending!

Sensors take input from the environment, to make your device interact with users on the spot or gather data for later analysis. Take a minute to think about sensors you interact with every day. You might encounter motion detectors that open sliding doors, or turn lights on/off when you enter/leave the room. Some microwaves defrost food until steam is detected, instead of pre-determining the cooking time. Ovens and thermostats turn the heat off when the requested temperature is reached. At some intersections, vehicle-sized pressure plates in the street tell traffic lights to turn green when a car drives up. (We used to live near a 5-way intersection with this feature, and discovered that bikes aren’t heavy enough to trip the signal!)

The examples above are fairly straightforward, and can all be implemented with analog feedback loops. Of course, sensors can be used in digital projects as well. Packages of sensors installed in buildings can write their data to on-board storage or straight to the Internet, allowing researchers to model temperature, humidity, power consumption, and the use of heating & cooling appliances over months or years. Commercial robots like the Segway and the Roomba use networks of sensors to produce sophisticated movement.

In our class, we’re going to stick with basic analog examples that can be easily assembled and modified, but we’ll point out how the design principles we’re teaching apply to digital circuits, and when they need to be modified. We’ll demonstrate how to match the sensitivity of each sensor to the expected range of input signals, and how to amplify and regulate the voltage and current output to meet the requirements of your load. The objective is to give you enough experience that you can assess what sensors can contribute to your next project and design with confidence. Hope to see you there!

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