Remote Controlled Outlet Strip
High-Level Design
Hardware Design
Software Design

Daniel Warren

Heidi Ng

Most of our time was spent on hardware.  It took a long time to select the right components for various parts of the circuit, lay everything out, and then build it.  The most time consuming part of the project was probably the tedious work of soldering our circuit because the wiring was cramped in the little space we had.  It would have been easier if we could afford a printed circuit board, but that's not very good for prototyping anyway.  The software part of the project was relatively straightforward, except that we had a little trouble with having the receiver correctly read the data sent by the transmitter.  Some debugging was needed for the code, but the work wasnít as troublesome as the hardware part of the project.

Starting early is so important, it cannot be emphasized enough.  In the first few weeks, the lab is usually half empty, and it's really easy to grab a lab station and soldering iron.  It's also easier to get help from the TAs or Prof. Land.  If you're doing a radio project, nobody's around to interfere with your signal.  Later on, all the lab benches are taken, the soldering irons have mile-long wait lists, and once you do get one, the tip is used up.  The TAs also have less time to devote to individual problems, since everyone needs them.  We finished essentially a week early, and that made everything so much easier.

We completed the project the way we expected it to turn out.  Everything reasonable we mentioned that we would do in the proposal was completed.  We initially were considering two-way communication with an LCD on the transmitter, but decided that's way overkill for the principle of the design.  We had some difficulty fitting all the components inside the metal case, but Dan managed to squeeze everything in and seal the box.  If we had more time, we could perhaps get a pair of real antennas to enhance our signal and transmission range. Or at least design something better than a piece of wire.  We have some cold solder joints and at times we feared that we might have some bad connections because our wiring was so cramped. Luckily that did not happen.  Everything seems rather robust and no wires are coming free.

As mentioned in the high-level design, we adhered to applicable FCC regulations concerning low-power unlicensed transmission.  We don't expect any federal officials knocking on our door anytime soon... well not for this project, anyway.

Intellectual property considerations

We didnít have any problem with any patent or trademark issues.  All of the hardware and software were done by group members.  However, the design doesn't involve anything non-obvious, and thus is not patentable.

Ethical Considerations

Since we were dealing with potentially dangerous voltages, we had to ensure we were adequately protecting our users.  We could have skimped on safety to make the project easier, for example, it was really hard to squeeze everything into that box.  However, we decided it would be better to avoid killing people, so we did everything we could to insulate, ground, and isolate dangerous components from the outside world.

IEEE Code of Ethics

1. To accept responsibility in making engineering decisions consistent with the safety, health and welfare of the public, and to disclose promptly factors that might endanger the public or the environment

Our project uses large voltages, namely the 120VAC from the power strip, which may pose danger to the safety, health, and welfare of the public.  So we minimize the danger by enclosing that circuitry inside the metal casing of our power strip.  In addition, we have a circuit breaker that prevents the circuit from blowing up and hurting anyone if there were to be a short circuit.  All circuitry within the casing is well insulated and hooked to earth ground.

4. To reject bribery in all its forms

There was no bribery whatsoever in the development of our project.  Most of our parts were scrounged from Danís home, given by Professor Land, or purchased from retailers.  We didn't accept any free lunches, suitcases full of non-consecutive $20s, all-expenses-paid trips to Hawaii, or unsolicited sample parts.

7. To seek, accept, and offer honest criticism of technical work, to acknowledge and correct errors, and to credit properly the contributions of others

We posed questions to TAs and Professor Land for anything that we were not sure about.  We asked for suggestions and accepted criticisms on our work. Whenever something wasn't working as expected, usually someone in lab could help us out.  We invited criticisms against our user interface, in order to improve it.  For example, when some users complained about the signal range, Vlad (TA) suggested the 9V battery could power the transmitter instead of the 5V from the regulator.  It was a bit more complicated to amplify the UART signals and harder to regulate the power from the battery, but was worth the effort.

9. To avoid injuring others, their property, reputation, or employment by false or malicious action

Proper safety and lab rules were carried out.  Classmates were friendly and helped each other out on their projects by giving ideas.  For example, when other groups would ask how we accomplished certain tasks, we'd tell the truth and attempt to assist with their problems.  When using the soldering iron, we were all careful with it so that we donít injure others, as well as trying to keep it in good condition so other groups had the same opportunity to use it that we did.

10. To assist colleagues and co-workers in their professional development and to support them in following this code of ethics.

Whenever another group seemed like they were having trouble in a field we understood, we'd offer our assistance.  Most of the radio control groups discussed transmission and reception range, and how to improve the robustness of the signal.  When one of us found a good antenna design, we'd share it with the rest.  When we discovered a delay in the rising edge of the receiver's signal, we told the group doing PWM, hoping it would help them more accurately decode their signal.

Special Thanks

Oh wow, we never thought we'd make it this far.  We couldn't have done it without the love and support of our families, the academy, my goldfish Nemo, may he rest in peace, and so many others along the way.  We'd also like to thank Prof. Bruce Land for always being around to support our crazy ideas and help us design our project.  He was very helpful and patient, and made the project a lot more enjoyable.  Our TAs, David Li and Jeannette Lukito have also been great, putting up with our nagging and helping out whenever we had problems.  Dave was also cool enough to bake us a cheesecake once, and take us to Burger King late one night.  How many TAs would do that for you?  The list is short.  We'd also like to thank Vlad Kozitsky for helping us with radio stuff and sneaking into the superlab to borrow resistors and a solder sponge.  He didn't know about that though. =ř

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 ECE 476 Final Project
© Spring 2004 Daniel Warren and Heidi Ng
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Last updated: 05/03/04.