Edison vs. Tesla

Edison and Tesla are notable names when it comes to electricity. Both of these inventors have played a large role in power and electricity. Things could be different if these inventors did not exist. The main difference between the two inventors was their view on power distribution to homes. There was a huge feud between two parties:

  • Edison and the General Electric Company


Figure A: Thomas Edison

 In 1879 Thomas Alva Edison publicly displayed his famous incandescent bulb. From his invention of the incandescent bulb, Thomas Edison needed a way to supply energy to the bulbs in surrounding houses. In effect, in 1887, Thomas Edison created a  system of direct current, which would later oppose what Tesla was going for. America welcomed Edison way of supplying energy through direct current because he was very famous.

  • Tesla and Westinghouse


Figure B: Nikola Tesla


Figure C: Westington

Then there came along pesky, little Tesla (in Edison’s opinion). Ironically,  Edison hired Tesla, and he came to New York City at the age of 28. Tesla’s job was to help improve Edison’s electrical system, and Tesla eventually improved Edison’s system. Edison did not know very much about AC current, but Tesla knew quite a bit about AC current. Nikola Tesla’s idea was to use AC current to distribute power to the city. DC was inefficient because the direct flow of current would harm the wires and make transformers useless (I talked about transformers in an earlier blog).

Overall, both parties were trying to set up power systems based on different currents. Edison was pushing for DC (Direct Current) current and  Tesla was pushing for AC (Alternating Current).   Eventually, AC current won out because AC current was more efficient in distributing power, but there were some interesting effects from this feud. Tesla’s AC current won the battle by so much that Edison would try to make DC still relevant in society. In effect, he invented this little device called the electric chair.

Edison was also not very nice to his neighbors. Here is a video of Edison with his neighbor. It is a Family Guy clip.

Source:  http://www.staff.fcps.net/rroyster/war.htm


Fly Your Kite the Cool Way

While doing research for my technical report, I came across a cool invention that related to my topic. The invention was a kite winder that reels a kite in after the kite is done being used. This youtube video is what I stumbled upon when I was doing my research for my topic.

Art is the name of the inventor of the kite winder in this video. He sells these kite winders, and I think this invention is creative. Personally, I can see a lot of people being turned off by this invention because this invention would take the fun out of being able to run with a kite. If a person preferred limited movement while flying a kite, I think the kite winder would be an awesome product. The kite winder is able to lock the string in position, and prevent the kite from traveling out farther. This product allows the user to reel in the kite quickly after the kite is done being used.

Art created his device by connected different parts together, and mounting the parts on some plywood.

The parts include:

DC motor

Figure A: DC motor 


Figure B: Battery


Figure C: Switch 

Figure D: Spool

speed nut
Figure E: Form of mechanical coupling/speed nut 

“The kite line winder weighs a mere 15 pounds. This is very portable with a handy handle (quotes from 4:40 in the video).” The kite winder weighs enough to prevent the wind from dragging the device around. I can see this being nice for someone who would like to watch the kite flying in the air, without holding on to the kite.

Overall, I think his invention is very creative. I am thinking about creating a device that is similar, but used differently. I am hoping to create something like this device to roll up string at the soccer fields. As a field worker, we use string to paint straight lines on a soccer field, and the string is incredibly annoying to roll up. My main hope is to create something like this to paint soccer fields faster. If I can create a device like this, I will maybe use the reel to fly a kite the cool way.



Not Your Typical Breadboard

If you are interested in electronics and enjoy building circuits, I would recommend working with a breadboard. A breadboard is a great instrument that can be used to learn electronics. Some electronic kits at RadioShack may include breadboards with the kits and allow you to run through different experiments. An electronic breadboard is displayed in figure A.



Figure A: Breadboard

As you can see, a breadboard has a lot holes where wires will be inserted. A breadboard can be very convenient when it comes to creating an electrical circuit because wires are very adjustable. In opposition to a PCB (Printed Circuit Board: described in previous blog), a breadboard allows people to make circuits without going through a long process of soldering components on a circuit board. Figure B may give a better view of what a breadboard would look like when be used.


Figure B: Breadboard in use

There are lot of things going on in figure B, but the picture displays how a breadboard uses adjustable wires to connect a circuit together. I think most technology today will use PCB’s to do useful applications, but a breadboard is a very useful way to connect a circuit together. The breadboard can be used to do useful functions as well, but PCB’s are more sturdy. The breadboard would have electrical components attached to the board in such a way to perform some sort of function. The electrical components attached to a breadboard are represented in Figure C.


Figure C: Electrical Components

These electrical components have metal points sticking of each components and the metal points are put into the breadboard. The basic components used in basic electrical experiments are resistors, capacitors, and diodes. These electrical components are described in the previous blog.

After a basic circuit is set up, the circuit will be able to do something unique and there is an unlimited amount of creativity involved with a breadboard. The breadboard is an blank sheet of paper that is waiting to be drawn on. Do not mix up this breadboard with the picture displayed in Figure D.

other bread board

Figure D: Not a breadboard

Mass Production of SMT

I have decided to move away from motors, generators, and energy this week. The next topic I want to talk is an electrical application that applies to the technological world. SMT (surface mount technology) is a electrical piece of hardware  that is massively produced in the world. Passive electrical components (resistors, capacitors, inductors) are put onto a PCB (printed circuit board) to form a piece of hardware with a certain purpose. The main components used on a PCB are chips, diodes, resistors, capacitors, IC’s (integrated circuits). Figure A displays the different electrical components involved in SMT.

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Figure A: Different Electrical Components 

This technology allows these pieces of hardware to be massively produced and is a part of many of the technologies that we enjoy today. The PCB functions as a board that can connect all of the electrical components together through the copper wire traces that are already on the board. The board is basically a circuit that is designed by people for a certain purpose and is used in electrical devices. Boards can be as big or small as the designer wants, but producers have been searching for ways to make technology smaller and smaller as time goes on. Figure  B gives a view of what a PCB looks like with the components attached.

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Figure B: A PCB (Printed Circuit Board)

I am sure that most people have seen something that as looked like this before. I consider this a dohikey because a lot of these complex circuit are very well thought out and used for certain purposes. A schematic drawing of these circuit would probably be a nightmare.

To give a better idea of what the components are, I will make a list.

  1. Resistor: An electrical component that resists current flow
  2. Capacitor: Electrical component that stores charge
  3. Inductor: Electrical component that stores magnetic energy
  4. Transistor: A semiconductor device that is  capable of amplification
  5. IC (integrated circuit): This are little chips that have functions
  6. Diode: Forces current to go a certain direction

If you want to learn more about SMT, you can view this video.

Hydroelectric Power in Your Backyard

Did you know that hydroelectric power is practically in your backyard? I discovered this power plant on my way home this weekend when my friend and I went through Morro Bay, California to get back home. I am surprised I have never took the time into understanding what this plant is because it looks so massive and interesting as you can see in Figure A. This power plant in Morro Bay has been around since the 1950’s and people are looking to move newer power plant nothwest. The power plant has been providing power to the central coast and the central valley for years.

Figure A: Morro Bay Power Plant

The main question that I want to discover and answer is how this power plant functions. There has to be process involved in changing mechanical/kinetic energy into electrical energy. This energy can then be used to help power the cities along the central coast. Figure B is a picture describing the electrical process involved in turning the mechanical energy into electrical energy.

Figure B: Describes electrical process involved in hydroelectricity

Basically, the movement of water causes these turbines to rotate, a flow of electrons will be created from magnetism involved with the machine. The movement of water could be caused from a change in potential energy. For example, a dam could be created to raise the water in height and allow the water to have some potential energy to case the water to move. This is why dams are sometimes involved in hydroelectric power. A waterfall can be just as effective in hydroelectric power by providing energy to the water that will later be turned into electrical power.

If you have enough time, I would suggest watching this video because this video is very informative about the basic understanding about hydroelectric power.

It’s a Winch! Burn the Winch!!

Winches are very interesting and simple electrical devices that have many applications in the real world. I never really knew exactly what a winch was before I was researching topics for my proposal. My proposal was to introduce a product to a soccer organization to boost field production efficiency. When I painted a soccer field, we rolled out all of this string onto the field and painted over the string to make straight lines. The main pain was rolling the string back up after we painted the soccer field and this was a big inefficiency involved in making the soccer field. I wanted to introduce a device that roll up the string to allow the workers (including me) to paint the fields faster. In effect, I ran across a device called the winch in my research.

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Figure A: Picture of a winch

A winch is basically an electric device used to move heavy objects with the use of torque. For example, a winch is used to move boats and jeeps. Torque is a rotational force and a motor is used to provide toque in the device. Figure B is a good representation of what torque is. In effect, the the winch is able to provide power to the system and cause a heavy object to moved across a surface.

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Figure B: Example of toque

If too many layers of rope are added to the winch, the power from the winch will decrease as more weight is added. In effect, the winch would be less effective when it came to pulling a heavy object. Figure C described how the power from the winch is affected from the addition of layers, while figure D represents a picture of the different layers. The pulling power zone (where the winch is most effective) is when the winch just has two layers of rope.

Figure A: Reduction in magical winch power

Figure C: Reduction in magical winch power (flowchart I made)

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Figure D: Layers of wraps

Below is a video of a winch in action:

Overall, winches are very useful and applicable in everyday life. The magnetism and electrical applications provide torque, which allows the movement of heavy objects. Do not burn a winch because they may come in handy.

Transformer Robot in Disguise

When most people think of a transformer, I think that most people think of a transformer robot. A transformer is also an electrical device used in many applications of electrical engineering. A transformer is a electrical device that transfers energy by using magnetic properties by winding wires and producing a magnetic flux in a core of a transformer. There are two sides of a transformer called a primary side and secondary side. The main difference between the primary side and the secondary side is that the primary side has a voltage source connected to it. The current from the voltage source will produce magnetic flux in the core and induce a voltage on the secondary side. The secondary side is usually connected to some sort of load, which houses in a neighborhood.

Transformers are very useful in providing power for people in everyday life. These electrical devices are able to step-up or step-down in voltage, which is useful when it comes to providing power. In everyday life, people are used to using outlets that are 120 V AC, but in order to get to 120 V AC, a transformer had to be used to step down the voltage. Power companies use a step-up transformer to increase the voltage across the long power lines at very low losses and the voltage is stepped down for final use. The final use is the 120 V AC outlets that supply the normal folks with power to do their everyday activities that involved power.

Below is a picture of an actual transformer and to the right of the transformer is a diagram of what a transformer looks like.

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According to what I have been reading, a transformer can range from the size of a thumbnail to units weighing hundreds of tons interconnecting the power grid. The picture above is the type of transformer I used when I built a power supply in IME 156, but not all transformers look like the picture above. Transformers can be as small as the transformers in the picture below.

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The main point that I want to make from this blog is that a transformer is a useful electronic device that allow power to be distributed to people in everyday life. A transformer can look like a lot of different things, but don’t mix up an electrical transformer with the transformer below.download