■ BY FRED EADY
ADVANCED TECHNIQUES FOR DESIGN ENGINEERS
KIDS CAN LOVE ENGINEERING!
DO YOU REMEMBER WHO WAS RESPONSIBLE FOR YOUR INITIAL INTEREST
IN ELECTRONICS? I do. His name was Leslie Armos. Mr. Armos was
from Poland and worked as an electrical engineer at Redstone Arsenal in
Huntsville, AL. I can still see (and hear) those magnificent high fidelity tube
amplifiers Mr. Armos built from scratch. In fact, Mr. Armos custom-built one
for my father which eventually became my first personal electronic
“domain.” Between playing my Supremes and Temptations records (yes,
records) loud on Mr. Armos’s homemade stereo equipment, I was under the
tutelage of Mr. Armos learning transistor and tube circuit basics. Heavy
involvement in electronics of all kinds was obviously my destiny.
After Mr. Armos passed away, I was taken under
the wing of yet another Redstone Arsenal rocket
engineer, Pressley Fife. Mr. Fife worked as the Sunday
morning engineer at WEKR in Fayetteville, TN.
Depending on my Saturday night, Mr. Fife would
keep me awake during my early Sunday morning shift
while teaching me advanced transistor theory and logic.
The station owner later told me that Mr. Fife was the
man that strapped the first chimp astronaut (HAM) into
its Mercury capsule.
Mr. Armos and Mr. Fife were very important people
in my life. Every year, Lockheed Martin sponsors Space
Day at select Florida elementary schools. I participate in
the Sarasota Space Day and attempt to become a Leslie
Armos or Pressley Fife to the 190 or so students that pass
through my science station. This year’s science station
consisted of a Lenovo NetBook coupled to a USB-to-CAN bridge. The goal was to introduce the students to a
working network they could actually see and touch.
Once the students connected the network cables,
they could use the Lenovo NetBook Visual Basic interface
to flash each other’s station LEDs, spin a trio of motors
attached to the network, and “text” each other’s stations.
Although remotely spinning motors was fun for all, it was
most interesting to note that every grade level (1-5) was
thrilled to find out they could text each other. I witnessed
first graders texting using full sentences!
Exposing the students to electronic nomenclature and
raw electronic parts was the idea behind my science
station. While the application was aimed at elementary
students, the technology behind the application may
be of interest to you.
74 July 2009
Let’s begin by examining the Lenovo NetBook
application, which relies heavily on a programming tool
Nope. WSC4VB is not some texting shorthand sent
by those smart little first graders. WSC4VB is short for
Windows Standard Serial Communications for Visual
Basic. WSC4VB is a toolkit that allows for easy and
reliable construction of serial communications-based
Visual Basic applications. The Windows Standard Serial
Communications Library is actually a component DLL
library which uses the Windows API (Application
Programmer’s Interface) to communicate with devices
attached to the PC’s serial port.
I accessed the Communications Library by way of the
Visual Basic component of Microsoft Visual Studio 2008.
WSC4VB works with the old stuff (Visual Basic 3.0-Visual
Basic 6.0) and the new stuff (Microsoft Visual Studio .NET
Framework). WSC4VB can also be used to support
communications sessions within any VBA (Visual Basic
for Applications) language. For those of you that haven’t
dabbled with VBA, access is included in Excel, Access,
and MS Office.
The Lenovo NetBook comes standard with Windows
XP Home. However, WSC4VB’s toolkit will run on every
Windows platform from Windows 95 to Vista. The
reason for its diverse operating system compatibility
lies in the fact that WSC4VB can be accessed from
a standard Windows 16-bit DLL (WSC16.DLL) or
32-bit DLL (WSC32.DLL), both of which are part