Plan A and Plan B – Mistakes and a Path for Continuous Improvement
I recently completed another version of my Lightning Detector for next year’s Maker Faire season. It is the same circuit but packaged in a small desktop cabinet. The new configuration is more compact and self-contained and looks more like a “final product" rather than a “pre-production prototype.”
As I planned the packaging, circuit and parts layout, something was bothering me, but I couldn’t figure out what it was. Since the new project cabinet is nice and roomy for the parts and circuits, I had some parts placement flexibility, and there is enough room to add more experimental circuits later. This turned out to be my “Plan A and Plan B.”
After completing the circuits (there are four modules: the basic receiver, a meter driver, an LED driver and a sound/noise maker), I tested the unit, and it didn’t work quite right. But since the circuits are simple, it did not take long to verify wiring errors or bad components.
And I discovered nothing wrong. Tracing which components connect to which other components are all good. So I moved the receiver section away from the speaker mounted on the rear panel – and – it worked fine.
That’s when I slapped the side of my head and said, “Duh.”
I know things better than I think sometimes. Remember that weird feeling I had at the beginning of this story? It was telling me to change the layout to make sure certain parts are not too close to the speaker, which has a surprisingly strong magnet in it.
The receiver circuit includes two inductors, a component used in radio receivers, and are magnetic in nature. The magnet in the speaker was affecting the performance of the inductors in the receiver, enough to “pull” the tuning out of the intended receiving range for lightning.
Turning the receiver circuit board 180 degrees inside the cabinet moved the two inductors away from the speaker and corrected the problem.
So my head and gut knew something wasn't right, and were trying to tell me this in the early stages of this project. I ignored this weird feeling and decided to move on, but left an alternative plan in place for something in the future.
Having the alternative plan saved this project and made it successful. So always having a Plan A and a Plan B (and sometimes Plans C and D. . .) is always a good idea.
But now I have a growing desire to get it right the first time, although this may not be possible, since experience in addition to knowledge is needed to get there. Plus, having alternative plans are a good path for continuous improvement.
A quick video of this completed Lightning Detector is posted on my YouTube channel.
What do you think? Do you have examples of alternative paths that lead to correcting or fixing something that went wrong?If you read this and liked it, go ahead and boink the "Relevant" button for me. Even better, post your comments below, and share this post.
About Wayne YoshidaWayne Yoshida is a technical writer and education advocate with sales management experience. Wayne currently works in the alternative fuel vehicle (AFV) industry and has worked for a wide variety of high technology companies, including aerospace and defense, photonics, lasers and opto-mechanics, two-way radio, telecommunications and a non-profit, educational organization. His personal passion for electronics and Amateur Radio opened many doors to some very interesting personal and professional experiences. Working as a ham radio consultant for the NASA Johnson Space Center during Space Shuttle mission STS-9 is his most memorable experience. Connect with him on LinkedIn, Twitter and beBee, and for a look into his personal passions, follow his blog.
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