Sheer Terror: Part 1

Hello Readers!

I hope your first few days back at school have been off to a great start!  Mine have been a little…intimidating.  I am in the process of putting together the test apparatus I posted a schematic of a few posts back.  I received a lot of my parts just before the Christmas break and have been trying to make sense of them which has been a lot more difficult that I was expecting.

I’m not sure if I’ve been completely zoned out over the past few years, but most of what I ordered I have no idea what to do with, and, which is also the worst part, a lot of it seems to be really obvious to everyone I talk to!  Boo.

For the sake of self-esteem preservation, I am going to assume there can be no way I am the only one and therefore, with hopes my professors aren’t reading this and realize I don’t know as much as I’m pretty sure I’m supposed to, I’ll tell you about the scary learning curve I’ve been on over the past couple of weeks.

Moment of sheer terror 1: Receiving the controller.

I ordered the National Instruments PCI-6010 to control the speed of my pump.  The controller is supposed to send it a 0-5 volt signal which corresponds to a flow rate of 0-1600 mL/s.  In my mind it was going to be a little block with pins on top, and a USB coming out one side to plug into my computer.  What I got it a circuit board with a serial port on the side.

What am I supposed to do with this?!?!  Its…just the circuit board?  With no fancy box or anything to put it in? So I put it back in its box, set it on my shelf, and took a couple deep breaths.  Oh dear.

I googled various combinations of “connect PCI-6010 to computer” with no luck,  looked through the user manual which gave extremely detailed instructions on how to insert a CD into a disc drive and install the software, but absolutely no indication of what to do with the actual board.  Eek.

I then called one of my friends who I did my undergrad with and who is doing her masters in electrical who did mechatronics.  She explained that PCI is short for “take apart your computer and re-build it with the controller in it.” Ok, that is a little over dramatic. There are actually nice little slots pre-prepared for this kind of thing, and all you have do it do take off the side panel of the computer and slide it in.  Obviously!…?

For people who find this in the same situation as I was, here’s what you do!  It actually IS really easy.

1.       Install software

2.       Remove side panel from computer

3.       Punch out the sheet metal blocking one of the spare slots located at the back of the computer.

4.       Slide the circuit board into the slot so the slots on the board fit into their receivers on the other side of the computer.  These supply power and allow the computer to communicate with the board.  You don’t need to do anything extra (at least in my case) at this point in terms of computer surgery.

5.       Screw the board into place.

You’re done!  That took me about 4 days. But it works!

Stay tuned for moment of sheer terror 2.

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