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EE student looking for inspiration and tips

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Hey /diy/, it's my first time posting here, I read the rules and I'm fairly sure that I'm not breaking any of them (I hope). Anyway, I'm a second year EE student, pic related is part of a project that I just finished for school (it's a temperature control circuit, nothing fancy). The thing is, I have this feeling that I'm not actually learning how to solve problems or how to come up with a solution. We're basically just copying existing designs, trying to understand how they work and why, and then we make the thing.
So that is why I'd like to do more electronics projects in my free time. I want to actually understand what I'm doing and produce useful stuff. I'm well aware that everything I'll be building is already available somewhere for a fraction of the cost made in china, but I want to use this as a learning experience and to help me fully understand the subject matter.
I can use oscilloscopes, lab equipment and the vast majority of components from school for prototyping, I can also make single or double layer PCBs there (no multi-layer designs though), I can also design PCBs (pic related) and use basic simulation software (LT spice) before the actual prototyping stage. Other interests would be playing bass guitar, so all kinds of audio related projects would probably be cool.

So my actual question is, where should I go from here? What are some good places to learn about practical applications and designs (not just how it's supposed to work in theory), how can I broaden my horizon and get some useful experience in the meantime?
in the pre-internet era there was stuff like this: http://mobilebay.me/torrent/8301910/Radio_Electronics_Magazine_1980-1992

today, there are websites but it's mostly dumb kids, so I dont really follow any site.
That's also been my experience with many forums. It's either people who have absolutely no clue or people arguing over completely irrelevant stuff because they have been arguing over the internet for years on these forums. Not my cup of tea.
the how it's supposed to work in theory is an important foundation of knowledge and a step towards design. how are you supposed to design something that you aren't sure what it's supposed to be doing in the first place? if audio is your bag, start building amps. they range from very simple to very complicated. get yourself a semiconductor textbook and stage it out and build a 10W amplifier. that will be a good use of all of the skills that you have said were relevant, and you get an amp when you're done. if you enjoy that and want something a little more intense, build a better amplifier. design filter banks for equalization. replace your silicon with tubes if you're a sound snob. if analog design bores you, get yourself an fpga and build a digital effects pre-processor that feeds into a class-D amp. build a synthesizer. get a few digital signal processors and make real time filters, equalizers, and other frequency specific toys, phasers, whatever, man. but whatever you do, document. the difference between you and a hobbyist is that you should be able to articulate the theories and annotate methodology throughout the process. you should be able to give not only mathematical models to back up your design choices, but relevant simulation data, and recorded data. you should be able to give accurate accounts of total harmonic distortion, and noise levels of each stage.
Thanks for the response. I'm well aware that theory is important, I actually want to learn more of it and try to understand it on a deeper level, not just copy existing designs and call it a day, that's what I was trying to say at least. We already built a basic 15W amp, but I could look into a different design or try to improve on it, measure the entire thing top to bottom and try to make the signal as clean as possible. Effects and filters would also be interesting, I guess I could also start there.
my interest in music is what got me into electrical engineering. most everything that you do in electrical engineering is some sort of filter design problem, in the end. you'll find that really good filters are difficult to design using analog methods. get yourself a good dsp, or a system to route your audio through your pc and do real time signal processing on it.


there's a great reference for filter design and signal processing methods. start importing audio into matlab and playing with it. do some oversampling, and design some QMF antialiasing filters. get comfy with frequency domain and duality with time domain. i used audio files with images in the spectrum to play with the concepts. once you get it down, design yourself a filter, copy the filter coefficients to a signal processor and make some rad ass digital hardware.

control theory is my expertise, but i think i enjoy signal processing way more... but why not intergrate? have the signal processor perform fft's on your bass and devise some DTMF schema for controlling something else... DMX lighting rigs, for example, or convert the output ot the fft's to midi messages to control some other kit. possibilities are endless, pimp.
Hi, OP. I'm a third year electrical engineering student with the exact same issue, except I'm later into my degree with probably less experience than you.

I picked up an Arduino kit and it has pacified me for now. I can just pick out small ideas and build projects with my materials, but I'm not sure how much I'm actually learning, and I have no idea how to solder or do PCB stuff. I'd really like to learn.

I've made a gamepad controller out of a joystick and some buttons, and I plan on building an RC car, but those things don't seem to be as in-depth as your schoolwork.

I'll bump your thread, and I'm gonna follow this because I'm very interested.
Don't sweat too much OP. It sounds like you are on the right path already. Being eager to learn is the most important part.

Just like your bass playing, EE solutions that older guys just seem to dream up in seconds are based on licks and a repertoire that is built up over time.

As a poster above mentioned, "since into audio, build audio" You can do it linearly as suggested above or set yourself a challenge to be better than yourself.
Build a bass preamp. Measure it's specs, compare it to simulation. Why the fuck doesn't it measure the same. Whatever spec you achieved, try to beat it with the next iteration of your design. Push the envelope edges out. See how far you can get the frequency response extended. Ignore the 20KHz practical hearing limit, aim really high. Your lack of knowledge will limit the HF response. You can measure your experience in KHz.

Lastly don't become despondent about your schooling, you need to know that shit first. Copying is a great way to learn.

When you think you have a handle on the audio side, take the RF world on. You will learn rapidly because the failures are so easy.
Erm, I hope this doesn't come across as rude, but how the heck are you in your third year without having learnt how to solder? Weird, I guess that's how these things differ from country to country. Making and designing PCBs is pretty darn easy, it just requires some equipment that you probably don't have at home (a few chemicals, UV light and that's about it). So don't stress over that. It's nice to see that someone else is in the same boat, I hope you'll be able to get something out of this thread as well.
Alright, thanks. I guess making basic equipment for my bass is just a natural step here, I might turn my current bass active and see how well that turns out. A 3-band EQ and a pre-amp seem like a nice first project. Additional gear like effects and pedals would also be cool and are pretty easy to realize judging from another thread here. Maybe I'm just being impatient, hopefully it'll become natural sooner or later, like you said.
I'm not very good at soldering either. It's like as soon as the solder has melted I've already heated up the component too much and damaged it.

There is literally no window not to do that in. I take off the iron the moment the solder has melted and it's too late.

To me, soldering IS burning out components.
>shit tip
>shit iron
>shit technique
>shit solder
Pick one or more.
The first is easy, just clean and tin the tip. Also, don't use pointlessly pointy tip.
The second is fixable by money, but you can also try to limit overheating by turning it off when not needed, or using a light dimmer in series.
The third one is fixable by practice and maybe by watching some videos.
The last refers to lead-free solder. It needs more heat. Use leaded solder instead. You can also try your luck with extra flux.
Seems like you're well on your way already desu. You're also pretty lucky since you seem to have all the necessary equipment available to you at your school, most people would have to buy that stuff first. I'll be monitoring this thread a bit, I'm into woodwork mostly but I want to learn the basics of EE as well, I have no clue where to start in regards to tinkering. Like, do you just order individual parts that you need or do you get a box of 20x each resistor you'll probably need, the most common diodes and transistors, etc.
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