Making Electronics Education Fun

Zachariah Peterson
|  Created: March 11, 2022  |  Updated: March 24, 2022
Making Electronics Education Fun

It's a privilege to have another well-known YouTube Creator GreatScott. He is creating electronics projects, tutorials, and everything in between. He makes electronics education fun with his experience, skills, and practical approach. This is going to be an exciting discussion so make sure to watch through the end and check out the additional resources below.

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Show Highlights:

  • How GreatScott started in the electronics industry and his interest in creating fun videos
    • He started in 2013, at the age of 18, and created his first circuit project the next year
    • First job application and the task was in the field of electrical power engineering
  • GreatScott’s practical approach with his projects as implemented on his recent vacuum project, Every Device should have this Upgrade! (Endless Battery Run Time)
  • The trajectory of GreatScott's career path–what brought him up into power engineering
    • Followed his mother's advice to go for renewable energies and took a renewable energy course at a University in Germany 
  • GreatScott recommends courses in Electronic Engineering and joining an internship program at the same time⁠—duales studium or dual studies, for those looking for a career or interested in electronics
  • GreatScott YouTube Channel showcases about 50 Electronic Basics Video Series
  • Interesting and funny videos GreatScott recently created
  • ElectroBOOM YouTube Channel is also creating fun and engaging electronics videos
  • What to expect on the DIY or Buy video series on the GreatScott channel
  • Tear down doesn't fit for Scott - his goal for his videos is to create, unique and practical projects
  • Engineers improve their skills through mistakes and criticisms
  • GreatScott's plan in the future
    • Continue making fun and educational videos
    • Learn to weld
    • Include a wider assortment of projects and topics
    • Launch an upcoming video for his two circuit boards creation (aluminum printed circuit board)

Links and Resources:

GreatScott YouTube Channel
Follow GreatScott on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook
GreatScott Altium Designer Affiliate Page

Connect with Zack on LinkedIn
Full OnTrack Podcast Library
Altium Website

Altium 365: Where the World Designs Electronics

Transcript:

GreatScott:
Electronics and everything around it is basically the science and technology, what most people just accept. They take a cell phone and they can use it, but the majority of people have no idea what is going on inside a cell phone, inside a printer, inside a computer. Yeah, for me, it's fascinating and I think lots of other people fascinate that too, and that is why we have so many electronics related stuff.

Zach Peterson:
Hello, everyone, and welcome to the Altium On Track podcast. I am Zach Peterson, your host, and I am here today with GreatScott, the man behind the very popular GreatScott YouTube channel, and I think this is going to be a fun discussion, especially for any of the hobbyists or makers out there. GreatScott, welcome to the podcast. Thank you so much for joining me.

GreatScott:
Thank you for having me and thank you for the great introduction. Very flattering.

Zach Peterson:
Well, I try, I try, but your channel is one of those channels that I think aims to both educate as well as entertain. I think if you can make electronics education fun, that's excellent. Because I know at least here in the U.S., there is a great talent glut and anything we can do to get kids hooked in to electronics as well as just anybody else who wants to learn things, then that's great. Whether it's an entertaining YouTube channel or a serious YouTube channel, I'm a fan of all of it.

GreatScott:
That's great. I'm also a fan of it. That's actually why I started it back in 2013, I think.

Zach Peterson:
Yeah. You've been doing this a long time.

GreatScott:
Yeah, because back then, and maybe now, like you said, I think it's difficult to get the young generation into electronics. Actually, it was for me the same as well. I actually was 18 years old when I had my first soldering iron in my hand, and that was actually during a job application where I wanted to get into the field of ... it was actually electrical power engineering, but it would be handy to know how to solar as an electrical power engineer, and that was actually one of the tasks and that's how it got started from me. I really would've wished back then that there would have been more entertaining channels that maybe have more of a focus to a fun approach. Like you said, fun and entertaining. That's also what I try to do most of the time, at least. Sometimes it can get theoretical and complex, but that's always the mix of the project.
    Yeah, I think I lost a bit of track there, but that's what I basically try to do with my videos, just doing fun stuff with knowledge behind it.

Zach Peterson:
Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. Like you said, it gets a little theoretical and conceptual, but I think at the end of the day, as long as you are showing someone how to take that and get to something that's a practical objective or in this case, if it's an entertaining video, a fun objective, then you have to do that at some point.

GreatScott:
Yeah. It's definitely ... Like you said, you actually ... I don't know how to say it in English really, because I think many of my viewers and hopefully those who watch this podcast right now, I'm not a native English speaker. So be warned, if you haven't noticed yet. So I don't know how to say it correctly, but how do you say it in English? You get the point of my project. It's basically two directions. I always try to do something practical from time to time where I have a real life problem. I actually did that with a video, which I did two weeks ago with a vacuum I actually had for a while and the vacuum was constantly empty, the battery. I forget to charge it in the evening and when I want to use it in the morning, it runs for 10 minutes if it's full.

So you can imagine if I forget to recharge it, it's empty in five minutes. That's with the practical approach there. I just added a battery from a power tool and analyzing, of course, the insights of the vacuum to know how to get the battery pack in there, how it works with the circuitry, because there is actually a micro controller inside the vacuum, which protects it from under voltage and such things. So it was a bit challenging. But yeah, so this practical approach stuff and sometimes just fun stuff like lighting LEDs, because who doesn't love LEDs and combining that with a bit of knowledge, that can be a good video in the end, I think.

Zach Peterson:
Yeah. So maybe we can talk about that vacuum cleaner project in a moment, because it's interesting. But you brought up when you first were getting started that you wanted to go into power engineering, it sounds like. Was that something that you had always aspired to do or was it just an opportunity and you knew that you needed to jump in head first? I think people them into electronics design in different ways, and especially depending on where they are. I mean, I myself, I never would've thought I was doing what I do now with running a design company and then doing all the content and everything. But because my background is optics and lasers and stuff, it's not typical and I think some people come into this in a strange way. So I'm interested to hear what really ... the trajectory of your career path, if you will.

GreatScott:
Sure. So first off, I also would've never imagined 10 years ago that I would end up in such a position making YouTube videos basically for a living. Crazy times, I would say. But life just works out this way and you have to take it when such an opportunity comes. So actually I got into this electronic stuff not really because of electronics, because like I said, when I was under 18, I didn't have .. I wouldn't say interest. I just wasn't objected to electronics. There wasn't someone who was like, "Hey, you should try this Arduino." I'm not sure if Arduino was a thing back then, but you know what I mean. "You should try this operational amplifier circuit or this headphone amplifier circuit." There wasn't really a point for me to interact with electronics, so I never really got into it.

When it was, of course, time to choose what I want to do in life, when you turn 16, 18, like everyone at that point probably, it was actually my mother who said I should go for renewable energies because, of course, it's still a very hot topic, I would say, renewable energies. The focus to that got more aggressive, I think, over the years. So it's maybe now even a bigger topic than back then, and I was like, "Sure, sounds interesting," because I was always into physics. So there is actually a class in university for renewable energy specifically. But the problem with that, I always wanted to do a ... in German, it is called duales studium. With that course, you basically do a normal apprenticeship with a company and you do a course on the university. It's combined and back then I thought it was great and I would still recommend it to everyone who would love to get a more hands on approach on things, but still want to learn in university with more theory behind it. The problem was there was no ... Yeah?

Zach Peterson:
That's interesting because here in the U.S. we have internships, but they're generally totally separate from what you do with your classes. You have to hope that the two line up.

GreatScott:
Yeah. It's in Germany as well. You can also have ... internships is maybe the correct term, not what I said, with a company all alone, and then you have these separate things, which is in the university you want to study, I don't know, economics or something and this duales studium thing is actually a ... you don't have anything like that in the U.S.?

Zach Peterson:
At least when I was in school, there wasn't anything like that. Now, sometimes some companies will come and they'll direct or state what it is they would like to see from interns, and then sometimes the universities will adapt classes in that direction. But I've never heard of any formal program where the electronics class and the internship are going to totally aligned with each other and you take the class just to get the internship or vice versa.

GreatScott:
Okay. It's not like that in Germany as well. It is still separate things. The first three years was the internship. It was always mixed. It was one week internship, then you go one week to university and you basically do the practical stuff in the company and then you do the theoretical stuff in university. After three years, the internship is over. You get your certificates and everything around it. Then I continued with my university studies like usual, but was basically still employed in the company I started in. After four years, you basically got a certificate for the internship and you also got your bachelor's degree. I think that's a great concept if you are willing to do it because it takes a bit more effort, I would say, than just doing one thing, because of course the work is almost double, but it definitely was worth it.

So like I said, for renewable energies, there sadly is no [foreign language 00:10:51] like that. So I looked for an alternative and what basically came out that electric engineering offers such a [foreign language 00:11:02] and electrical engineering is also very connected to renewable energies, I would say, because basically electronics is related to everything nowadays, if you think about it. It's the one thing you don't want to miss, like having electricity in your home. That's why I always recommend it for young people. If they're looking for a career or something interesting, electronics, electricians, electrical engineering, all around that, it's such a wide field. You can do so much with it. You can go in so many different directions. It's great. Yeah, I do enjoy it because I can go in lots of different directions with my videos as well.

Zach Peterson:
Yeah. I think electronics is one of those things where it happens in the background and you don't see it. It's not in your face. You interact with it, but not directly. It's always mediated by some user interface or some application. So I think it's easy for people to forget that there's all of this engineering that happens on the hardware side that makes all of these things in modern life possible. Without that, you don't get a cell phone. You don't get your computer. You don't get your lights on, like you said.

GreatScott:
It's crazy when you think about it. I think I saw a documentary years ago, but it etched itself in my mind that electronics and everything around it is basically the science and technology what most people just accept. They take a cell phone and they can use it, but the majority of people have no idea what is going on inside a cell phone, inside a printer, inside a computer. Yeah, for me, it's fascinating. I think lots of other people fascinate that too and that is why we have so many of electronic related stuff.

Zach Peterson:
Yeah, and I think because of what you just said, it's one of those things that you pick it up and you just accept that the engineering is correct and it works. I think that has contributed to the perception, and I've mentioned this before when I was a guest on the podcast before I was actually the host, but I think it's contributed to the perception that circuit boards are kind of an overblown way to wire chips together when really there's so much more engineering that goes into it to make sure that a circuit board works and that all the components on it work as you intend.

GreatScott:
Yeah, of course, that is more in the, I would say, advanced circuit board engineering, because for myself, I actually never learned how to properly design a circuit board or something like that. I basically picked it up and the first ... it's still a work in progress, of course, with my circuit boards.

Zach Peterson:
You can never stop learning, right?

GreatScott:
Yeah, yeah, sure. But I think the first time I did it, it was 2014 or so. I actually did not round my ... I actually had corners with the PCB traces and the comment section was like, "You can't do this, that's illegal." I was like, [crosstalk 00:14:18]. Well, I actually read it up and when there is high frequency stuff involved, there can be reflections and whatnot. I was like, "Okay, sure. But my circuit board works with frequencies like 100 Hertz, so who cares?"

Zach Peterson:
Exactly.

GreatScott:
Yeah. There's so much to learn and yeah, maybe one day I'll get to designs which have megahertz and gigahertz, then it becomes very, like you said, interesting that everything still works when it's all packed on the PCB, but until then, I'm happy with my lazy designs that until now always work, actually

Zach Peterson:
My first board was not a super advanced design. I mean, if you just say, "Well, it captured some data and sent it to a DQ card," then, okay, it worked. But I think even at those lower frequencies, it can still be challenging, especially if you have problems with noise or you have problems with power. So I'm wondering what level of advancement do you go to with your designs? Are you just trying to get something that looks nice and is entertaining and that technically works fine? Because it seems more you're focused on the electronic system as a whole and not just on, "Here's how to do this thing on the board."

GreatScott:
Good question. Definitely. The thing is when I do my videos, it is more about the electronic system, I would say. Most of the videos is like we want to do this function basically, how do we do it? Then I iterate, I would say. I start with the maybe micro controller or the general system, and then what components do we have to add? What do these components do for the system? What are the effects? Most of the time, I actually don't do a printed circuit board because what I learned in my internship, I'm actually a certified electronics technician it is called in English. In German, if they are German viewers right now, it is [foreign language 00:16:50]. Basically the job is about you are in an industrial field and some ... how do I say it? You're in an industrial field and at some point the robot is not moving anymore, who is assembling the parts.

As an electronics technician, you have to see, okay, where's the problem, and we have to fix it quick. Because Of course, when a robot doesn't move, that's maybe a 100,000 Euro per hour it does not move, because it makes that much money in that time. You have to be quick, you have to find a quick and I would say dirty solution until you've got a replacement parts, and that is where all my perfboard designs basically come from. So for the most part, I don't use real printed circuit boards. I just use perfboards and solder all the components onto it and just connect them either with solder bridges or sometimes I have bridge wire, which is basically silver, copper wire. That is how I learned it in the internship and actually it works. It sounds dirty and cheap, but it works so well.

I think the only times ... Well, as you can see, I recently did a PCP, so I do it more often now. But back in the days when I was afraid making PCPs, designing them, because I had no idea how it works, I did not use it only because the circuit was too big. When you have a micro controller maybe, and you have to use every digital channel and every analog input, you're like, "Oh boy, on the perfboard, this will take a while," then of course I would go for a printed circuit board. But usually I think for me, it is the perfboard. I also think I averted your question a little bit about what you said. Can you repeat it again?

Zach Peterson:
I don't remember. We've gotten so far.

GreatScott:
Sorry, sorry. That was not my intention. I think you said about the circuit board design, whether I implement that in the video. So I think I did basic videos before in which I ... it is quite a popular video in which I said, "How do we go from idea to the schematic to the circuit board?"

Zach Peterson:
Yeah, because I noticed they have quite a few introductory videos, like whether it's just using op amps, using a transistor, things like that.

GreatScott:
Yeah. My electronic basics video series.

Zach Peterson:
Yes, yes. Yeah. I noticed there's quite a few of those.

GreatScott:
Yeah. For the printed circuit board, back then for two layer design, I think it was a remote with 2.4 gigahertz just for an electric long board. I told viewers specifically how each individual design step was, so as a whole video, but usually when I do project videos, I don't ... and I often get that in project videos with viewers who are first time viewers, they're like, "He's doing all this crazy stuff. How should I know how a MOSFET works? How should I know how bipolar junction transistor works, or a resistor? Why doesn't he explain in the video?" Often in the comment section I'm like, "I have a electronic basics video series. It's like 50 videos at this point. If you want to watch about a specific component, you don't know how that works or how to design a PCB, there is a specific video so I don't have to basically say it over and over again in the project videos."
    Because I think it just keeps it tighter together and more interesting for viewers than to state how to make this all the time.

Zach Peterson:
Yeah. I mean, otherwise every project video would be a three hour video.

GreatScott:
Yeah. Yeah. I think I always try to keep it very tight and compact and interesting with, I think, the maximum of 10 to 12 minutes. I think that's also why lots of viewers enjoy the videos because it is so densely packed and so many information, such short amount of time and also entertaining in a way that they think like, "Yeah, this looks so good. I would love to try that as well," or inspire them to do something similar.

Zach Peterson:
Yeah, definitely. Yeah. Keeping things a little more bite size is definitely what I try to do as well. I think it's a good way to just target something specific because sometimes people need to know something quick, easy, they don't want to sit through a 45 minute video to get what is basically a three minute answer.

GreatScott:
Yeah. That is what I sometimes have when I look for solutions. There's like a 15 minute video. I'm like, "Oh. Oh, boy." Now I have to look through where's the information I need here. I can definitely relate to that.

Zach Peterson:
Yeah. One of the things I also saw that looked actually pretty cool on your channel was testing schematics you find online. So the testing schematics you find online, I had never thought of doing something like that in a video, but that's actually really funny. Now I'm wondering, like you had alluded to in the video, if you google a certain type of circuit, go to Google Images, you google a certain type of circuit, you're going to be flooded with circuit diagrams. What's your strategy for picking one that's going to be interesting and maybe do you have some foresight as something that will give you a fun result that is going to make a good video? Because I'm sure you don't want to pick a schematic and then build it and test it and find out, "Hey, it works perfectly," and then, okay, is that a good video or not?

GreatScott:
Yeah. So very good question, and that question is actually the reason why I didn't make a third episode yet. I did two, the first one was about inverter 12 volts to 230 volts, and the second one about light put charger. That is actually the hardest part. Just first of finding an interesting topic, like, okay, what do I actually want to build, then looking through all the schematics. I think for the first episode, the research was ... the first video was actually not that hard to do because ... Oh, sorry. I should maybe turn my smartphone down.
    For the first episode, it was actually not that hard because inverters are ... I'm not sure why, but all the time inverters are in my comments. Like I said, I don't know why, but everybody apparently wants to build an inverter and I'm always like, "It is not worth it." Because inverter, when you buy it in the store ... not sure if you have one at home. No?

Zach Peterson:
I mean, we have a solar system on our home and so there's an inverter in the garage.

GreatScott:
Yeah. You definitely would not want to DIY such an inverter. Or would you?

Zach Peterson:
I mean, me personally? I've never had to do an inverter, so no, I would not go out and try and DIY an inverter just yet. I would consult with my designers that work for me and maybe we would figure it out. But as far as just jumping in and doing it in an afternoon and finding a schematic online, no, of course not.

GreatScott:
Yeah. That's what I sometimes think when the viewers write such comment, I think you have to put four MOSFETs there and then feed them with a signal and you got a perfect inverter, and I'm like, "No." It's a bit frustrating because an inverter, I think when you have a battery input or a solar system or anything like that, and there goes something wrong with your inverter design and you suddenly short that, it's not that great. I would say it's definitely a safety hazard and then you also have to get the stable outputs. It's quite complicated, I would say. That's why it was such a simple topic just to say, "Okay, this can't be funny when you find inverter schematics," because as an engineer it's not that simple and people just make it look so simple with the schematics.

Of course, in the end, I think it did work for light bulb, but then again, the output voltage was collapsing all the time, frequency was changing. I think it shorted at some point as well because of the output load. It was too big. I'm not sure anymore, but it turned out to be a funny video, definitely, and I hope not many people would try the circuit anymore.

Zach Peterson:
Yeah, we'll link to those in the show notes. So if anyone is interested in seeing that, click on the link in the show notes and go have a good laugh.

GreatScott:
Yeah. The second one, that was the time it was harder because I was like, "Okay, what circuit do I want to do now?" The one thing, because I was already going with the safety aspect with the inverter, I was like, "Okay, what is something that is also not safe if you DIY it? Maybe it'll explode, maybe it is battery related." I was like, "Okay, LiPo batteries, lots of people have that. If they're mistreated, I think I also did a video about that, "They can puff up, they can explode solder fire, not so great." That's how it just searched. Then I found different websites, which explained the circuit, which was also not completely correct, the information there. I said, "Okay, this could work as a topic," but since then-

Zach Peterson:
So you just knew reading from the description of maybe the website that had the schematic, you read the description and you knew, "Okay, this isn't going to work out. I'm going to play with this."

GreatScott
Yeah, yeah. But it wasn't as bad as the inverter, I would say. For the most part. It was correct. It was just hiding some details, I would say, making people think it's way better than it actually is, but yeah, it did work out for the most part in the end. At the moment, I'm not constantly looking for a new topic in that series. I actually thought about free energy schematic circuit designs because I did it before, actually, with a Bedini motor and .... what was it? Bedini motor and I think the fan where you put magnets on the fan, and then you put another magnet close to it and it rotates forever. It is one of my most watched videos, I think, with four million views or something like that.

But that, of course, didn't stop people from making more videos like this. I think about three months ago, I found a new YouTube channel, which is only about free energy and there is so much crazy stuff on there, and it has million views. That's the worst. Nowadays you can't see the dislikes anymore, but there are so many thumbs up. I was like, "Ah, do people really believe this?" But of course, you've got ElectroBOOM for that as well. He bunks lots of those, but I think if one day I do another video about that, it will not hurt, I think.

Zach Peterson:
No, I think it's good to do content that actually approaches that in a fun and engaging way, but really nicely communicates the point that this is pseudoscience, or this isn't going to work, or this is unsafe, whatever the end point is. Somebody has to do it. So that's actually cool that you're actually to going out and doing that.

GreatScott:
Yeah. Maybe one day. I will [inaudible 00:29:34].

Zach Peterson:
Hey, somebody's got to do it. Right?

GreatScott:
Yeah. But ElectroBOOM is doing a pretty good job at it. But I think he will like it if I put my hat into the ring as well for that kind of content. I will see.

Zach Peterson:
Yeah, definitely. Then you mentioned the DIY or Buy series when I brought up the testing schematics, you find online. So the DIY or Buy, what kind of thing are you inspired to look at and compare when you do like a DIY or Buy type of series? Is it based on stuff that you have the capacity to build yourself? Because I noticed that you did one with a water pump. That's just one example, but how do you pick those projects?

GreatScott:
So the water pump was definitely a big fail, I would say. Not sure if you watched the video completely.

Zach Peterson:
Well, you've got a lot of videos, to be fair. So I haven't seen all of them, but I noticed one, that there was a water pump, and I wanted to click on it.

GreatScott:
Yeah. That was definitely a video with a problem of time budget, I would say, because in the end it didn't work out. The plastic axle was just too weak. It was rotating for a bit and then snapped right off and I was like, "Oh boy. I spent already 60 hours on the topic trying to get something to work and suddenly it breaks." In the end, I had to end there. Viewers didn't really like that, but in the end, as a content creator, I do three videos in three weeks, and then I do a one week break. Like I said, if I spent 60 hours on this one thing and it didn't work out, I have to do something with it, otherwise it wouldn't work out with the release schedule.

So not the best positive example of the series, but in the end, DIY or Buy is a pretty popular series for me, I would say. Lots of viewers enjoy it and I actually do so too. I am currently planning a new one. The product I want to DIY is actually on the way. I do a bit of spoiler here, I'll tell you. The thing is-

Zach Peterson:
Yeah, I was going to say, you're going to tease us with the actual thing that you're building?

GreatScott:
I'm not sure if it's going to work out, but you're probably aware of the Fire TV Sticks from Amazon.

Zach Peterson:
Yeah. I actually have one on my old TV. Now they're built into smart TVs, but yeah, I had one. I think I got it five or six years ago for an old TV before smart TVs became much more affordable.

GreatScott
Yeah, and that's also why I have two or something like that. Work like a treat, but there's one problem because I'm actually always too lazy to use an AC outlet with a proper five volt USB power supply. I just plug it in a USB port of the TV, but then there's always the error message sometimes, "You should plug in your Fire TV Stick into a proper outlets. The five volts cannot supply enough current," and like, "Yeah, yeah, okay. Still works." But what I recently saw on Amazon is now they offer ... I'm not sure how they call it. Cable booster? Mission cables or something. It was a crazy name. I was like, "What is this?" But it's pretty self explanatory. It's just a little gadget you plug into the USB port and then into your Fire TV Sticks, and it basically acts like a buffer between in the USB port and the Fire Stick.

They claim that this solves the problem, that the stick will not complain that the port does not have enough current capabilities. What I'm thinking, it's just the battery was some kind of bigger capacitor competitor who will buffer everything and they want $20 for that. I'm like, "Okay, maybe there's a cheaper option," because with five volts, of course, you don't want to blow up your TV's USB port. So I will have to be careful there and say that in the video, definitely. But if it's just about adding a couple of capacitors or battery there, then I don't see the problem of DYIing such a thing instead of buying it. So that is-

Zach Peterson:
So it sounds like it's just a battery, the battery charges up when the Fire Stick's not in use and then that can discharge and provide the additional current that the Fire Stick might demand when it's needed. I see, I see. Then turn a Fire Stick off again, battery charges up. Okay.

GreatScott
Something I would see, I don't have it yet. I'm actually quite interested finding out. Maybe it's way more sophisticated than I think. Maybe it's real powerful charge controller I see who sees peaks and then steps in and then closes the connection to the USB from the Fire TV Sticks completely and then goes to the battery and then switches back in milliseconds. I don't know. Maybe. That's the fun in this actually, and that's the point of-

Zach Peterson:
Maybe it doesn't work at all, right?

GreatScott
Maybe it doesn't work, yeah. Possible. I don't know. That's actually the interesting thing, I think with DIY or Buy. I see a product, I'm like, "Okay, that's useful, but why does it cost 200 Euro, $200? I'm like, "Can't I build this cheaper?" That is basically the point of DIY or Buy, trying to build a product that exists, that works, where you just want the benefits. Of course, my DIY version will always be, I would say, a ghetto version of the product in the end. It will not be as fancy looking with that many features, but in the end it does the main job that the buy product does and I think lots of viewers appreciate that and yeah, it's just fun.

Zach Peterson:
Well, and I think that's nice because over the course of creating the product, doing the DIY portion, it allows people to see what really goes into engineering a product like this and what some of the real challenges are. Because this goes back to what you said about we all just trust that electronics work, and we don't really have to know anything about it. It really reveals a lot of the thought process, and then the actual technical data and the technical information that goes into making this product actually work the way you expect.

GreatScott
Yeah, definitely. It gets people into the door of electrically engineering, I think. That I can build this by myself and then I sneak this in like, "Okay, I open it up, it will works like this," and viewers are like, "Oh, that's how it works. That's interesting as well." So trying to sneak a bit of electrical engineering in the back while keeping it very fun at the front, I would say is a good concept.

Zach Peterson:
Have you ever thought of doing something like tear downs?

GreatScott
I know other YouTubers, web video creators, whatever, who do it. I actually just saw a video from EV block in my subscription about a tear down, then you got Big Clive who does tear downs. Julian Eyelet, I think he's called, he does tear downs. I once did a tear down, I would say. It was about my old smartphone, but it wasn't just the tear down. The premise of the video was can you reuse something in a smartphone? Because I got an old one. I think it was a Galaxy S7 or S6. Was sitting around three years and I was like, "Okay. It sucks that it just sits around. Maybe I can tear it down, find some component that I can use in projects." I thought that would be a very interest thing with your topic.

Many viewers actually watched it, find it enjoyable, but the end result was that you cannot reuse lots of the components. Yeah, it doesn't make sense for the most part. Tear downs, I think, just solely tear downs, I don't think it's that much fun actually. With my videos, I always try to do something new, unique, something practical, and tear downs just don't fit for me. Maybe-

Zach Peterson:
That's fair. I think it gets a little product focused too. The people who are going to watch are just people who are looking to buy something.

GreatScott
Well, yeah. Sort of. I would think it's a mixture of maybe people who want to buy and more of those hardcore electronics nerds who are more like, "Okay, I want to see how this is developed," because that's the big attraction point for me actually. When I see a big live tear down, I'm like, "Okay, how does this work? I click on it," and he tears it down with a schematic usually. So I don't want to say that there is lots of knowledge involved and you get a lot out of it. So big respect to those, but for me at the moment, it's just not my style. But who knows? Years ago my style was also different from the videos I do now, so maybe in five years I do tear downs. I don't know.

Zach Peterson:
Well, if people start leaving a lot of comments for tear downs, I guess you're going to have to, right?

GreatScott
Yeah, I am. I often try to take view of feedback. I actually read all the comments underneath my videos and I have a long to-do list with things people shout out and I think, "Okay, that's a good idea," but I still try to do the things I love to do and I want to do, because when you put so many hours into this video production stuff, you need to have fun, otherwise you will stop pretty quickly, I would say.

Zach Peterson:
Sure, sure. Makes total sense. Yeah. Interacting with people is fun too, especially on videos. I mean, do you get a decent amount of ... I guess you could say criticism. Should have done something differently, maybe with testing schematics?

GreatScott
Okay. With testing schematics, the criticism was pretty low, but when I do mistakes, people will let me know instantly.

Zach Peterson:
Well, engineers make mistakes. It happens.

GreatScott
Definitely. But when there's a big mistake, I think I did those in videos before. I did a video about an AC soft starter where I basically want to soft start a motor and I actually started it at the wrong point of the sign wave. My thought process was that I should start it at the zero point, but that was completely not true. Not sure how I ended up with this information. Looking back, maybe there was, once again, limited time budget, maybe wrong websites were shown to me, maybe I was in a bubble. I have no idea. It just slipped through and right to the end of the video when I published it, and just in the comment section, people started saying, "Hey, this is not correct. This is not how it works."

In the end, I have no idea why my soft starter worked for me because it actually did. It didn't trip my fuse in the end, but it was not the correct way. So when this happens, I always try to leave a comment, a pinned comment in the top, so that new viewers who will try something like this, or just want to get knowledge, will know right from the start, "Okay. He did a mistake." So yeah, I get criticism quite a bit, but that's just how it is, I think. I can work with that. It's not like I feel offended or anything. I'm like, "Yeah. I make mistake." I think everyone makes mistakes and I always improve through the criticism.

Zach Peterson:
Yeah. That's all you can really do, right? So we're running a little low on time here. But one thing I wanted to ask before we go is what do you have planned in the future?

GreatScott
In the future? Let's divide that maybe in the near future and the distant future. So for the distant future, I want to continue making videos like it is right now and I hope that is possible. I also said it at the end of 2021, I did a small video in which I said that a couple more things will change for me because so far I've been doing videos in my apartment, basically four or five years. I'm actually currently in the process ... Well, I'm not building the house. I have a company who does that, but I will be moving into a house hopefully next year.

Zach Peterson:
Congratulations.

GreatScott
Thank you very much. It was definitely a long, hard way. There I, of course, got way more opportunities. I already got a welding machine. I want to learn welding and also give tips for beginners, maybe calling it Idiots Tries To Weld or something. Of course, with that, I get way more tools. I can do so much more with [inaudible 00:43:50], hydraulic. I have lots of stuff planned out. So for the future, there will definitely be a wider assortment of projects and topics, but of course, over electronics.

In the near future, I actually just finished a video which took quite a bit. For that, I actually created two circuit boards. So the first one, special about it, it's not completely populated. This was just a test because it's an aluminum printed circuit board, actually. First time I did that, basically four high power LEDs I got on the front, they can do up to 700 milli amps I think, so they can get quite hot. Only problem with that circuit board is I think hot air soldering is not so recommended for aluminum PCBs. What is your opinion on that? What would you recommend?

Zach Peterson:
That's a good question. So the aluminum PCBs that I've done are actually metal core, so it's not fully metallized up on the outer edges, or on the outer surfaces, I should say. So it's just single layer dielectrics on metal core, or two layers on metal core. I had a different impression when I first went into that type of design and what I learned after talking to someone at a commercial space company about those types of designs is they actually said that the yield is notoriously low on those designs and they don't tell you about it. They'll build 10 to get one or two out that actually work correctly.

GreatScott
Oh.

Zach Peterson:
Yeah. I had no idea. That was my reaction too. Like, "Really?" [inaudible 00:45:40] so low. But that's what they have to do because of the manufacturing process, especially when they have to go to multilayer. Then with assembly, I was told that if they aren't good at doing reflow, then you can have assembly defects, so cold joints or tombstoning. Because it's very difficult to keep the heat even across the entire board and get it all up to the right temperature. So those are my thoughts on aluminum boards, but that's actually pretty interesting you say you're going to do it by hand. So I'd actually be interested to see that

GreatScott
I did a fully populated [inaudible 00:46:22] with hot air soldering that did work for half an hour, I think, but then suddenly row started to not blow up anymore. The problem is, like you said, cold solder joints. I was able to just use a bit of force and then push the LEDs off and I was like, "Okay, that didn't reflow properly." So one of the things I'm currently working on is instead of such hot air soldering, which you do from the top, I'm actually working on a hot plate solution. So I want to see how well that works, because that way I think it just makes more sense when you heat it up completely from the back, you got the aluminum, everything hot, then it has to reflow properly. That is at least my thought process on that.

Zach Peterson:
Yeah, I would think with an aluminum board, it would be much easier to implement that kind of solution compared to if you had just a typical FR4 board. Because then you have to transfer with an FR4 board and you don't have a lot of copper on the outside. You'd have to ensure that the heat transfers evenly between the entire PCB and it's going to really depend heavily on the distribution of copper.

GreatScott
Yeah. So I would see how it turns out. Future videos, if you're interested.

Zach Peterson:
Yeah, definitely.

GreatScott
The other thing basically goes hand in hand. This is just the driver port for the LEDs. So it's simple stuff I would say. Arduino, my controller, my favorite, I know how it works, I know how to control the timers and that's really all I need. So basically using 60 kilohertz to drive four LED channels, and then we got ... Well, LED channels here, we got pretty interesting ... how do I say it? Power electronic circuits. I would say. It's like small switch mode power supplies, which basically take 4.5 to 60 volts and turn it into a constant current of 300 to 450 milli amps, and you can pulse it as well with the frequency I just said, and yeah, that's just the driver port. So these two will go hand in hand and viewers can watch it, hopefully, on February the 20th, it should come out.

Zach Peterson:
Okay, great. Okay, great. So anyone who's interested in watching that, go into the show notes, click on the link to the GreatScott YouTube channel, click subscribe, and you'll be able to see all of those videos. GreatScott, that's who's here talking with us today. Thank you so much. This has been a really interesting discussion and I hope the audience goes and subscribes to you on YouTube and watches some of your great videos. Thank you so much.

GreatScott
Thank you for having me.

Zach Peterson:
Absolutely, and to everyone out there watching today, don't stop learning, stay on track and stay tuned for the next episode.

About Author

About Author

Zachariah Peterson has an extensive technical background in academia and industry. He currently provides research, design, and marketing services to companies in the electronics industry. Prior to working in the PCB industry, he taught at Portland State University and conducted research on random laser theory, materials, and stability. His background in scientific research spans topics in nanoparticle lasers, electronic and optoelectronic semiconductor devices, environmental sensors, and stochastics. His work has been published in over a dozen peer-reviewed journals and conference proceedings, and he has written 1000+ technical blogs on PCB design for a number of companies. He is a member of IEEE Photonics Society, IEEE Electronics Packaging Society, American Physical Society, and the Printed Circuit Engineering Association (PCEA), and he previously served on the INCITS Quantum Computing Technical Advisory Committee.

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