We all have seen the many types of Halls of Fame out there, from sports to rock 'n' roll, but how about a different type of recognition. How about a special group for all the hard-working engineers out there? This is the group for whom, regardless of how good you are or what you've previously designed or accomplished, you still had that one moment where you blew up your board or your test equipment or shocked yourself. It's for these moments and for these engineers that I want to create the Wall of Flame.
I'll nominate myself first and explain why I should be in with a few stories of my own. Then I will turn it over to the rest of the world. I like to call this my Top 3 dumb electronic moments of all time.
Moment number three was the time I was doing some high temperature and humidity testing. I was called into the lab to check and make sure the board was still working after the first phase of the testing. I was anxious to make sure this board was still functioning. So anxious that I forgot to unplug the circuit.
As I rested by right hand on the large metal cabinet of the temp tester, I picked up the board with my left hand. I touched a couple of the solder pads with line voltage on them. I felt the current shooting through me into the metal cabinet. After pulling my hand away from the tester, I casually laid the board down, looked around to make sure no one had seen me make a fool of myself and walked away. Oh yeah, and like me, that board lived to work another day.
Moment number two was the day I was sitting in the lab testing my motor control designs and doing some motor testing. One of the tests was to operate the motor at various voltages. Our test required us to operate a 120V fan motor at 170V for a short duration. The intent was to make sure that the motor did not fail.
It was just one of those days. I dropped my pen on the floor and it rolled about five feet away. As I stood up walked over to pick it up, I accidentally hit and turned the voltage knob up to about 290V. Let me tell you, it doesn't take much time at all to see small copper commutator bars flying out of a motor at probably 200 miles per hour at that amount of over-voltage. That's when you stop, drop, roll, and pull the plug.
Finally, the worse moment of all time at number one. It was the week we were scrambling with everyone in panic mode trying to get a full working prototype ready for the very important customer meeting that was going to happen at the end of the week. I was hand building and wiring all the boards and the appliance. It took me about four hours to build the main processor board.
It was about 10 p.m. I was tired, hungry, and all alone in the lab. I had just finished soldering that last piece of 30AWG jumper wire onto the board. I hooked up all the boards, took out the meter and checked some voltages, and everything was working perfectly. I noticed one of the 50 wires I had previously soldered onto the board was barely hanging by a solder whisker. I laid the board down, switched on the soldering iron, and went in to make a better connection.
It seemed like everything turned into slow motion as I went in and touched the nice shiny soldering iron tip to the solder pads on my four-hour creation and realized that I not unplugged the circuit. I heard what sounded like a shotgun being fired next to me and watched a flame blow a two-inch circle right in the center of my board. You never want this to happen late at night when the customer meeting is the next morning and everything has to be perfect.
I think these experiences make me a good candidate for the Wall of Flame. Let me know what crazy moments you may have had that would make you worthy for induction into this great group.