Seetrax XL Designer

XLD Fig 41

Fig 41 Frog complete with money slot – you can just see the infra-red reflective sensor in the mouth

The process we use with our GCSE students, that of ‘playing’ with off-the-shelf working subsystems (picXplorer) together with picXplorer chooser charts enables them to produce feasible block diagrams that address their chosen design brief without intervention by the teacher – an unfortunate requirement of exam specifications. This level of student autonomy is further enhanced by their access to working hardware for the development of their software (picExplorer). As opposed to the usual situation where they try to develop their control programmes on their own designed and made PCBs – where it can be difficult for them to identify whether problems are hardware or software based.

PCB design starts by copying the picXplorer layout in XLD and then following a well-defined process to generate the PCB layout. As the circuit details are a copy of the picXplorer circuits, their final PCBs are generally free of circuit design faults. This gives the majority of students access to working electronics without being dependent on a high level of technical understanding – again especially important for controlled assessment where the teacher cannot intervene. With such a productive CAD programme for PCB design, students focus on the physical aspects of their circuit boards paying attention to the location of switches and connectors and shape and size of their boards – where real design effort should be directed! Because XLD routes tracks very quickly and accurately students can generate a large number of PCB designs as they iterate towards their final solutions.

Transferring PCB designs to 3D packages such as pro|ENGINEER and Creo not only mirrors industrial practice, is also helps to ensure expensively 3D printed enclosures fit the designed electronics.

Paul Gardiner

Head of Electronics, Finham Park School, Coventry

Paul Spence

Technology Teacher, Finham Park School, Coventry

June 2011

Note: Seetrax offer a lite version of XL Designer free of charge. This has many features of the commercial version but limits the number of nodes that can be incorporated into the pcb designdesign – a limitation that is unlikely to be a problem for school use. The full version is also available to schools free of charge under a renewable time limited licence. If you plan to use XLD in school, it is recommended that you receive half a day’s training from Paul Gardiner in order to accelerate familiarity with the product. You can contact Paul by contacting the editors.

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