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Ruinous Remote Sidelines Stair Lift

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Rob Spiegel
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Shouldn't remotes be easy?
Rob Spiegel   7/11/2013 8:42:56 AM
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Seems odd that a company would make a remote with a difficult-to-change battery holder in the remote. It's not as though this is new technology.

GTOlover
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Re: Shouldn't remotes be easy?
GTOlover   7/11/2013 11:19:47 AM
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Even the 9 V leads that the author suggested are sometimes difficult to replace. I suspect that the designer thought that this design is easier to change the battery than the lead style. However, the plastic remote case may have been manufactured on the small side. Instead of reworking the tooling, the company of the remote felt it works even better to ensure battery contact. Overlooking the battery replacement ergonomics.

Or this is another way to bilk money from the owner by getting service contracts or service calls!

Tool_maker
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Re: Shouldn't remotes be easy?
Tool_maker   7/11/2013 4:48:23 PM
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@GTOlover: Knowing that these devices will be used by the elderly or immobile people, I think your suggestion of a service call is right on. I do believe if I had been faced with the same situation I would have broken off the piece of plastic that hampered access to the battery and resorted to good old duct tape to close the hole. I do not have your patience.

  By the way I also loved GTO's, even though I never owned one. When you really put your foot in it, the sound of the three deuces sucking air was really cool.

Charles Murray
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Re: Shouldn't remotes be easy?
Charles Murray   7/11/2013 6:33:09 PM
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I agree about the air induction sound of a GTO, Tool_maker. I've mentioned this previously, but if you watch the clip from the movie, Bullitt, the Mustang has a similar air induction sound. It's the best part of the clip.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-Lbs_nYW3-o

Jim_E
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Re: Good sounding Pontiacs
Jim_E   7/12/2013 8:57:25 AM
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Pontiac also carried the good induction sound into the 70s and 80s with their Trans-Ams that were equipped with the shaker hood scoops.  Any decent owner knew to open up the back of the shaker scoop, to enjoy the goodness of the induction sounds that came from within.  Only a four barrel, instead of triple-dueces, but still good sounding.

I'm still angry with GM for killing my favorite brand.  I was just about ready to buy a new G8 GT, but never got the chance.  I still may pick one up used.

Keldawwg
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Re: Good sounding Pontiacs
Keldawwg   9/6/2013 3:42:40 PM
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You do know that the G8 was not built by Pontiac... It was built by Holden, GM's Australian subsidiary...

My first car was a 1968 Dodge Charger RT, with a 440 Magnum... My best friend had a GTX with the 440 Tri-Power, and he could never get the carbs working right. I got his Tri-Power setup by taking my Holley 4 barrel double pumper off my Dodge and putting it in his car...

I got the carbs working perfectly... 1200 CFM worth of carbs, really pulled hard from 60 to 120 mph... It made a really cool sound, too... The downside was the gas gauge would drop nearly as fast as the speedometer went up... Gas had just gone over $1 a gallon...

Jim_E
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Re: Good sounding Pontiacs
Jim_E   9/6/2013 3:55:00 PM
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Yes Keldawwg, I'm aware that Holden made the G8 as well as the new GTO.  I believe that they are also making the new Chevy SS, but that's a bit expensive for me, and I really liked the Pontiac brand.

When I was in high school, my friends had some big Mopars and they were impressive.  My friend's 68 Super Bee (440, 4-speed) could lift the right front wheel off of the ground with three of us in the car!  It had a stoudt motor built before he got it, including a solid cam. 

I still want to buy a G8.

Charles Murray
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Re: Shouldn't remotes be easy?
Charles Murray   7/11/2013 5:35:54 PM
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I hate to be cynical, but I too suspect that this may be a way of encouraging service calls.

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: Shouldn't remotes be easy?
Ann R. Thryft   7/11/2013 6:49:43 PM
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I'm cynical, too, about service calls but I also think Rob has a good point. How tough is it to design something this simple that's been around this long?



Rob Spiegel
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Re: Shouldn't remotes be easy?
Rob Spiegel   7/11/2013 8:49:02 PM
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I'm almost that cynical, Chuck. But when I see something that makes me super cynical, I do a reality check and remember that stupidity is probably the greater possibility.

fauxscot
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Re: Shouldn't remotes be easy?
fauxscot   7/12/2013 9:28:28 AM
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A mistake isn't necessarily stupidity.  There are 1000 elements in this elevator design and that one implementation isn't grounds for labeling something stupid. It's a human transport mechanism with fail-safes, basic engineering problems, rate and position controls, a wide tolerance of loads ranging from zero to fat passenger, predictable performance when the power  goes off mid-lift, 1000 connector choices, PCB layout, software design/coding/debug/revision control, materials, mechanical engineering issues (like gear ratios, drive coupling, motor sizing/type), packaging, documentation, CAD, bills of materials, sourcing, tooling for custom parts, manufacturing.  That's all before the marketing, sales, installation, and other types of support.

Stupid, in the face of all that reality, seems a harsh description.  (I'm sure you didn't mean anything horribly negative, sir, and I apologize if it sounds like I am criticizing you.  Odds are you are a vastly better engineer than I!)  

I'm just ranting about a sore point for me and my fellows who have spent careers dodging bullets from all directions!

deejayh
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Silver
Re: Shouldn't remotes be easy?
deejayh   7/12/2013 9:39:57 AM
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I can appreciate the design considerations that are worked into this type of equipment.  Considering that it can directly impact human life and limb.  Try working on designs that fly men and women into space, it's not an easy feat.  Yet the end user (an astronaut) is always consulted for review and recommentations.  As an Engineer it's often easy to mis a single tree for the forest blocking your view.

Rob Spiegel
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Re: Shouldn't remotes be easy?
Rob Spiegel   7/12/2013 10:36:22 AM
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Point well taken on "stupidity" Fauxscot. My point was really to stress that I didn't think the design was intentionally difficult in order to foster service calls. So, in an awkward way, I was defending the engineer. Kind of a backhanded compliment.

Tool_maker
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Re: Shouldn't remotes be easy?
Tool_maker   7/15/2013 6:47:35 AM
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Rob: I think your description fits perfectly. When someone designs a vital part of the final assembly, which in this case is a remote, as to be unusable for the intended user, elderly or infirmed people; that not only is thoughtless, it is stupid.

  It is time to remove the political correctness of critique and call a spade a spade. The design of the remote was stupid. I have designed tools that did not function as intended because I had skipped a step or ignored a previously learned principle or just plain made a mistake. While it stung to hear the words, in the end I had to admit, "That was stupid." Hopefully, I never repeated the error.

  As one of my first foreman told me while I was busy defending what he called a, "stupid mistake." "Are you telling me there are such things as `Smart Mistakes'?

JimT@Future-Product-Innovations
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Re: Shouldn't remotes be easy?
JimT@Future-Product-Innovations   7/15/2013 4:47:46 PM
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Rob- I would bet money on your guess.  Often, I've seen stupidity in designs from a simple lack of ergonomic forethought; which later was embraced by marketing as models for post-sale recurring revenue.  Started as stupid; grew into manipulative.  All the wrong adjectives, is you ask me.

Rob Spiegel
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Re: Shouldn't remotes be easy?
Rob Spiegel   7/19/2013 5:55:12 PM
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Now that's funny, Tool_maker. If there is such a thing as a smart mistake, I've made a ton of them. In reality, my mistakes have been out of ignorance (fair enough for trying) and stupidity -- repeating a mistake when I should know better.

JimT@Future-Product-Innovations
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Re: Shouldn't remotes be easy?
JimT@Future-Product-Innovations   7/15/2013 4:46:46 PM
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Fauxscot- I agree.  It takes 1,000 elements and 5,000 variables to ship a new product, all while balancing inputs from all departments.   Been there, still there.  But there are some silly oversights. 

loadster
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Re: Shouldn't remotes be easy?
loadster   7/16/2013 2:02:29 PM
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I have another vision of the scenario of a poor remote design. Not stupid, not a mistake. But lawyerly. You have a high liability item like a stair lift for the gravity challenged. Ask any lawyer what way can a lift manufacturer shed some of that liability. Be able to divest the responsibility to a sub-contractor who is short-term, low-overhead and ahallow pockets. The controls guys. If there's any way to redirect culpability, they are the scapegoats. So if the fail-safe brakes on the unit don't safely fail, sue the remote guys. So they farmed it out. And the requirements were lax so they got  a good price. My advice, go find yourself some lithium 10 year nine volt batteries they make for smoke alarms. Then they won't leak, bulge or need replacement soon. And as long as the remote isn't high-drain, you won't have to fuss with that little ribbon or a specialty pry bar to release those batteries routinely. But now I"m liable with the recommendation if those batteries fail and leave somebody in the lurch upstairs. BTW, there are pages written about the acoustic recordings they did for Bullitt and the fastback mustang and charger race thru San Francisco. Tough duty on those undercarriages, that. I was always partial to the race up Manhattan and out the Palisade Parkway in the Seven-ups. Those were the days of my yute.

Larry M
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Re: Shouldn't remotes be easy?
Larry M   7/24/2013 3:08:11 PM
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Loadster wrote "Be able to divest the responsibility to a sub-contractor who is short-term, low-overhead and ahallow pockets."

A subcontractor probably did this design, but not for the reason you suppose. Most companies subcontract design and procurement of remotes to two or three companies in Taiwan who specialize in this field. It's especially true for companies whose expertise lies elsewhere, e.g., stair lift copanies with expertise in structure and motive power.

These compaines will design a remote with as little a spec as number of buttons and labelling therof. If that's all you provide, they will use an existing design that requires the least modification, to provide the lowerst bid. If the stair lift buyer didn't specify usability or accessibility, he won't get any.

OLD_CURMUDGEON
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Re: Shouldn't remotes be easy?
OLD_CURMUDGEON   7/12/2013 10:35:00 AM
This IS so boring discussing lousy engineering of high-priced items.  Let's talk about GTOs & their siblings.  That's MORE fun, and brings back a ton of memories.

#1)  Had a friend who bought his wife a 1965 TEMPEST convertible w/ OHC-6.  It WAS a neat car.  Bright yellow w/ black rag top & black interior.  Was stolen.....

#2)  Had a friend who bought a 1967 ragtop GTO used in 1968.  Dark Blue w/ white interior.  Even though it had the "400" engine w/ 4-speed tranny, it wasn't very good, so we pulled it, and replaced it w/ a slightly overbore 427 Chevy motor, done up right!  That fellow still has this vehicle to this day.....  It's a show car only!

#3)  Had a friend who bought a brand-spankin' new JUDGE in 1970.  Ran it for about a year, then "reworked" the motor.  Was neat vehicle, but unfortunately, it (the JUDGE!) got killed in a lame traffic accident that could also have happened to a 6-cylinder FALCON.  It wasn't the friend's fault, but his JUDGE paid the ultimate price.

ADIOS!

p.s.  Always enjoyed working on race cars in my younger days, but was never a GM fan, even though I did my share of work on them.  Preferred FoMoCo & CHRYSLER....

 

deejayh
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Silver
Re: Shouldn't remotes be easy?
deejayh   7/12/2013 11:02:28 AM
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Why do you insist on posting about the venerable GTO on "Made By Monkeys"?  My '68 was purchased used in '76. A 400 c.i., 4 speed, 411 rear end.  The only design error with the vehicle was that the speedometer didn't cover the vehicles true maximum speed.  But had I ever gotten pulled over in rural Oklahoma and was asked if I knew how fast I was going I could honestly reply "no officer".

OLD_CURMUDGEON
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Re: Shouldn't remotes be easy?
OLD_CURMUDGEON   7/12/2013 12:42:05 PM
deejayh:  I think you should re-read my comment.  It was a tongue-in-cheek response to the main topic, and was based on the fact that there's another fellow, GTOLOVER, who responds quite frequently in these DESIGN NEWS blogs.

Maybe a little lightheartedness is appropriate in many instances.

ADIOS!

GTOlover
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Re: Shouldn't remotes be easy?
GTOlover   7/13/2013 12:40:18 PM
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Amen to that! I had a 1970 Judge with a 140 mph speedometer! Even with a front air dam and rear wing (which I think neither of them worked functionally) the car got very light at those speeds. So I rarely tried that. By the way I got the tongue in cheek thing! Have a good week.

bobjengr
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Re: Shouldn't remotes be easy?
bobjengr   7/13/2013 12:26:31 PM
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RIGHT ON GTOLOVER.  My wife and I are caregivers for our 90+ year old parents. Their ability with mechanical and electrical devices is very limited at best.   It amazes  me as to how many devices designed for elderly people seeming are never tested for the end users.   I won't even mention trying to decifer the uses and care instructions.  It's about time designers realize the "audience"  their devices are supposed to help.  Good post.

Battar
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Re: Shouldn't remotes be easy?
Battar   7/16/2013 5:12:20 AM
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Bob,

        You missed the point. You, the caregiver, are the audience. You are the one who is expected to read the instructions and replace the battery. If you read the instructions carefully you will probably find that they include a line saying "this device should not be used by children or by people with diminished abilities without supervision" or something like that. It's required by law in the EU.

bobjengr
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Re: Shouldn't remotes be easy?
bobjengr   7/19/2013 10:54:59 AM
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Hello Battar.    What I failed to state-- I am 71, a graduate engineer, registered in the state of Tennessee and even though being the caregiver, I even have problems with various mechanisms AND sometimes the instructions detailing how these devices work or should work.  (Maybe I need a caregiver myself.). My point was, every engineer should have the luxury of time to "try out" the device with end users prior to product launch.  For consumer products, you have how the product was designed to be used and then you have those "off- the-wall" circumstances brought about (in this case) by an aging population.   Also--this is NOT the EU.  Just a thought.  

fauxscot
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Re: Shouldn't remotes be easy?
fauxscot   7/12/2013 9:18:48 AM
Two things....

First, I am sorry if this comment shows up in a thread as a reply to another comment. My intent was to leave one standalone comment, but the PAGE IS BROKEN!  Clicking 'comment' leads one to the COMMENTS section, with no ability to post a comment. To get here, I had to REPLY to some other gent's comment.

In a venue that wallows in criticism of other peoples' mistakes, having a comment posting link broken is a nice irony!  (I use firefox and Safari on a win7 box, and I am pretty sure it's not the browser, but if it is browser-specific, that alone is egg-on-face territory.)    

The larger issue, of course, is not this specific design failing, but the environment that breeds design shortcomings.  There is a tradeoff of time to market and product features.  The things that might short circuit a bad system element like this remote battery are things that are expensive to implement.  Product specifications (pre-design), implementation specifications, software specs, etc.    Design reviews, the most hated part of product design are essential but are useless if there aren't product criteria against which to judge the thing.  These types of things are hallmarks of large organizations,  and even then, are no guarantee of covering all the bases.  If they were, the word "recall" would not feature so often in discussions about top notch product design firms like Toyota and GM.  

It's easy to be smug about a battery connector.  Criticism is a much more common hobby than good design.  Anyone who has spent any time designing anything knows how hard perfection is to achieve, how easily career-limiting criticism is distributed, and has a list a mile long of personal failures in design and judgement.  Small companies in particular do not usually have the enormous resources available to tolerate multi-year design efforts and the large support groups with specialties like quality, IE, incoming inspection, reliability engineering, maintenance engineering, manufacturing engineering, procurement and one or two engineers have to cover all the design and much of the build load.  

I hate bad features as much as anyone.  I have a lab full of failures stretching back 20+ years and memories that go well beyond that.  I can pick up almost any product in my house and criticize it, and I do that extremely well.  I wonder, however, how we can help the small guy dodge these bullets without just complaining about a feature shortcoming?  What about some organizational advice on how to spread the single slab of engineering butter over 10 loaves of engineering bread?   

I'm lucky.  My career included some big firms (video games to rockets to hydaulic presses to remote vehicles to dairy equipment ) with some big names and I am eclectic as hell for a poorly educated engineer, but some BSET with 5 years of industry experience isn't going to catch that batter connector problem.  Gray hair will, but a MSEE from MIT alone won't.  

 

Ideas, gents?  Not specifics, but generalities.  How to achieve perfection on a budget?

Charles Murray
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Re: Shouldn't remotes be easy?
Charles Murray   7/12/2013 6:21:48 PM
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I have been appropriately reprimanded, fauxscot. I was being too cylincal. By the way, I think your malfunctioning comment button was the result of a conspiracy.

fauxscot
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Re: Shouldn't remotes be easy?
fauxscot   7/12/2013 6:49:47 PM
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Charles, no reprimand intended.  To be honest, I am usually a firebrand on the web,  but i try to be as civil as possible in this forum.  It's populated by fellow travelers who 'get' this stuff and I do appreciate it.  I've been on both sides, as I am sure everyone here has at one time or another.


Nonetheless, I still wonder...  the vast majority of firms making stuff are little outfits.  How can the little guy avoid these oversights without a staff of dozens?  A routine of coming here and reading observations would sure help, but I wonder if there isn't a need for some discipline-specific "Top Ten Rules of (pick one) ___Quality  ____ User Interface ____ Safety ____ Reliability ____ Maintainability ____Human Factors ____  Materials , etc.?

The experience and expertise here is substantial.   The observations are spot -on and keen.  Seems a shame to frame them in critical terms instead of guidelines.


Just mullin.... 

 

Tom-R
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Monkeys in the monkeys
Tom-R   7/12/2013 10:32:41 AM
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Interesting perspective fauxscot. I suspect your browser may be the problem for you posting. It is working for me and all I'm using is my phone. On the original topic I would suspect last minute chamges, after any prototyping was already completed, to be the problem. Whenever I got bit it was a last minute item that wasn't considered significant enough to fully test again, or it was something from a supplier (like a remote manufacturer perhaps) that didn't match what we had actually tested before a launch. Experience is just learning what can bite, and how to prevent it. But I will stick up for young grads. With the changes in technology today they've helped us find problems through analysis that wasn't even available until a few years ago. I learned from a wise co-worker to know the difference between 30 years experience, and 30 years of 5 years experience.

DoesTheBoxExist
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Iron
Service
DoesTheBoxExist   7/12/2013 10:59:00 AM
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I am guessing that the chair is similar to any remote operated appliance in the home (or workplace). The most frequently user serviced item is the battery. A design that includes a difficult to replace battery in a non-rechargeable remote is poorly engineered.

OldSkoolSyntax
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Iron
9V battery conections.
OldSkoolSyntax   7/12/2013 1:47:45 PM
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It's been a couple of decades but designing 9V battery holders used to be a compensated activity. I know of no engineer designer whose intention is to create service work. Save it with the other conspiracy theories. There are proven tested hardware pieces for 9V contacts available off the shelf that are used for all the usual reasons such as inexpensive, near zero lead time, functional, compatible with manufacturing processes, meet dfm requirements etc. The most common of these is the ubiquitous "vinyl covered two wire battery snap". My guess is that the designer was given a budget, a timeline and some design requirements that did not include "make the remote power source easily replaceable by an arthritic, left handed, very nearsighted octogenerian using candlelight without any tools." It's even possible that the remote itself was selected as an off the shelf unit that could be easily adapted to this use. That doesn't excuse consideration of the end user in completion of a functional design. Although I have seen tamper resistance in such specifications. It may well be that the assumption of a more adept caregiver being involved entered in. The recent focus on human factors in design is a positive move in the right direction, particularly as it impacts the elderly and other underserved populations. The design seems shortsighted - can we leave it at that?           

kenish
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Platinum
Battery swelling
kenish   7/12/2013 2:38:37 PM
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It's possible that the battery cavity was designed for standard, nominal battery dimensions and didn't account for the battery swelling as it discharged.  A battery can drop right in the cavity when new and become securely jammed as it discharges.

In a past life I was involved with a product that included a 9V battery cavity.  One high-end manufacturer that you see on retail shelves makes their batteries right at the high-end of the dimensional range to increase internal volume (and thus performance).  At least they provided a design guide and it warned us to account for the swelling.

deejayh
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Silver
Re: Battery swelling and thanks
deejayh   7/12/2013 2:53:21 PM
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The design had enough room for swelling as evidenced by the new replacement battery having the same tight fit.  The issue was exacerbated by the additional area needed to get past the battery snap "height".  This was not one of the newer style inexpensive batterty compartments that uses two smooth concave surfaces as the connection point.

My apologies to Old Curmudgeon.  Lightheartedness is always appreciated.  But I'd love to have an old Gas, Tires, and Oil in my driveway any day.

BTW, OldSkoolSyntax, my mother is a lefty.  Thank you everyone for the extra amusement on a Friday.

kenish
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Re: Battery swelling and thanks
kenish   7/12/2013 2:58:02 PM
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Agree it sounds like the compartment was designed too small.  FYI, the battery manufacturer I commented on uses "copper" in their marketing and advertising.  Good performing batteries but right at the max standard dimensions.

William K.
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Re: Battery swelling
William K.   7/14/2013 10:08:02 PM
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It is far more likely that the battery compartment was never designed at all, but simply detailed based on some battery size specification, and the process of battery replacement was never ever even considered. That happens a lot in the much smaller companies where there may be one engineer and a high-school student drafter/detailer. The kidsnare good at the cad program but with zero real world experience they do overlook things. Probably that situation will never change, since small organizations mostly think small. And, of course, nobody else had the time to check it. Things happen that way. It looked good, all of the seams fit, and so it gets produced.

oldtimer8080
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Gold
A critic knows the price of everything and the value of nothing
oldtimer8080   7/13/2013 1:10:45 AM
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I don't remember who wrote this comment, but it fits in product engineering at many levels...

Final Q/A USED to be there to weed out problems like this one; nowadays, many businesses ( like M$ ), let the customer do the final Q/A. I've done both, Product Engineering and Final Q/A and have felt pressure from upper management to get a product with known faults out the door and into a customers hands.

That was one of the reasons I would not go into the management ladder; I valued my ethics over the job.

 That is also why many companies design in the cost of a service call to generate more profit.

This is not unique to any type of industry, they all have done it. Doing it on the backs of the disabled ( I am disabled too ) stoops to a new low in the quest for profit....

dbell5
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Platinum
A less ubiquitous 9V connector
dbell5   7/30/2013 4:46:23 PM
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There's been a lot of discussion on the battery connector options, but if this one came up, I must have missed it:

I'm partial to a snug fitting battery compartment with NON-snap terminals.

Flat spring contacts, constrained in one wide and one narrow "box" make for a reliable connection, no difficult snaps, no hanging (and usually very fragile) wires, and no way to insert the battery reversed in polarity. The only remaining user issue is getting the old battery out, and that has been solved for decades, with a nylon ribbon that lies under the battery...

 

deejayh
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Silver
Re: A less ubiquitous 9V connector
deejayh   8/2/2013 12:20:00 PM
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I thought that my original write up was clear in stating that the battery had to be pushed toward the contacts to engage the battery snaps.  This remote did NOT have the spring type connections.

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