Microchip’s recently launched ICwiki site, developed to both enhance and expand the community of embedded designers, has equal potential to expand the overlapping community of power designers. The site already features user-created categories relating to power electronics, such as motor control, voltage regulators, power supplies, and even 3-V systems, and this content was created by users of the site.
This reflects the potential of the site to connect power designers with experts in other disciplines in electronics. The site also has the potential to aid in training the next generation of power designers through independent learning or extended online communities, both as a compliment and supplement to academic instruction. Many universities are aware of ICwiki, and it is hoped by Microchip that power-electronics programs will take advantage of this collaboration space.
Carol Popovich, manager of Microchip’s Academic Program, states that Microchip worked with many universities in developing ICwiki, and select Microchip Academic Partners were involved in its beta testing. Additionally, e-mails have been sent to many other North American Microchip Academic Partners to generate awareness and interest.
In that regard, the site is a tool for educators as well as students. Popovich says, “We expect to continue to promote ICwiki worldwide to Microchip’s Academic Partners, as it is an excellent forum for educators to share best teaching practices, curriculum information and research ideas, and it enables students to collaborate in a team environment to work through their learning process. We also hope to encourage high-school students to become involved in designing with Microchip. ICwiki is aimed at the next generation of design engineers.”
One of the ways power-electronics educators can take advantage of capabilities presented by this website is the creation of design contests targeting parameters such as efficiency or power density. Popovich states that the many features of ICwiki offer an excellent communications tool to present power-electronics or other design contests for academia, though none are currently planned.
Nanci Mahar, Senior Business Analyst of the Internet Development Group, states that each topic or category at ICwiki is determined by the contributing users of the site, and new topics and categories are added frequently. ICwiki is flexible enough to enable users to easily add pages, and content can be changed on the fly. There is also an RSS subscription service, and once a user adds the RSS to their reader, it will notify them of new content related to a topic of interest (such as “power supply”, for example).
Of course, one of the central aspects to developing power applications such as switching regulators and motor controllers is the functionality driven by firmware. However, due to security concerns, most wikis, including ICwiki, allow only images to be uploaded to their servers. Because of this, firmware or software code would not be available in a separate, downloadable file. Therefore, to exchange ideas specific to firmware, users can cut and paste code snippets from the ICwiki pages or post code in text form, Mahar states.
It is not necessary to register on the site to obtain information. However, to become a contributor, registration is required, and this can be accomplished by first visiting the registration page to create an account. Once an account has been created, it is necessary to activate it using the confirmation email sent to the email address provided by the user. If the confirmation e-mail is not received, users may request another copy through a link on the login page.
Prior to the creation of this site, engineers from Microchip have contributed excellent articles to Power Electronics Technology relating to the topics of power supply design, battery charging, and thermal management. These articles and others will be available to the users of the ICwiki web site. Also, Mark Valentine, technical editor for Power Electronics Technology, has registered on the site as ICkiwi001, and plans to share a circuit that can be used for directly driving pulse-power loads (such as motors or incandescent lamps) from extremely low-current sources (such as the output pins of a microcontroller).