Thursday, November 5, 2009

Elektor Foundation Award - A woman's business

It didn't take Fatma Zeynep Köksal long to choose a career in electronics; but it was not an obvious choice. First of all she was one of the very few women following a technical study, and secondly she quickly came to the conclusion that Chemistry wasn't her thing. Eventually she discovered the world of electronics through a further educational course. It caught her interest and now, almost 40 years later, she has her own engineering company and still teaches.

Considering women and engineering don't go together too well even in Western Europe, how does it compare to Turkey? 'Our country does not exactly stimulate women to choose engineering', says Fatma Zeynep. However, she does see great potential in the allurement of the possibilities and job opportunities involved. At the same time we see an increase of companies focusing on engineering and electronics.

Fatma Zeynep is an example of how education, networking and fervour can fuel a life of studying and working. Shortly after graduating she was offered a job at the Nuclear Electronics Institute of Ankara, a position which made her a respected colleague, researcher and speaker both home and abroad. Additionally she has always been active in developing new products for education. Based on the Motorola 6800 she developed the first programming set, to be followed by many more. In 1998 she started her own company in the area of computers, electronics and assembly (BETI). Thanks to her own knowledge and that of her students she has always been able to choose the best of the best when it comes to hardware. BETI is still being approached for the special assembly of computer systems; 'on demand' in other words. She also still teaches at the university of Ankara.
Education, interest, network - three 'drives' which brought Fatma Zeynep Köksal into the male-populated world of electronics. And she occupies a special place.
Along with her company BETI, her lectureship at the Ankara University she has also started a company focused on Nuclear Electronics Measurement (Nemo) and we will certainly be hearing more of her. Her enthusiasm for electronics and the way she connects this with her students is definitely Worth an Award.


Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Elektor Award – Will this robot rescue the Flemish technical education?

Yes! according to the creator of the robot. Bart Huyskens has been busy developing a number of robots which can be used for educational purposes, and he's noticed a significant increase of interest amongst students because of it.
The amount of students has doubled in schools where robots are being used in technology lessons, and the classrooms are filling up again.

This is good news for the Flemish Ministry of Education. A few years ago they started putting up Regional Technical Centres where (with government funding) education and companies work together on new initiatives, which are meant to attract more students towards technical education. But its not only for students; teachers can get extra after-school schooling on new technologies.

Bart has his hands full developing the robots. With the help of sensors they can speak to students, follow a pattern across classrooms, play and dance to music all of which keeps the techno-hungry crowd pleased. Thanks to Technical Centre funding there are now 14 robots available for use to the students of St. Jozefinstituut in Schoten, and two more will start touring with the TechnoTrailer.

The students will be able to program the robots for different kinds of utilities. The robot itself runs on E-block technology and speaks Flowcode, but is fluent in Flemish as well.

Bart's enthusiasm has played a big part in the success of the robots. In the past couple of years he has developed the concept, managed to sell it and make a full-fledged product. More importantly: he has managed to interest new groups of students towards electronics, and that's certainly Worth an Award!

Bart Huyskens is hereby nominated for the Elektor Foundation Award 2009.
The granting of this international award will take place during Elektor Live! on the 21 of November in Eindhoven, Holland.

For more information:
- on the Technical Centres can be found at (NL and Flamish)
- on the Elektor Foundation Award:

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Radio to the Rescue

Emergency services (such as the police force and fire brigade) know the vital importance of good communication. In order to avoid chaos and unnecessary casualties, it is essential to know where help is needed and what kind of help is needed. This is often easier said than done, as can be seen only too clearly from the situation with the C2000 emergency services radio system in the Netherlands. It works well in theory, but in practice it’s a different story. Emergency aid in event of a major disaster often requires creativity and unusual actions.

In 1953, the North Sea broke through the dikes and submerged large portions of the southern Netherlands. Nothing was spared: people, animals, and buildings all fell victim to the merciless flood waters. A certain Mr Hossfeld was caught in the middle of this catastrophe. Taking his son with him, he plunged into the ice-cold water, and fortunately they managed to swim to a house where they could enter through an open window and climb onto the roof. The next day they were brought to safety. After they reached dry land, they found that the emergency services were desperately short of communication equipment. Everything had literally been swept away, and the town of Zierikzee was totally cut off.

Mr Hossfeld (now 83 years old) did what he could and must do: using a few radio valves (EL3, EL6 and 807) and some coils made by winding wire around a bottle, he put together a transmitter that could deliver 10 watts of power to a 15-metre longwire antenna. This was enough to make contact with the outside world (and in a manner of speaking, it was the spiritual ancestor of the C2000 system). For five days and nights, a team of four people constantly manned the PAoZRK transmitter to coordinate assistance activities for Zierikzee.

Radio amateurs such as Mr Hossfeld played a vital role in the initial hours and days of the 1953 floods. Many lives were saved as a result of their efforts.

Our objective with the Elektor Foundation Award is to pay tribute to events such as these: people who managed to make a difference with their knowledge and efforts. Mr Hossfeld is one of the candidates for this award.

More information on the Elektor Foundation Award can be found at

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Old Measurements Never Die

Maastricht is the second oldest city in the Netherlands. With its strategic location on the Maas River, it has experienced its fair share of wars and battles. Many millions of years ago, this region lay at the bottom of a tropical ocean; the fossils that can be found in many marl caves in the vicinity bear tangible witness to a distant past rich in water.

Maastricht nestles close to St Pietersberg. Although St Pietersberg is more of a hill than a real mountain, with a bit of imagination you can treat yourself to the thrills of acrophobia. At the top of the mountain, volunteers have set up a small exhibition on the mountain, marl quarrying, the equipment used for this purpose, and so on (bear with me while I get started with my story…) – and that’s where I saw this instrument.

It’s a hygrometer. Nothing special, you might say, but the measuring method is pleasantly interesting. The instrument has two thermometers: one dry and the other wet. The difference in their temperatures is a measure of the relative humidity, which you can read from a table. If only everything were this simple.

I was reminded of this instrument by our preparations for a weather station project, which have been underway for a while now, and our work on a new design for the CO2 meter published in the January 2008 issue. We plan to upgrade the original design with a temperature sensor and a humidity sensor. Naturally, we intend to use a ready-made humidity sensor for this, but the old instrument still has a certain charm, perhaps due to its simplicity or the self-evident operating principle. It seems like you learn something from this instrument. The operating principle is somewhat similar to that of a differential amplifier.

Who knows, maybe one of you will put together an electronic version? Or am I simply making things unnecessarily complicated again?

Wisse Hettinga

Friday, October 2, 2009

Worth an Award

It happened during an exhibition in Germany; the Indian man looked at the Elektor stand and stood in the aisle as if struck — he walked onto the stand and hugged the Elektor Editor in Chief!

Now, it is not customary (or indeed our expectation) that visitors to Elektor booths at exhibitions hug the staff members, but this man had a reason. He told a story that anyone from India could have told you; growing up there is not easy, the options for study and education are limited. But he started to read Elektor – became fascinated with electronics, studied electronics, started his own business and was now a successful business man. And all that because of Elektor! That was worth a big hug; thank you, thank you!

That particular visitor is by no means the only person expressing his feelings in relation to Elektor. We receive letters, visits and emails from people from all over the world who feel a close connection with the magazine. Sometimes with ideas, projects and suggestions; sometimes with criticisms – these are all indications of connectivity.

It sometimes takes my words away. We make, to the best of our ability, a magazine about electronics and surreptitiously the magazine does more than you suspect. People become fascinated with electronics and get busy, begin to study, make discoveries, have their work published, start their own manufacturing company or become an instructor. What interests has this magazine created and what things have come about in the nearly 35 years of its existence?

To give some substance to this curiosity we decided to launch an International Award. This Award is for Elektor readers who have in one way or another accomplished something special; an extraordinary discovery, a piece of fundamental research, a component or new circuit, a new design or application....

Send us with your stories. Who deserves and Award and why? Come with the anecdotes, bring the fascination to life! The Award will be presented on 21 November 2009 during Elektor Live! Elektor Live is an electronics hands-on event and will be held in the old Philips exhibition building in Eindhoven, The Netherlands. The building is quite famous and called Evoluon.

The Award is an initiative of the Elektor Foundation ( On this page you can find more information about the categories of the Award and the objectives of the Elektor Foundation.

At we look forward to receiving your suggestions for candidates, or a good story or an exciting bit of history.

Wisse Hettinga


It seems like everything that's wireless these days is called wi-something, including witricity. If I understand right, this stands for “wireless electricity”, which means wireless power transfer. Designers everywhere, from MIT to Intel, are busily devising methods to eliminate separate power cables for individual devices.

This makes me wonder: why wi?

In the first place, each of these cables is usually connected to a transformer in an AC adapter. Transformers are not exactly leading-edge technology. The earliest descriptions date back to Faraday in the early decades of the 19th century. If we look more closely at how a transformer works, we usually see a primary winding and a secondary winding fitted on a magnetic core. That’s wireless power transfer.

Now let's look at all the modern approaches to obtaining wireless power transfer. Basically, they all amount to reworking the transformer principle, with a primary coil and secondary coil coupled by magnetic induction. The only difference is that people are experimenting with different frequencies and using resonant coils. The last part also sounds a bit familiar – isn’t that how radio broadcasting works, with electromagnetic waves? And let's not forget Tesla, whose enormous Wardenclyffe project was intended to provide wireless power transmission.

So we already have wireless power, but it’s not enough to meet our needs, and furthermore it’s not very efficient. This brings me to my question for you this week: do you see a future for wireless power, or should we start thinking about new forms of power distribution, and what would they be?


your view/repsons:

....I think the future will bring systems that will draw energy from solar, vibrations and energy from air - the last with a chemical reaction. Think of a accumulator where free air can flow feeding into a chemical reaction.

Ron Wesselman

Monday, September 28, 2009

ON and OFF

Do you think Edison used a switch in his experiments? And if so, what did it look like? My guess is that he used a toggle switch – the old-fashioned kind with a big handle, mounted on a sturdy wooden board to keep all the components in place. For some time now, I’ve been toying with the idea of writing a series of articles or a small book on switches and clever ways to turn devices on and off. Everything from simple switches to light switches, low-voltage and high-voltage switches, transistors as switches, switching equipment partially off in the standby state, mercury switches (now forbidden) for detecting motion, and how you can use physical phenomena such as speech, pressure, motion, height differences, water, light, fire, and so on to activate a switch.

I’m writing this during the Elektor presence at the ESC show in Boston. There we meet a lot of good folks, and they visit our booth to show us all sorts of things. Consider the man in the photo: while watching a screen from the corner of his eye, he operates a computer with his voice. He’s called “Golden I.” Naturally, when you’re having a conversation you have to be careful to avoid the voice commands you use to control the computer. Terms such as open, close, file, mail, and so on can confuse the computer and disturb the conversation, or cause the wearer to glance nervously into the little screen. Actually, this is also a sort of switch – I wonder what would happen if you suddenly called out ‘ON’ or ‘OFF’ while standing next to this man? Would his eyes go into standby, or does he also have a screensaver? For his sake, I hope not.

If you know an interesting way to turn something on or off (people, animals, cars, radios, TVs, etc.), you’re more than welcome to send your ideas to

Wisse Hettinga

Readers respons:


This researcher works on ways to control systems with facial expressions. He and his colleagues have developed a way to control an MP3 player with chewing movements and a second system that uses the temple muscles. This last one attracted quite some interest in 2008 on the internet under the name Kome-Kami switch.

A news item in French can be found here:

Clemens - Elektor France



I reflashed a router to a linux server. He is doing my webserver, mails, back-up server tetc.

He knows

- the time (from the internet)

- day and night to switch on the lights

See the developments

P.v.Geens (Holland)


I would think that if Edison used a switch in his experiments and/or apparatus, it would have been a knife switch. In the early part of the century when Edison done most of his work, the knife switch was the most popular type available to both the experimenter and to industry. Therefore, it stands to reason that Edison too would have used this type of switch.
This is my opinion based on my knowledge of Edison's work, and the state of the art of electrical apparatus of the day. If you find that this isn't the case, I will apologize and stand corrected.


Dear Wisse,
Many people overlook diodes as switches. They can be very useful when you want to switch many analog signals at once, as in changing bands in a shortwave radio or changing modes in a transceiver. I've attached an article I found describing diodes as switches.

Best Regards,
Dave Bailey
Technical Support Engineer
IAR Systems Inc.
2 Mount Royal
Marlborough, MA 01752

(article can be dispatched on demand - thanks, WH)