Electronic Design

Gary Bergstrom

I've been doing design work for nearly thirty years, and I still enjoy the fresh challenges that every new day brings. I do analog circuit design and digital design (as it relates to putting micros into things), and I write software—not a common combination.

Because I can do these three things, I get to do a lot of jobs involving systems that either collect data, control hardware, or both. I like jobs that are small enough for me to tackle alone, but hard enough that they challenge me. I design small embedded systems, traditionally for the medical market. These are mostly in the ultrasound field (corneal thickness, blood pressure, transcrainial doppler).

Before this, I spent five years at Keithley Instruments as a senior design engineer. And before that, I did high-end audio in Boston for dbx. I had my first hard job at dbx, where I corrected the company's log/anti-log VCA (voltage-controlled amplifier) for finite base resistance errors. It was quite challenging to get both pieces right: the theory and how to produce it economically. This was the first patent with only my name on it, and I was quite proud of it.

Over the last four years, the bulk of my work has focused on electromagnetic valves for car engines. This work has been a gradual learning process on how to control electromagnetic devices. Magnesense LLC, my current company, was formed to develop this technology and apply it to the automotive field. But I had not appreciated how slow this market can be to large changes in technology. We are currently trying to spin this off for use in small engines: lawnmowers, generators, and so forth. The EPA granted us a Phase I SBIR (Small Business Innovation Research) grant to pursue this.

Specifically, I design the electronics, write the software, and do the testing. My partner and fellow cofounder, Joseph Seale, does the electromagnetic and mechanical design part. Because we are 600 miles apart (Ohio to Maine), this is an interesting example of working at a distance. For the EPA spinoff project, we added a person in California, so now we are really spread out.

We hope to replace the cam with solenoids. Car manufacturers are still studying the pros (better mileage and somewhat less pollution) and cons (42 V and very expensive engine retooling) of this technology. Gas is cheap and people are buying SUVs. Consumers just aren't demanding better mileage and less pollution. Without higher gas prices or government requirements, this will move slowly toward production.

The rest of my current work is divided between old product support, some brainwave-monitoring hardware development, and an astronomy device for the beginner that I'm quite excited about. Again, I embed small processors into all of these things. (Well, the engine valves are up to a 16-bit Motorola DSP these days.) My work on brainwave monitoring is for a relatively young local company that produces devices for supervised testing and training of subjects. I've improved the analog front end of the company's current design; I did an all-analog version (no micro) of the device as a government contract; and I'm now redesigning the original product with a newer micro that has better resolution and uses much less power.

I was also at the NASA Glenn Research Center (formerly NASA Lewis) in May, helping to teach a course for a project I might work on. NASA Glenn contacted me concerning an electric motor with magnetic bearings. I taught a small portion, in which I discussed linear electric motors (solenoids). You can look up my recent work at the patent office. I've been granted a number of new ones (seven in the last four years). Also check out my new Web site at www.Magnesense.com.

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