Cypress’ Maker of the Month: Mike Hord

Posted on August 31, 2017 by Samer Bahou

At Cypress®, we are all about solving our customers’ problems with our state-of-the-art solutions. We love problems because we are passionate about solutions. The Maker of the Month series recognizes unique projects created by the maker community and their design problems that were solved using Cypress technology. For more information about Cypress’ maker community involvement, check out the rest of our Maker of the Month series and our efforts to empower up-and-coming engineers via the Cypress University Alliance (CUA).


Read the Q&A with Cypress’ Featured Maker of the Month for August 2017, Mike Hord. Mike is a development engineer at SparkFun Electronics, an online retail store for makers!

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Can you please provide some background about yourself and the company you work for?

My name is Michael Hord, and for the past six years I've been a development engineer at SparkFun Electronics. I got my bachelor's degree in computer engineering from North Dakota State University in Fargo. I spent several years working as a research associate at Iowa State University, then worked for five years as an electrical engineer at Cyberoptics Corporation in Minneapolis.

I chose to work at SparkFun because the opportunity to engage with the Maker community was too good to pass up. SparkFun's primary mission is to empower Makers through educational material and products that can't be found elsewhere, and I found that to be very compelling. At the time I started with SparkFun I was very active in the local Maker community, having been a founding member and the first president of the first hackerspace to open in the Minneapolis/St Paul area.

How did you first become familiar with Cypress?

My first exposure to Cypress was actually quite some time ago, via a PSoC™ 1 development contest in Circuit Cellar magazine. At the time, I felt that the PSoC architecture had some serious potential but after working with it for a little while I decided there was a potential for it to be even better. Years passed and SparkFun was approached about selling the original FreeSoC and FreeSoC Mini boards, which use the PSoC 5 LP line of processors. I spent a little time playing with them and realized that they had reached the full potential I'd expected in the PSoC 1, and ever since then I've been a big advocate of the PSoC processors.

One of our favorite projects of yours is the SparkFun FreeSoC video game chair. Can you tell us about the project and what Cypress technology is being used?

My video game chair uses a FreeSoC2 development board to implement a joystick and keyboard. I used an old joystick I found at a second-hand store, along with some Actobotics hardware to create the joystick's structure. I laser cut an enclosure for the control panel, using four rotary encoders, a numeric keypad, a four-by-four membrane keypad, some buttons and a linear slide potentiometer.

The FreeSoC2 board is a highly competent development board for the PSoC 5 LP line of processors. It has two PSoC 5 LP chips on it: a target (a CY8C5868LTI-LP039) and a debugger (CY8C5888AXI-LP096). That means fully functional debugging support, unlike Arduino, where you have to rely on print statements.

How did you get the idea for the video game chair?

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The video game chair was an idea 15+ years in the making. I long enjoyed the X-Wing series of video games, but one of the things I didn't care for was the joysticks used to play them. I found that the displacement of the joystick made control more difficult, and the fact that one has to hold the joystick with one hand while using it with the other greatly limited the number of controls that could be used. I'd always meant to make a force-sensitive zero displacement joystick for the game, but it wasn't until I came across the PSoC 5 LP on the FreeSoC2 that I felt I had the toolset I needed to make it a reality.

How has Cypress’ technology helped execute your projects, and what are the benefits you’ve seen with using these technologies?

"The rich feature set of the PSoC 5 LP is instrumental to the success of the video game chair project. Obviously, USB support is central to the success, and the example projects provided in PSoC Creator™ allowed me to leverage existing work despite being relatively inexperienced with USB peripheral development."

The high-resolution sigma-delta ADC and the built-in amplifiers allowed me to interpret the very small signals from the load cells used to measure the force applied to the joystick. I found a matrix keypad module for the numeric keypad, used the built-in rotary encoder modules and button debouncing features, and used one of the lower resolution ADCs for the potentiometer.

Are you working on other projects that use Cypress’ technology?

I do have another PSoC 5 LP based project that I've been working on – it's a digitally controllable variable current load for testing power supplies. It uses the DACs on the PSoC 5 LP to set the gate drive voltage of a FET while monitoring the supply voltage and current and servicing that drive voltage to maintain a current set point.

For questions or more information, you can reach out to Mike Hord on LinkedIn.

Thanks again to Mike Hord for participating in our Maker of the Month program. If you would like to be considered for our next Maker of the Month profile, please email us and share a brief description of what project(s) you have made using Cypress’ technology.

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