ToastBoard and its developers


May 1, 2015 by Paul Preuss
This article appeared in Berkeley Engineer magazine, Spring 2015

design team | Filip Maksimovic / Julie Newcomb / Daniel Drew / Dominic Cincione

ToastBoard schematicWhen graduate students Filip Maksimovic, Julie Newcomb, Daniel Drew and Dominic Cincione teamed up for a course in interactive device design, they had plenty of expertise among them: Drew and Maksimovic in electrical engineering; Cincione in mechanical engineering; Newcomb in computer sciences. They were all do-it-yourselfers and had plenty of ideas. However, no idea was simple enough to execute in less than a semester, which became particularly evident during the frustrating process of breadboarding: the painstaking wiring and rewiring of circuitry, again and again, until things finally work. Aha! Their frustration became opportunity.

How about a pluggable board that could instantly reveal everything wrong and right with a circuit, with columns of LEDs beside the plug boards to show what was connected to what? With basic data on an LCD screen and detailed information, via web client, on a nearby computer? The team split up to write the software, assemble the hardware and build the package, and inveterate punster Drew called the result a ToastBoard, “the Breader Breadboard” — a name, he says, “they all hated.” Nevertheless, it stuck. “There’s nothing like it,” says Newcomb. “It’s pretty cool.” Lessons learned?  “There wasn’t enough time to dig into the areas of others’ expertise. It became apparent how little we knew about each other’s fields.”