The Phase Dock WorkBench has transformed John and his collaborators’ ability to deliver a wide range of complex electronics training to a diverse audience—and made them look good while doing it.

The Professional Educator: John Gray, Agricultural Studies Group

John is a former US Army Master Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) Technician who currently trains military and law enforcement EOD teams. In addition to proficiency with explosive materials and chemistry, EOD personnel need to understand electronic controls and communications that are frequently used in explosive devices.

John and his two partners teach everything from the basics of electricity, discrete electronic components, how electronics work, to microcontrollers and principles of coding. Everything is designed to enable EOD personnel to “render safe” improvised explosive devices (the notorious IEDs).

He also teaches EOD personal how to recognize the different components of an IED, and know which components are valuable in terms of forensics and exploitation.

Challenge: Pack meaningful electronics education into a very short time for participants with an uncertain amount of experience and education.

John’s main client is the US government, but he also teaches in Australia, New Zealand and will soon add Canada to his client list. Participants are most often military and law enforcement. He frequently doesn’t know in advance how much experience or education his students bring to the sessions. Over his twenty years of teaching, he has learned to be extremely adaptive and modular with the electronics projects he teaches. John says:

Basic Electronics Class Modules

Basic Electronics Class Modules

“We don’t know what we’ll walk into. Class participants may just barely have finished high school…or they may have a Master’s degree.

I bring two instructors with me, so we’ll break the class down by knowledge and capability. Because of that, there is no canned presentation. We stay up late a lot of nights and make up new experiments on the fly.”

John teaches a very wide range of components, including microcontrollers, breadboard, LEDs, batteries, relays, NMSO transistors, Metal-Oxide-Semiconductor Field-Effect Transistor (MOSFET), motors, buzzers, (“Everyone uses buzzers.”) capacitance sensors, motion sensors, microwave, active and passive infrared, and mechanical action sensors (such as vibration, tilt, and temblor switches).

His students will build discrete circuits, modify radios, and create digital timers.

Before you found the Phase Dock WorkBench, how were you managing the electronics?

“We started off with dry erase boards for kids, about 8.5 x 11 size. A lot of times, I would make my schematics on them. Once I got done troubleshooting, I’d come back in with a permanent marker and retrace the important parts.

We had a bunch of those that had wear-and-tear over time. Instead of throwing them away, we started covering the entire surface of the dry erase boards with the loop part of 2” wide Velcro. We put the hook on the back of the electronic modules. We still do a couple of circuits that way.”

Kids White Board with Velcro addedSensor Kit Student IssueMicrocontroller Kit Student Issue

Solution: A better way to develop and delivery complex training in less time.

By using the Phase Dock WorkBench, John and his team:

  • Save time before and during class with pre-built setups and rapid adaptability.
  • Protect against damage to components.
  • Present a professional image.

How do you use the WorkBench while developing the classes?

“I set up prototypes and go through the code, troubleshoot, and check the standards.

That’s where the [Phase Dock] Clicks come in. Because we’re teaching it as a modular system, what better way than having modules that can move around?

We can do prep work in advance. That lets us walk into class, with everything prewired and ready to go. All switches, all LEDs, all sensors ready to go for the day.”

Arduinos - Ready for Future UseSensor Board DevelopmentIoT Development ProjectAI Camera Development Project

How do you use the WorkBench while delivering the training?

“We carry a lot of extra components and often work at night to improvise sessions depending on the level of experience of the class. Everything is set up exactly the way we want.”

Instructor's Travel KitInstructor's Travel Kit - Close-up

“All three instructors have pre-mounted setups—exactly the same. If mine fails, I can grab one of the other ones. We can sit down next to a student with the project too.

If something needs to change, I can easily do on-the-spot R&D. Because when everybody’s watching, three seconds seems like an hour.”

In the normal electronics course, John’s students modify a two-way radio by soldering two wires onto the back speaker output. Then they build a discrete circuit around it with a “safe” and “arm” which isolates the detonator from the circuit until the bomb emplacer has gotten a safe distance away.

“We do a project that we call a poor man’s DTMF [dual tone multi-frequency]. Most of these two-way radios are open frequency, and anybody with it can jump in on your conversation. We show them different ways of doing that.

We also build a digital timer in our normal course. When we get into microcontrollers, we show them how to use that very same radio with a microcontroller as a timer. The timer is there to prevent anything from happening until you want it to. Safe and Arm. We’re not dealing with secure comms or anything like that. Just poor man’s RF.”

RF Receiver (Rx) prototypeRF Transmitter (Tx) prototype

“The WorkBench system makes us look more professional.”

“The Phase Dock WorkBench gives us everything. Course development, presentation, and on-the-spot R&D capability.

It’s also great for sales presentations when you’ve got somebody who is interested. You’ve got stuff to hand them ready-to-go and you know everything about it.”

ASG’s Promotion and Sales Systems

The Phase Dock WorkBench has transformed John and his team’s ability to deliver a wide range of complex electronics training to a diverse audience—and made them look good while doing it.