Aug 13

Key Qualities for a school Makerspace and Bareduino

I came across and article on Make about the key qualities that are needed in a makerspace for kids in school. The main point of the article was that people need a few things to make. First, they need the basic skills of what tool to use and how to use it. Then they need to problem solve, to determine the reason that the thing they are making isn't working. Finally, they need the confidence to try something new. To learn something as they go. That confidence is what I want to impart on people. I want to empower them, to make them realize that they can build something complex, like laser tag. To be able to feel like they can do it and that it is within their reach to understand, to build, to create. The original article is here.

In other news, Niek Blankers at NiekProductions posted schematics for a bareduino, an arduino compatible based off of the ATiny45/85 that uses a small circuit board and minimal support components. It may be something that i could use if I wanted to have a separate controller that looked for tags, say on someone's head. His post is here.

Jun 01

Electronics Out There

And we're back. This is a post of things for me to look at/emulate in the coming years as I go forth in the DIY community. is a website for kids to "make themselves into makers." It's a site where kids can earn patches for completing projects to learn skills and share their projects with other kids. I think it's a great way to teach kids things they'd never learn about another way and to give kids a sense that they can learn new things and forge their own path. They have a great video about the website called Fearless Kids.

Two Bit Circus is a steam punk circus designed to teach kids about STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and math). They are almost done with their kickstarter campaign. Hooray STEAM education! They also reach out to underprivileged students, which I think is awesome.

Peter Diamandis wrote an article about cutting costs when he made his company DIY drones. He talks about how he got people to help him build drones who he never could have paid because they wanted to solve those problems. I can try to replicate that by solving a problem that I want solved and will make efforts to solve even if nothing comes out of it.

There is an article in Open Electronics about documenting your work. The main point is that by documenting what you make, you can share it with people and potentially get in contact with people who build it too or want to work with you on the project. Networking to build a team and get more done than an individual can help create great projects.

There is an article in the EE Times about a $69 arduino board to plug people into the cloud. Nice.

MIT news posted about Ladyada, and it said some inspiring things about how she started doing what she loved and made a business out of it. If she can do it, then why not other people as well? Adafruit is a great company and a leader in the Maker movement.

Lifehacker had an article about getting started with DIY electronics. It goes over some of the basics, but it mostly made me realize how there isn't a structured path to learning this. Even a guide that is supposed to provide a path leads people to the internet, where hackers have been roaming towards whatever ignites their passion. I hopefully can help add yet another path to the tangle.

May 23

Arduino Serial References

One of the things that I'll need to explain is asynchronous serial communication, which is how the arduino communicates to the FTDI chip (or other serial devices) to communicate to a computer via USB. I found some resources for arduino Serial stuff (including an article about using PWM for servo motors so that the software serial library doesn't get screwed up by the current servo library's use of interrupts).

There's a good wikipedia article about asynchronous serial.

There is also the arduino description of the software serial library, which is useful for describing how serial works (and how to make it work without hardware serial).

May 02

Quadcopters, mini and otherwise

I saw an article about a mini quadcopter that uses an ATMega128RFA1 (8 bit processor with built in 2.4 GHz transceiver). It's pretty cool, though the website didn't have a lot of build information in the post (there's some more stuff in his earlier posts, but it's not a clear cut thing to look at and know how to build your own without previous knowledge. Maybe I didn't look long enough.) Good instructions or not, it's a sweet project.

Speaking of Quadrotor helicopters, there's a nice youtube series done by The Crash Cast about building a tricopter (three rotor helicopter). If I ever have time to build one, after all of my other projects, then this is where I'd start. Maybe after I'm done teaching about registers and bits I can start teaching about PID controllers with this. How cool would of an advanced project would a quadcopter helicopter be (or tricopter. I don't judge)?

May 01

Charlieplexing LEDs to control a lot of LEDs with a few pins

Ever wanted to control a bunch of LEDs and minimize the number of pins used without using something like an LED strip or LEDs that have processors so that you can address them using I^{2}C or some other protocol? Well then, meet Charlieplexing and a handy tutorial all about how a clever use of pins can turn on lots of LEDs with clever use of the diode part of the LED.

Apr 25

PCB design, Power Management, Custom Cables,

The Electronics Lab blog posted an article about a free online PCB design software called PCBWeb. It's currently in Beta, but it could potentially be useful for students to have access to a free, browser based software for designing PCB's.

In addition, Texas Instruments released their power management guide to assist in choosing components for supplying power. It's quite a read, including lots of information on their products and example circuits.

For those interested in creating custom cables for connecting PCB's, motors, sensors, etc., adafruit posted a video made by Derek Molloy of the School of Electronic Engineering at Dublin City University, Ireland about creating custom cables using crimp pins.

Apr 25

New Electronics Books and Super-Awesome Sylvia in the White House

There is a new book by Simon Monk, who has written books on arduino, raspberry pi, etc., about hacking electronics. It looks like a good read, but I won't have time to look into it now, so I'm blogging about it so that I can find it later.

There is also a free release of Hacking the Xbox, which is said to be a great book on reverse engineering. I wish I had some time to read it, but for now it will be archived here.

In other news, Super-Awesome Sylvia went to the White House to show Mr. Obama her water color painting robot that is controlled via IPad (built with a little help from the people at Evil Mad Scientist Laboratories). It's great to see people spreading knowledge.