Want to give some Texas Instruments MSP430 firmware to a friend who doesn’t have an IDE like CCS or IAR installed? All they need is a Binary file you create, an MSP430 Launchpad, and a small program called LITE FET-Pro430.
If you’re trying to update firmware without being there in the flesh, this is a great way to have someone else lend a hand by programming it. The article linked below will be a big help for both the engineer and the person that needs to program the chip.
Check out my article and video on Element 14!
Young Circuit Designs has long been a supporter of RePlay For Kids, a Cleveland, OH based charity that modifies mainstream toys for children with disabilities. Since many electronic toys utilize activation switches that require a level of dexterity that not all children have, Replay modifies the toy to add a more accessible switch in parallel. This not only provides local organizations with toys for disabled kids at no cost, but the toys are not limited to the few that are specifically designed for special needs use. A child can have the same popular “Tickle Me Elmo” toy that other kids rave about thanks to Replay’s customization.
Recently, YCD helped develop a universal switch controller to expand the number of toys that can be modified. While not a complex project, this simple device is intended to be a starting point for exploring how microcontrollers might help the cause. Here are the requirements for this first run of prototypes:
- Small size (~1 sqin.).
- Single Input, 8 outputs.
- Outputs are high or low true, depending on where wires are plugged in.
- Low power consumption for battery-powered toys.
- Can operate from 3-9V input power.
- Control of switches can be customized by loading different firmware
We posted all design files on the RePlay website for anyone that might want to recreate or build on the work. Currently the boards and firmware are being tested, so keep an eye on the ReePlay site for updates!
I recently got my hands on a Raspberry Pi with the goal of writing an article on how suitable the platform is for an education program like BlueStamp Engineering. However once I got rolling, I simply had to make something of my own. I’m not very experienced with Linux, Apache, or Python so I thought a simple project would be a great way to get the ball rolling on all three.
My wife and I recently adopted Penny, a wonderful dog from the Denver Dumb Friends League shelter. She’s been a dream in terms of behavior and disposition, however as dads everywhere say, “A dog is a huge responsibility.” I often have meetings and need to leave her in her kennel while I’m gone. My wife may want to know how quickly she has to come home to prevent Penny from being locked in her kennel for too long, and sometimes I turn my phone off for meetings. The solution? An automated web page that records the status of the kennel, and if closed, when the door was closed.
- Use the Raspberry Pi running the ‘Raspian’ OS to automatically sense a switch on the dog kennel door.
- Use a Python script to read the switch and write the status to an HTML file.
- Run an Apacahe Server on the Pi to make the HTML file.
- Setup port forwarding on my home router to allow other networks to see the html file.
- Use the simplest method to get something running quickly.
The project went really well! I am lucky enough to me a member of Denver’s hackerspace, Denhac, where I tinkered with things and learned from some experienced folks on the weekly Tuesday night hangout. I had some problems with the IP address of the system, but after a restart the issue seemed to go away.
Here is the python script and some notes I took along the way to help anyone looking to recreate my work: raspberrypidogdoorprogram
I took the server down for a few reasons: First, I don’t understand network security enough, and I’ve read that the setup I used isn’t very secure when forwarding ports from the outside world. And second, I get curious occasionally and prefer to have the system on my desk for more tinkering. Finally, the wife seemed to think that this is like taking a sledge hammer solution to a thumb tack problem, which is probably true. But it’s still cool that it works!
I love the experience of cracking open a new design platform and seeing what it can do, and how it can be used. However there are so many out there! What about the individual options are the best for attacking a project? How can one ensure that the experience will be the best possible, preventing an immediate hate of the platform? I write about all of this on Element14′s news section…
Thanks to the NYC Maker Faire this weekend, there has been a lot of discussion of new project ideas becoming a reality. With the wide array of different development platforms that are coming out for FPGAs, Microcontrollers, and even complete computing solutions, there is always a system out there to be explored. It can be intimidating to approach such a wide array of possibilities, so what is it that makes for the best first projects?…
One of the harder things about teaching kids to be adults is how to ween them off of the protection that adults provide. In my most recent E14 article, I talk about the ways I’ve seen high schools censor the internet while operating the BlueStamp Engineering program. While there’s no ‘best’ solution for everyone, I believe taking a risk-averse approach can do more harm than good:
The technical fields have a problem in the training of the next generation of students: internet censorship. It represents a hesitation in the move from information being something that can be controlled to the free passing of ideas, and it places education in direct conflict with the demands of industry.
There are two ways I’ve seen internet controlled by high schools during my involvement with the BlueStamp Engineering program:
- White list: Administrators decide on the sites that are appropriate for students and only allow them to access approved information.
- Black list: Find sites that are known to be problems for high-school aged students such as facebook, porn, etc. and block them while leaving the rest of the internet available.
I’m just coming off of BlueStamp Engineering’s 2012 season, and I thought I’d write about some of the things I’ve observed while teaching students new to coding with microcontrollers. It can be tough getting a project started when one doesn’t know what is going on, so this article should help someone understand at least a few of the options and why people might chose one microcontroller family over another.
…As with any engineering solution or teaching method, there is no single best approach, and I’ve had varying levels of success with a few different systems. My canned response has always been:
“The best way to learn a new system is by recreating another person’s project. So if you don’t care about the microcontroller, I suggest finding a fun project and using whatever system the original designer used.”
However I’ve noticed several differences between the microcontroller platforms that students have worked with, each with its own strengths and weaknesses…
This last weekend Sparkfun showed once again their commitment to their customers and community. They setup a course and organized an excellent competition for hobbyists and engineers to race autonomous vehicles — both cars and planes….
Sporting many barrels (which were light enough to be pushed all over the place) and a hoop that gave those bots that went through it a 30 second time reduction, there was plenty for the cars to worry about. Believe it or not, the surrounding creeks and pond was as big of a concern for the airplanes as it was for some of the cars. But my personal favorite part of the course was what I call the ‘Danger Zone.’ As the videos show, we were standing where all of the navigation failures occurred. Nothing better than being chased down by one robot, only to be run down by ANOTHER robot! But I’ll let my favorite videos take it from here (all of my videos can be found on my youtube channel).