The first step in my Arduino monitored / controlled orchid vivarium is giving my Arduino the ability to track time with reasonable accuracy and display information on an LCD. I went with a Boarduino for ease of prototyping, but the final build will probably use an Uno or Mega.
Automated builds should be easy! At my job we use the Jenkins continuous integration server to build our software every time someone commits a change. I wanted to improve the visibility of the build results (especially for failed builds), so I combined a Boarduino and two PowerSwitch Tails from Adafruit with a Staples EasyButton to create an automated build controller.
It has three LEDs to indicate the status of the Jenkins server: red means the last build failed, yellow means a build is in progress, and green means the last build was successful. The PowerSwitch Tails correspond to the red and green LEDs: one turns on when the build fails and the other turns on when it is successful. We connect red and green lamps to the PowerSwitch Tails (although at one point we had a strobe light attached to the “fail” PST — very visible, but not popular).
The EasyButton triggers an automated build. Since we have Jenkins configured to build the software continuously, we use the EasyButton to trigger an automated deployment of our software to our QA machine.
Supporting the hardware is a small Python script. Its job is to poll Jenkins web services to check the build status and to trigger a job whenever someone presses the EasyButton.
Adafruit got into the parts/kit business with its detailed tutorials that include step-by-step instructions and photographs to lead newbies through the basics of Ohm’s Law and soldering, and on to programming the open-source hardware Arduino platform. Unlike traditional electronic distributors that rely on application engineers, the site effectively crowdsources its application engineering support through its forums and FAQ pages on the kits and parts. This reliance on the knowledge of the site’s fans is part of a well-thought-out business plan: Adafruit’s founder, Limor Fried, detailed the company philosophy in, “15 steps to starting your own electronic-kit business.”
Individual parts offered by Adafruit benefit from its excellent documentation and tutorials. Speaking from personal experience, a couple of years ago I bought a TLS2561 light-to-digital converter from TAOS Semiconductor (now part of austriamicrosystems.) It seemed like a handy component to have in getting a quick, objective measurement of LEDs. However, although documentation existed for the part, its outputs were hard to interpret and it was not easy to hook it up to a computer for datalogging. I quickly gave up and forgot about it.
Then, last summer Adafruit introduced the a new product, aTLS2561 premounted on a small pc board with a couple of chip resistors and some headers, with a tutorial as well as a software library for the open-source Arduino platform. As theAdafruit tutorial says, “To use this sensor and calculate Lux, there’s a lot of very hairy and unpleasant math. You can check out the math in the datasheet but really, it’s not intuitive or educational – it’s just how the sensor works. So we took care of all the math and wrapped it up into a nice Arduino library.”
My sentiments exactly – I just wanted to start using the sensor. It worked great. (See photo, which shows a boarduino, a slimmed-down version of the arduino.) Adafruit was able to take a part that sells competitively for about $2 each, add a couple of passive components, and a well thought-out online tutorial, and sell it for $12. And it was worth every penny of it to me.
Digi-Key had a similar start back in 1972, selling its “Digi-Keyer Kit” to ham radio enthusiasts and today it’s a $1B company. History could repeat itself with a whole new generation of parts and kits providers.
Our offices have these little peek-a-boo sections in the frosted glass. Some people stick post-it notes up describing what’s going on with them, but I wanted something more complex. I had recently picked up the Adafruit “RGB backlight negative LCD” display and was evaluating the X-Bee radios and decided to make an “almost wireless” LCD display for the front of my office. It’s not very complex – using a Boarduino (Arduino) running a little sketch that has a few modes – static text, alternating text describing what I’m working on, plus a mode that cycles through a bunch of “Burma Shave” four-liners just for silliness. The modes and backlight color are controlled from my PC via the other X-Bee. People seem to like it, so I’ll probably commit it to a perf-board and get rid of all those ugly wires.
RGB backlight positive LCD 20×4 + extras [black on RGB]. To match our popular 16×2 RGB Character LCDs (http://www.adafruit.com/products/399 & http://www.adafruit.com/products/398) we’ve now added 20×4 LCDs! Get more text, with an RGB backlight. Both positive and negative type! This is a fancy upgrade to standard 20×4 LCDs, instead of just having blue and white, or red and black, this LCD has black characters on a full color RGB background! That means you can change the display background color to anything you want – red, green, blue, pink, white, purple yellow, teal, salmon, chartreuse. This LCD looks strikingly good in person. This LCD is the most daylight readable character LCD we have and is very beautiful and easy to read no matter what color/brightness you have for the backlight.
One nice thing about these LCDs is that they are an elegant upgrade, but you can use them in existing LCD projects and they’ll still work – just that only the red LED will be used (so it will appear black-on-red). The extra two pins (17 and 18) are for the green and blue LEDs. The LCD has resistors on board already so that you can drive it with 5V logic and the current draw will be ~40mA per LED (there are two LEDs, 20mA each). There’s a single LED backlight for the entire display, the image above showing 3 colors at once is a composite!
Comes with a single 20×4 RGB backlight LCD, 10K necessary contrast potentiometer and strip of header. Our tutorials and diagrams will have you up and running in no time!
First a little background… Last year I built a color organ type project using the hackable GE RGB LED Christmas lights and the MSGEQ7 Graphic Equalizer Display Filter. The project changed the lights based on the audio signal presented to the MSGEQ7. I wrote several effects for the lights and changed them based on pressing a button.
Upon seeing the GE lights in all their glory a friend of mine thought it would be cool to have something similar for his entertainment center. I happened to have another set of GE lights, so I said sure no problem. Fast forward 6 months of both of us forgetting about it and me thinking up another use for the extra set of GE lights I had, so now I needed to source a new set of lights. After looking around at several options I decided on the 20mm Clear Digital RGB LED Pixels from Bliptronics/Adafruit. The LED Pixels are very bright and with the available Arduino library they are easy to control. In addition to a button to change effects in my old design I also added an IR receiver and mapped a few unused buttons on the standard FIOS remote, so now you can switch effects without ever leaving the couch!
While working on the new hardware I also came up with a few new effects, some of which are based on the audio running through the EQ and some of which are not. The EQ effects are mainly driven by 3 channels from the MSGEQ7 (Low, Mid, High). Each of the channels corresponds to a Red, Green or Blue LED in a pixel and the value of the channel as determined by the MSGEQ7 sets the intensity of the colors. This basic mapping makes for a great visualization of the music and theoretically the same song will always produce the same effect.
The BoArduinos (and FTDI cables) were way popular because I use them for a workshop I’ve given three times (more than 50 people each time) now that is way super popular: Arduino For Total Newbies Workshop (using TV-B-Gone as an example project). I created a website to show how I do the workshop so others can do it, too…
Friday night turned into Robotics/Art night at the 2XL Makerspace. I remembered seeing this Drawbot Project, and while you can modify normal servos to be continuous rotation servos, I already had some continuous rotation servos on-hand, so we got to work. (Or play, if you prefer.)
The Drawbot consists of just a handful of parts. Here’s a list of the items we used:
This clone acts just like an Arduino, and works with the latest Arduino software. For many projects it can even be preferable! The kit includes all parts necessary, the assembly is straightforward and well documented, using just a soldering iron anyone can complete it within 10 or 15 minutes. This version of the Boarduino does not have a DC jack. That means you cant use a 9V adapter or battery holder with it (unless you build a 5V power supply). it does have USB built in and you can power your project or USB or by using a Mintyboost kit (which takes 2 AA batteries)
Designed to plug into a breadboard for easy prototyping
Petite size, only 2.75″ x 0.8″ (75mm x 20mm)
All ‘standard’ pins are brought out – Digital 0-13, Analog 0-5, ARef, 5V, 3V, Ground, and Reset
Chip comes pre-programmed with a “no-wait” Arduino bootloader (Read more here)
4 LEDs! There’s a green power-good LED, a red “pin 13″ LED (just like the Arduino), and a pair of RX and TX indicator LEDs for debugging the serial connection
Nearly-all-surfacemount design. We left the chip as through-hole to make it easier to upgrade and repair. All surface mount parts are pre-assembled and tested.
ATmega328P, running at 16.00 MHz, just like all Arduinos
6-pin standard ICSP header
USB miniB jack
500mA fuse protects your computer’s USB port from overcurrent
We are very happy to announce a new product. I have always liked the Boarduino as a concept, but have been frustrated that you can’t easily use it for that semi permanent prototyping, and you can’t use it with Arduino shields. Both these problems are now solved with the Boarduino Shield. Available at the wickeddevice store. It uses long pin headers, so you can mount shields on the top and/or the bottom of the proto-shield. We think it’s pretty nifty.
Interesting! We are hoping Wicked Device makes it an open source hardware project too, like the Boarduino – Update: The makers say it’s open source hardware! (We couldn’t find the files, license, etc. Sorry for any confusion on our part).
I whacked together a Boarduino “shield” that triggers my Canon 40D for the photobooth I put together for our wedding. When the red button’s pressed, it waits five seconds and then takes three pictures five seconds apart.