Being the first day of pure project development, day 4 had a very special feeling to itself. The groups dedicated themselves to the advancement of their projects, aided by the always needed help of the tutors. The Arduino platform begins to feel natural, its workings are more and more understood, and the first deeper insights are made (who knew that an output set to HIGH still differs to the permanent 5v output?).
Transistors make their first appearance, almost every group makes use of them, as they prove quite useful to close circuits when needed. The poor labeling on the transistors-box makes it more fun, as it is necessary to search for specs online to see if they are n or p switches.
Some groups have first minor or major breakthroughs, solving problems they had in a different way than previously planned.
The Rescute team is well on their way. Solved is the problem of the spraying of the pepper spray, the LEDs are also working as planned, thanks to the additional power now used. A bit of frustration about the limited range of arduino servo motors came up, therefore effectively limiting the range of the bear’s neck. Originally it was planned for the bear to turn its head a creepy 180° on each side, now it looks like he will have to be able to turn its head 180° on one side only. Maybe hacking a servo motor will help.
The second group works hard on its project. It proved to be more challenging than previously anticipated, as seemingly simple tasks like the compressing of a spring prove difficult to realize with the resources at hand. Thankfully, being the creative people they are, team 2 members can compensate these problems through ingenious alternatives or workarounds. For the construction of their toy train, they make use of the laser cutter upstairs, and the result is very satisfying. Nonetheless, all of this requires lots of energy and concentration from the team 2 members, leading to part of them to almost fall asleep during the lunch break.
The togebear has seen some progress as well. The knit-work (yes, you read well, this bear is 100% handmade, something a soul-less laser cutter could never achieve) is almost done, meaning that the outside of the bear is almost ready. The inside of the bear proves more challenging than expected: when receiving an email from a loved one, the bear should spray some perfume. Using a hacked airwick system proved to be tricky, as reversing the motor rotation (it needs to go in both directions) proved an impossible task. Building an h-bridge did not solve the issue, maybe some of the used mosfet transistors where not suited for the used voltage. An hacked servo motor (not limited to 180° rotations) was used instead.
The Looping Louie team moved to the laboratory upstairs, as they need the space and tools it offers. Probably one of the most complicated projects hardware-wise, it makes sense for them to be close the equipment. Being physically removed from the rest of the other groups makes it more difficult to judge their progress, but whenever one needed something from upstairs, she or he would hear a small Eureka shout, signaling a further success of group 4, approaching the end goal step by step.
Today post arrived for the Madlab group, it was the game they are going to hack. Finally having the game, they were quickly able to make some progress. Surely it did help, that they didn’t lose time the previous days, thinking ahead of what and how to do it. Servomotors were quickly attached to the game, LEDs were tested, boards altered. Group 5 may have had a delayed start due to the late arrival of the game board, but they managed to make up for the time lost, and then some. If they keep up with this pace, they will be out of work by monday.
The Ghostcamera team had some important hardware arrival as well, now having a functioning printer for their project. The idea is to have a camera take a picture of you and then print it, but with one twist: the printed picture will have some sort of monster on it, be it a ghost or zombie, or whatever. This surely has to be the most complicated project from a software point of view, but the team members are concentrated and seem very confident about the outcome.
All in all it was a very productive day. Each team was able to make significant progress, each team already faced problems, some of them are already solved. Creative thinking seems to be the key here. The lesson learned today seems to be not to give up immediately, but also not to fixate on one approach. If something does not work after scrupulous researching and trying, then it is time to think of a different solution to the same problem.
Another important aspect of today, was the fact that we really got our hands dirty, and quite quickly. Almost every group used power tools like power drills, dremel or power saws, as well as special machinery like the laser cutter. These are tool that some of us used for the first time. It became quite clear, that this course would not be completed by simply putting some lego together, but that custom work is necessary.
Even the components used in our electrical circuits became more sophisticated. If there was the idea that sketching with hardware could be completed by simply putting some pre-made components on a bread-board, after today the reality became clear: it is much more than that. We finally understood the importance of transistors and switches. It is one thing to read about them in a chapter of some lecture where they are mentioned briefly, but it is a totally different thing to understand how they work in order to use them in our projects. If we want to power some LEDs with an additional power source, how can we control this source? Transistors! If we want to make a motor rotate in 2 different directions, without physically switching cables, how do we do that? Transistors! Thankfully the tutors were there to answer our questions, an we all had some, ranging from where can i find xyz to more technical ones.
This was a very long day, but thankfully the weekend awaits, and monday the show will go on!