My 2015 Maker Resolutions

In my previous post, I went through my Top 5 Maker Moments of 2014. In this post, I’m looking forward to 2015 and some of the things I hope to get into.

More Eagle

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I haven’t touched Eagle in a while since things got shifted to the Light Show. After using my shift register breakout board, I’m inspired to get back to Eagle to improve the design, which will hopefully lead to me working on other Eagle projects too. If you remember when I got the shift register boards in, I realized that I missed a connection so I had to add a jumper wire. There are other things I want to change in the board so I’m pretty eager to get back into it.

Bigger and Better Lights

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I want to keep the Light Show Project moving along in 2015. I’ve reached a milestone with the fountains, which I briefly talked about in the recap post. I’m not quite sure what direction to take the show now but I’m certainly thinking bigger. We’ll see what happens, though the Light Show isn’t really a priority with the other fun stuff on this list.

Improve the “Workshop”

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My “workbench” is my computer desk that I’ve clearly outgrown. My soldering station is on top of a plastic rolling shelf. My parts shelf is everything crammed into a hand-me-down plastic drawer. I want work with my space to make it a little less crappy, for lack of a better word. I’ve already begun working on it so stay tuned for an update soon.

 

3D Printing

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Before attending Maker Faire this year, the only 3D printer I ever saw in person was the first generation of the “Cube” 3D printer. I can’t afford a 3D printer right now so my next best bet is signing up for a workshop to at least learn to print something in hopes that the day of owning a 3D printer comes sooner than later.

Get on the Internet [of Things]

I kind of want to do The Box project all over again, except get it online this time. I’ve done some light research into adding wifi to Arduino and found that a cheap solution is the ESP8266 module. There are tutorials for simple projects that use the module so there’s not much stopping me from getting started. I know there are other wifi modules coming out now so I wouldn’t mind getting started with the cheaper alternative and possibly migrate over to a newer module later on if I find this project to be interesting and practical enough.

Happy new year!

Is there any gadget or skill you’re looking to explore in 2015? Share it in the comments!

Thanks for reading and I hope you have a happy new year!

My Top 5 Maker Moments of 2014

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I spent this year making things, learning things, and having fun with things. With the last project of the year out in the wild (Light Show 7), I wanted to do a little recap by picking out five things I’ve posted on the blog this year. The only reason I’m not calling it “My Top 5 Projects of 2014” is because some of the items I chose are broad and include many sub-projects or versions, and one of the items isn’t a project at all! Anyways, let’s get started with this list.

5) EERef

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We begin the countdown with EERef. The Electronics Engineering Reference was one of my most elaborate Visual Basic (Windows) programs I have ever made. I enjoy making programs in Visual Basic because putting together the UI with a graphical editor gets me excited to keep going, even when coding gets confusing. I learned a ton of new things from this project that I hope to get back into Visual Studio soon so I can play with it all again.

4) The Box project

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The Box project was also one of my more elaborate projects as I hadn’t really done a lot of Arduino projects outside of my Light Show project or the mobile robots I did last year. This project combined an ATmega328p microcontroller with a real time clock, temperature/humidity sensor, and a LCD to display the information. I also added some diffused blue LEDs on top because I love those LEDs. From this project, I learned a lot about bringing a breadboarded prototype to something more polished and permanent. My new soldering iron I got myself last Christmas certainly helped with that. Getting this project together was good training to get me to plan better, especially when it comes to laying out a circuit on a perfboard.

3) Evolution of the Light Show

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As you saw earlier this week, the Arduino Light Show Project has evolved ever since I got started with Arduino back in 2012. In this year alone, we went from version 3 to 7. The stages being built are getting bigger and more complicated, and I’m happy to say that this year it got to the big goal I had back in 2012: A fountain show. I still hope to continue working on it as it’s not quite at the level that I want it to be at. Still, to see the project grow from something that sits on my desk to a stage that has to sit on the floor because it’s 5 times larger is pretty awesome. I can only hope it continues growing at this rate.

2) Learning Eagle

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This was my biggest learning experience of the year. I downloaded Eagle several times before but never really understood what I was doing. This year, I sat down and actually learned how to use the program properly. I managed to make a few designs to get manufactured, including the shift register breakout board that was used in the newest Light Show. I haven’t opened Eagle in a while, but I have plans to reopen some old design projects, as well as start some new ones.

1) Toronto Mini Maker Faire

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This year, I attended and volunteered at my first Maker Faire. I taught people how to solder over that weekend and it was such a fantastic experience. I’ve never been in a situation where I had to teach so it was a little daunting thinking about teaching people of various ages, down to the age of 5. (A mother mentioned that her son was 5 and I had no idea how to adjust for that.) After the first couple of students, I ended up with a mental script that people understood and it was smooth sailing from there.

As for the Faire itself, it was great to be surrounded by so many creative projects and people. It was an inspiring weekend, even though I did not do a whole lot of exploring the exhibits. I definitely want to volunteer again next year, as well as take part in workshops and explore the Faire a lot more than I did this year.

That’s a wrap on 2014!

To see the development of these projects and more, check out the list of blog categories on the right side-bar.

This was a pretty good year as I feel more experienced and skilled coming out of it. I hope to continue all of this into the new year. Share your Maker Moments of 2014 in the comments!

My blog isn’t done for 2014 just yet! In the next post, I’m going to talk about some things I’d like to do next year: My 2015 Maker Resolutions. Stay tuned and thanks for reading!

A closer look at Light Show 7

IMG_0659It’s time to take a guided tour around the newest light show! In case you missed it, the newest show was released yesterday.

IMG_0634I kind of consider the new light show as the second generation of the first fountain show. However, there was so much more added that I couldn’t let it be an incremental update like version 5, 5.1 and 5.2. This was a great situation where I could sit back and watch the previous version and the current version back to back and see the improvements.

Something I wanted to focus on was to use the fountains better. With the backdrop and spotlights, it was a little easier, but looking back I found that there were too many dark moments in the first fountain show.

I tried to address the reliability issues from the previous version with a new nozzle design (even though it wasn’t perfect, at least I tried) and using wire to brace the nozzles to better hold its direction. It’s one challenge of the show that will continue until I come up with a better permanent solution.
IMG_0538The servo spotlights is something that I tried keeping a secret (I should stop doing that). I was a little too conservative with them, but the show still wouldn’t be the same without them. In the next show, I’d like to work on hiding the wiring and gearboxes of the servos.IMG_0664The backdrop performed well, though it still had the lighting issue I was afraid of. If there is more than one color on, the colors start washing out into white or an unwanted blended color. Still, some of the chasing effects look good.IMG_0406The light shows have never been overly complicated to wire since I used to give each LED its own pin on the Arduino Mega. In this version, I decided to use shift registers since I had made some shift register boards in my Eagle experiments and hadn’t used them yet. This actually made life easier because just a few wires have to run back to the microcontroller which is closer to the fountains. Without the shift registers, I’d be running a ton of wires back, and I barely had enough wire as it was. The only downside to shift registers is that programming takes a little more time to get right.

All in all, I’m happy with the results. I hope you enjoyed the show and I hope you’ll share it with others. Thanks for reading and happy holidays! Stay tuned for my last couple posts for the year!

Arduino Light Show #7 Debut: “Make A Wish”

My PHP script on the Light Show website ended up releasing the shows a day early so I figured why not… I’m proud to present the newest version of the Arduino Light Show Project with this holiday special! Enjoy!

A detailed build overview is coming up soon. Stay tuned!

 

Light Show 7 Journal Entry #10: Reflection

I’m currently working on a couple of year-end posts that will be published after the new Light Show debuts. The posts contain a lot of reflection on what has gone on in the past year, and one of those things is how much the Light Show project has grown. I thought it would be interesting to pull out the holiday Light Shows I did last year so that the growth of the show will be more obvious when the new one is released in the coming days (December 23rd!).

I remember being so exhausted from trying to find a song and programming to it that I rushed through and ended up with that… and then I ended up using a certain other song:

I’m always anxious to hear the feedback once a show is released. I’ve been surprised in the past, both pleasantly and unfortunately, with certain show releases. I hope the new show will fall under pleasant.

Come back to watch the new Light Show on December 23rd!

Light Show 7 Journal Entry #9: Decisions.

We’re less than a week away from the new Light Show. I’ve been on the fence about a few decisions but things are coming together.IMG_0524I was trying to debut the new version of the Light Show with more than one show but it’s not going to happen. The fountains are still a big headache trying to get under control so I didn’t have time to mix together a soundtrack and get to programming. The good news is I have a new show programmed. It’s a holiday themed show that I said I’d be satisfied with if that is the only thing I manage to complete. I am satisfied. Sort of.

Like I said, the fountains are difficult to manage sometimes. As the programming day moves along, the fountains start losing pressure because of the makeshift nozzles. They also shift and start pointing in weird directions, sometimes affecting the flow of other fountains. It took several shoots to get a video where the performance goes on well, and even then there are still flaws. I try not to let it bug me. I’m just happy I have something done in time for the holidays.

IMG_20141215_204549After I got it recorded, I decided to try a new design of the nozzles. Before, I would just squeeze the nozzles and tape them so that they’re slightly smaller. They were able to bring up the level of the fountains to a decent height but they weren’t reliable or consistent. For this design, I cut the straw down the middle, then taped them so that the opening is smaller.
IMG_0661The fountain streams are much more consistent and are able to go higher, but there are drawbacks that make it appear even worse than the original. I can’t really make the fountains go to their full potential for too long because the water ends up falling outside of the basin (though they perform best when that happens…) and the LED color doesn’t transfer all the way up the stream. The faded colors with the new nozzles really makes some of the sequences lose their effect.

On release day (December 23), there will be three videos: The version with the original nozzles, the same version from an alternate view, and the second version with the new nozzles and minor tweaks to the performance. Each video has its pros and cons so I’m not really sure which one to label as the “main” video. The idea was to have a main video and then the other two labeled as extras. I still have some time to figure that out though.

Thanks for reading! I don’t expect to post any more updates. Come back on December 23rd for the debut and some pictures!

Ch-ch-changes! (New domain name!)

For the first time in many years, I bought myself a new domain name! My website is now at www.mwhprojects.com. As a result, my main website has changed from MWH-Electronics to MWH Projects. In addition, all of the subdomains now use the new domain name. The previous domain name will continue to work for a limited time.

I made the decision to do this now so that I can point people to the new domain name when the new Light Show comes out next Tuesday (December 23). The Light Show website is now located at www.mwhprojects.com/lightshow.

Thank you so much for visiting my blog and websites!

Update (Dec 15 – 6:50pm): MWHProjects.com and all of the other websites are back online. This additional work allows me to take more power over the domain name so that I can use it in email addresses and subdomains. Please send me a note if anything isn’t working properly. Thanks!

Update (Dec 15 – 4:25pm): MWHProjects.com and all of the minisites are currently down. I had parked the domain earlier but I want to do it right so I’m moving everything over to a new account. It will take a while for the nameservers to change. Also, I went through all of the old posts here on the blog and changed the URLs from the old site to the new one. I hope to force this transition immediately so I can get rid of the .tk domain name early in the new year. Thanks!