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!

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Introducing Glow With Arduino!

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Glow With Arduino is an electronics/Arduino beginner’s guide I made that is focused on LED and light-based projects. It’s a website full of information, ranging from basic electricity theory to programming concepts. It also covers hardware materials I have explored in the past. I’ve tried to create a resource that lays out everything to help you decide methods of approaching your next project.

I am still exploring the idea of selling a kit to go along with some hands-on projects, but it’s just an idea at this point…

Check it out here: http://glowwitharduino.tk

The Box: More brainstorming

I don’t anticipate my order with the potentiometer to come in until early next week so I have a lot of time to plan out every last detail for this project. A few more developments have come up.IMG_0878I found the perfect box for it. It’s wide enough for the LCD but still small enough so there’s not a lot of wasted space.IMG_0882Something I picked up from the Greg robot project is that the wiring for the LCD will use a lot of space if I use the same jumper wires.
IMG_0880This time around, I’ll chop off the male end of the male-to-female jumper wires. That way, I can cut the wire to a more reasonable size. These wires are good because they’re stranded so they’re easier to work with in a smaller space, even better when they’re shorter.IMG_0886I’m still thinking about the power situation and I’m starting to lean toward finding a 5v supply to ditch the regulator and that large 9v adapter. I remembered I purchased this backup battery for my phone that gives a 5v 1A output. I’d like to use this over normal batteries because it’s rechargeable, and I’m out of rechargable AAs or AAAs so I won’t have to spend any more money on that.IMG_0887I have this Samsung USB cable for my phone that started acting weird months ago so I stopped using it. It had both data communication problems as well as power/charging problems, but that could have been caused by the phone itself. It reacted better to other cables that I use now though. I’ll  cut it open and see if I can use this to connect the project to the battery. If that doesn’t work, I’ll go buy a 5V 2A adapter from Sayal again.

Project Lineup Progress Update

A week and a half ago, I made a post outlining five projects I wanted to work on. I wanted to summarize how the list is going, along with other things I’m doing, and what’s in store for the next little while.

Here are the projects that were on that list:

Light Timer Modification – Complete – This was a modification to the Light Timer project where it would automate the control of the lights based on the light in area as sensed by the photoresistor instead of the time of day. It was completed fairly quickly and is in regular use.

Light Nametag – Complete – This was a simple project where I wanted to spell out my name in LEDs. While I didn’t get the patterns to work, the result is still satisfying.

Desk Light Project – Complete – I wanted to install LEDs around my desk so that I wouldn’t have to use the ceiling light. The project was completed and is in regular use.

Animatronic Head – Starting Soon – I want to create an animatronic head that has neck motion, LED matrix eyes, and an LCD for the mouth for the basic features. I have not given it much thought past that.

PLC Trainer ProgramStarting Soon – I want to practice my ladder logic programming as I haven’t really touched it in a while. This project will likely run parallel to the Animatronic Head project. Both of these projects need more planning before I actually start either.

In addition to these projects, one additional project came up and was completed. That is the Shelf Lighting System I made for my brother. As I’ve said plenty of times, it was an exhausting project so I’m starting back with my projects a little slower than I usually do.

I want to add more things to the Featured Projects page and get more individual project pages up as well.

Besides my projects, I’m [slowly] reading a book about robotics. It’s great because it almost picks up where the George Brown College PLC program left off (which I finished a week or so ago) as the program gave a small introduction to robotics at the end. I may start writing up tutorials on the blog but that needs some more consideration. I’m also looking for a job but that’s obviously not going very well.

If you haven’t already, follow me on Google+. The posts I make there are usually behind-the-scenes look while I do things and content that doesn’t really suit the blog (usually because it’s too short).

Thanks for reading!