Saturday, 24 January 2015

Shrimping It at Cambridge

Make your own Arduino clone

I've just come back from a Shrimping workshop at the /dev/winter conference in Cambridge.

I've run quite a few of these workshops now, and they have all been fun. Participants build the Shrimp, a low-cost Arduino clone on a breadboard, and start learning to program it using the Arduino IDE.

The Shrimp was developed by the Makers of Morecambe. The Morecambe Maker I've met is Cefn Hoile; he maintains the website and provides kits at an unbeatable price.

...and what to do next

Several of the workshop participants asked for advice about what to do next. There's a huge amount of information about Arduino techniques, libraries, shields and projects, but that's a problem in itself. Where do you start?

One option is to take the free Life After Blink e-course I put together for people who'd attended my Shrimping It! workshops. It's a series of online lessons, along with a google groups support group.

At some stage I will probably turn that into a low-cost ebook and/or a course on Udemy, but for now the on-line version is available, and free.

You'll need

  • about £10 worth of components (details in the course)
  • a computer running the Arduino IDE (under Windows, Linux or OS/X)
  • either a Shrimp or a commercial Arduino.
Sign up here

Monday, 24 November 2014

C3Pi is innocent, Flora not so much, and more Shrrimps are on the way.

I took C3Pi to the Elephant and Castle Mini Maker Faire a few days ago, but had to leave early since he suddenly stopped working.

At the time I blamed a loss of battery power, and thought that he'd wiped the file system on his SD card. Various holdups meant that I have only just been able to try to fix the problem which turns out to be rather simpler.

C3Pi has two controllers on board: a Raspberry Pi model B+ does the thinking, and a Teensy 3.1 controls his motors. The Pi B+ uses a micro SD card but when I removed it the card was even more micro than usual: half the card had been broken off!

I have no idea how this happened but poor old C3PI is off the hook. He's now back in action with a newly-flashed SD card and will soon be getting the first of a series of upgrades.

I mentioned that I had only just been able to get around to investigating the problem. I spend several days after the Faire learning about wearable electronics. I'd been asked if I could help with a wearables workshop at last Saturday's Southend Raspberry Jam, and as I knew next to nothing about the Adafruit Flora or Gemma I got some hardware and started to tinker.

I run Linux on my workstation and laptop and I soon found that Linux is the poor relation when it comes to programming Gemma and Flora. I can program Gemma using my workstation, but the laptop does not see the device at all, and neither sees the Flora. Nonetheless I managed to get enough code working to feel prepared.

Alas, on the day I was very poorly and had to stay at home. My friends at Southend
seem to have forgiven me as we're now planning a Shrimping It! worksop in February. More details soon.

Thursday, 20 November 2014

Wearable electronics with Gemma and Flora

From Wembley to Southend

Adafruit Gemma
This evening I'm off to Createspace in Wembley to work on some wearable electronics. I'm helping with a wearable electronics workshop at this weekend's Southend Raspberry Jam, and I need to practice!

I've been to several Raspberry Jams at Southend, and thoroughly enjoyed them. There's always a strong local presence as well as a group of regular visitors from further away. Great talks and workshops - whether you're an beginner at making things or an old hand, you'll find interesting and helpful people.


Createspace is my nearest maker space. I've been to the London Hackspace, which is awesome, but it takes me a while to get there from home. Createspace has an impressive collection of facilities and is much easier for me to get to. They have open nights, and there's a regular meetup for electronic hackers.

Gemma and Flora

Tonight I'll be experimenting with Adafruit's Gemma and Flora. Gemma is tiny; Flora is a little larger, but adds support for I2C. Both are supported by a specially configured version of the Arduino IDE which is available from the Adafruit Website.

My goal tonight is just to get familiar with the available libraries and get a simple proof-of-concept working. Once I feel comfortable I have a little project in mind. More details soon.

Advice, please!

I'm looking forward to helping at this Saturday's workshop but I'm a slightly nervous novice :)

If you have any tips or gotchas, do please tell me about them in a comment! I'd really appreciate it.