For about 18 months now I’ve been looking into transient technologies. Digital applications are breaking the boundaries of our laptop screens, and the internet of things, as well as internet connected peripheral devices, both sensors and actuators, are moving into our physical surroundings. This means that it is now no longer enough for me to have a sense of what is happening in software development circles to see what kind of new apps are coming, and that I also feel the need to look into hardware more. Open source hardware like Arduino, sensor based space and time aware applications (Spimes), RFID tech, Chumby and Nabaztag etc. That is why I proposed an Arduino workshop to Reboot last June, even though I did not know much about it myself. Alexandra and Nick of Tinker.it in London stepped up and made it happen, but in the end I did not get to attend my ‘own’ workshop (except for opening it and closing it), because I was speaking at the same time in the hall next door.
Workshop at ProtoSpace
But today I finally attended an Arduino workshop. It’s been a long time since I tinkered with electronics. About 18 years I guess, but I assume I still have a soldering iron in the attic. The workshop was organized by ProtoSpace, one of the FabLabs in the Netherlands. My brother in law is the lab manager there, and he attended the Arduino workshop at Reboot I mentioned. He is now spreading that knowledge again.
In the morning of the day we covered a basic introduction about FabLab and ProtoSpace, and talked about Phidgets (physical widgets) and Lego Mindstorms, before getting to Arduino. The entire afternoon was then spend on playing with Arduino.
I have been used to playing with software tools for so long I really rediscovered the fun of playing with tangible stuff again. A lot of old knowledge of electronics resurfaced. The physics of it hasn’t changed of course, but the threshold to make programmable stuff has been seriously lowered, as has the cost of acquiring sensors and actuators that enable you to do interesting stuff.
Playing with Lego Mindstorms:
Designing the trajectory before programming
Programming the robot via USB
Video of the finished experiment
Experimenting with Arduino open source hardware:
Next week Friday I will return to ProtoSpace for a workshop on how to use the different machines that make up the FabLab there: a lasercutter, a milling machine, a vinyl cutter, and a full color 3D printer. All programmable of course. Already looking forward to it.
Lasercutting an apple during lunch:
3D printing examples lying around: