Author: Arvind Padmanabhan
Celebrating 10 years of Arduino
Today is a big day for the Arduino community worldwide. Ten years ago, Arduino was launched as an open-source platform for DIY electronics. Based on the Wiring programming language, it made programming simple and accessible to a wide audience. It was a hit among hobbyists, designers and students. Over the years the community has grown from strength to strength.
Today the community boasts many success stories. You don’t have to be an engineer to write code. You can be a primary school student writing microcontroller code, blinking LEDs, interfacing to sensors, or making robots spin and dance. Today you can download lots of example code and circuit schematics to get going. Starting and executing a new project has never been easier. Today Arduino is such an important part of any maker movement that even newer platforms have adopted elements of it. Intel Edison comes with an Arduino compatible board and Arduino sketches can run on it. MSP430 community has adopted the Arduino IDE (named as Energia) for TI LaunchPad programming.
Bangalore celebrated Arduino Day 2015 in a fitting manner. The official Arduino team provided makers a platform to showcase their projects. There were at least a dozen demos. There was also a gallery of Arduino variants and their shields on display. Of course, no birthday celebration is complete without a creamy cake. There were no candles though or a birthday song. I guess those are rightly reserved for humans.
One of the projects I really liked was an aeroplane that could be controlled by a handheld wireless remote. The communication is over 433 MHz, presumably at low power because this band in India is not an unlicensed band for high power operations. Two micro servos controlled the wing flaps. The propeller driven bya brushless DC motor. The college student Vishwas, who had done this project, explained to me how he went about looking up books on aeroplanes and then integrating that with his knowledge of Arduino. Of course, there was not enough room in the venue to demo takeoff, flight or landing.
The other project that impressed me was the use of tender coconuts, an Arduino and a pair of speakers. By touching the coconuts, we can affect the static charges. This in turn is picked by the Arduino to play weird sounds. At the same table was another guy who had re-purposed an old audio cassette to include electronics on the inside to blink LEDs and play sounds. There is no engineering challenge in these projects except to prove that Arduino is for artists and designers as well. In fact, these were done by artists from Srishti. Arduino allows people to create imaginative and interactive art installations that can draw the audience.
There were a couple of projects on smart watering that involved a soil moisture sensor and a solenoid valve. One of these was done by a school boy of just 12 years old. I was impressed that he could actually explain how a solenoid worked. He certainly knew more than what I knew at his age.
Likewise, there was another school student who had a pair of toy cars. One was configured as master and the other as slave. The master could be commanded by sending commands from a laptop, such as moving forward, turning left or toggling an LED. Using UART, the master relayed the same command to the slave who simply followed. This demo would have been more impressive if we had a swarm of slaves all connected by wireless to the master.
In any case, the point is that Arduino programming is clearly not limited to college students or engineers. Another student showed an implementation of a quizzing system that could be used to figure out which team pressed the buzzer first. He also showed a demo of a security box fitted on the inside with an LDR and PIR sensors to detect a possible theft. It was nice to see parents providing support and encouragement to these budding programmers and future inventors. India needs them today more than ever if we have to compete on the global stage.
Two independent teams showed how brain waves could be picked up and transmitted to Arduino using Bluetooth. One student showed the demo of an LED cube programmed to generate interesting visual patterns. A couple of projects showed the use of ultrasonic sensors. There were animated discussions all around. I took some time to chat with the organizers. They have done a wonderful job. I hope such events will happen more often but go beyond just Arduino.
I quickly made my way to Halasuru Metro Station where the day was being celebrated by another group. This is the new venue of Workbench Projects, a maker space. I have been following them online for some time but today I got to meet them. Unfortunately I was too late for the demos but I did get to see their robot that can greet visitors by a handshake and blinking LEDs. There was also a sofa made of just corrugated cardboard sheets, glue, tape and staples.
Like any decent maker space, Workbench Projects houses a couple of 3D printers, power tools, soldering station and even a store where you can buy stuff rather than make that long trip to S.P. Road. At the back, there is accommodation for two, something that people from outside Bangalore can benefit from. A kitchen is being set up. Provision has been made to do organic gardening. There is an audio-visual room upstairs.
They conduct regular workshops. I can see that they have already invested quite a bit on the venue. I do hope that people come and start using the space. Subscription is priced at Rs. 5,000 per month. Maker space like this will definitely be a boost to the IoT community in Bangalore.
Author: Arvind Padmanabhan
Arvind Padmanabhan graduated from the National University of Singapore with a master’s degree in electrical engineering. With more than fifteen years of experience, he has worked extensively on various wireless technologies including DECT, WCDMA, HSPA, WiMAX and LTE. He is passionate about tech blogging, training and supporting early stage Indian start-ups. He is a founder member of two non-profit community platforms: IEDF and Devopedia. In 2013, he published a book on the history of digital technology: http://theinfinitebit.wordpress.com.