Super Awesome Sylvia and I were invited to attend Bring Your Kids to Work Day at Atmel recently. (Atmel, of course, is the company that makes the microcontrollers found inside Arduino products and in many of our own projects and kits.) We were there to help provide tangible, interesting, and playful examples of how Atmel chips can be used. And of course, we weren’t going to miss an opportunity to visit Atmel headquarters!
The biggest hit with the kids were the Octolively interactive LED modules (sporting the Atmel ATmega164P). When the kids waved their hands over them, the LEDs would light up and ripple. Some of the kids would start out by poking and grabbing at the LEDs until they lit up, but as soon as I told them it would work “even without touching it” their eyes would get big, and they’d wave their hands over the top, enthralled.
Some of the other things we brought were our handheld game, the Meggy Jr RGB (with the ATmega328P); a Bulbdial Clock (Atmega328P again), which points rings of LEDs at different heights down at a central point to create shadow hands of different lengths; our giant Alpha Clock Five (ATMega644A); and the Larson Scanner (ATtiny2313A), which lights up nine red LEDs to make a scanning robot eye.
Another project that captured the kids’ attention was a Keepon by BeatBots. Other demonstrations included a quadcopter and a hacked hexabot.
We got to have lunch in the bright sun in the courtyard with Avary Kent, who was demonstrating the PuzzleBox, a brain-controlled helicopter.
Sylvia got to give the PuzzleBox a try, triggering it to fly as soon as she concentrated hard enough.
After lunch, we got to tour of a couple of labs. This workbench was well stocked with a Metcal soldering iron (our favorite) and lots of tools and supplies.
Apparently the poor Pleo on this bench needed some repair.
This machine is for inspecting and testing chips after they have been removed from their housing.
We got to go into the RF anechoic chamber, and watch as our cell phones stopped receiving any signals.
We also had some time to hang out and horse around with friends new and old. Our friend Paul Rako seemed to be having as much fun as the kids.
Thanks to Paul and Atmel for inviting us to visit!
Michael wrote in to say:
I ordered a Bulbdial Clock kit from your company on Wednesday Feb 7, 2013; it was waiting for me at the door on the 9th. Suffice it to say that I was extremely pleased with the rapid shipment of the product.
Following the html instructions I was able to assemble the project without errors the first time and got a working Bulbdial clock in about 2 hours (my whole family thinks it is cool).
Once again thanks for being there for an old kit builder.
One of our favorite projects of the last year is our Bulbdial Clock, an LED shadow clock based on an idea from Ironic Sans. And, while we have written a fair bit about it, we haven’t yet taken the time to describe some of the interesting technical details.
So in what follows here, we discuss some of those details, with an emphasis on a few in particular that we’ve been asked about. First, the process of designing and prototyping “funny shaped” circuit boards, but also charlieplexing LEDs in a mixed array, and (finally) getting that rear-projection scheme to work.
Happy birthday to us! Evil Mad Scientist Laboratories has now been around for four years. We’ve collected some interesting projects from this past year to celebrate.
Microcontroller and Electronics Projects:
Simple LED Projects:
And, don’t forget, you can win a Peggy 2 or one of 13 other prizes in our clock
concept contest, going on this week.
Come join us at the ComBots Cup at the San Mateo Fairgrounds on Saturday, December 19 and Sunday, December 20 from 2-7 pm. (Get tickets here.) And if taking your loved ones to see combat robotics wasn’t gift enough, you can do a little last minute holiday shopping without having to brave the mall! We’ll have a selection of kits (and a few robot repair parts) on hand. You can try out Meggy Jr RGB and see the new Bulbdial Clock in person.Read more about the event at Suicide Bots. Special treat for our readers who attend: mention this post and we’ll give you an RGB LED in your choice of style. Hope to see you there!
Happy birthday to us! Evil Mad Scientist Laboratories is now three years old.
To celebrate, we’re rounding up our most interesting projects from this past year.
Quick projects and observations:
Simple LED Projects:
That’s like a sundial, but with better resolution– not just an hour hand, but a minute and second hand as well, each given as a shadow from moving artificial light sources (bulbs).
We’ve recently put together a working bulbdial clock, with an implementation somewhat different from that of the original concept.
Rather than using three physically moving light sources at different heights, we use three rings of LEDs at different heights. Within each ring, we only turn on one LED at a time, so that we only have a single effective light source– it can light up at different places from within the ring. The three rings are located above one another so that they each project light onto the rod in the middle, making shadows of different lengths.
Additionally, for fun and clarity, we used red, green, and blue LEDs for the three rings, making each shadow hand of the clock a different color. Each ring has 12 LEDs, and the 36 LEDs are efficiently multiplexed by an AVR microcontroller that also handles the timekeeping part of the project. Continue reading