Category Archives: ProjectNight

Geexpo Badge (or how we designed/made and built a 100 pcb’s in 10 days)

After the success of the Fakugesi PCB festival Pass, we were contacted by North West University to design an interactive badge for their GeeXpo event. We started playing with a few ideas, but as usual time caught up to us and we realized that we had 10 days left before the festival and no plan in action.

After a quick chat to our main PCB guy at Bosco (Hi Winston!), we figured out that we could probably still pull this off. A design was made and after a quick prayer to the PCB Gods we sent off the Gerber files for manufacturing.

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Luckily we designed it around components that we either already had or could get in qty locally. While we waited for the PCB’s we sourced the outstanding components.

The design basically consists of my favorite STM32 micro-controller, an IR Receiver, some passives and led’s. The general concept was that there are various challenges at the GeeXpo. Complete a challenge and with an IR transmitter it would send a code to the user’s badge. This would turn on an LED on the badge to indicate that the person has completed the challenge.

It seems pretty simple, but it was very well received and everybody loved having a PCB badge that had blinky leds. Since the challenges were held at various exhibitions/stalls around GeeXpo the attendants really got involved in each exhibit.

Anyways, I digress. We had the 100 PCB’s and the components by Wednesday evening. I built a few up to test the main hardware and that we had a few prototypes so that Sebastian can start writing the firmware. Luckily no issues with the PCB’s … phew, thats half the battle won.

At our weekly thursday meetup, I lured everyone with beer and promise of new knowledge. It was a mere half-hour later and I had everyone working in a production line that would put a sweatshop to shame … ūüėČ

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Not sure if everyone had fun, but they all worked hard. (Thank You!)

Wolff monitored the re-flow ovens (and the beer …)

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Sebastian/Romeo and Tom also spent the Friday fixing, soldering, building and flashing firmware.

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The final badge works very good and it looked awesome!

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Romeo and Sebastian put together some pretty cool base stations that transmits the challenge completed code when … you completed a challenge. Chris made some awesome laser-cut enclosures for the base station.

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Saturday was GeeXpo and boy did we have fun. We had lots of interactive exhibitions for a change and everyone thoroughly enjoyed it.

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The challenge at our table was a robot arm that was controlled by a game-pad. You had to use the game-pad to pick up a trinket and drop it into a bowl.

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We met a lot of new people and as usual the people enjoyed our projects.

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Thanks to everyone that helped out with this badge project, its much appreciated and see everyone at the next GeeXpo!

 

Ham,Pi and a 3d printed Lawnmower… (Meetups February 2015)

I’m long overdue on a meetup update so here is a nice big post with things you might have missed the past month at BinarySpace:

Gary Immelman came to the space to give as an introduction into Amateur Ham Radio. It doesn’t take long to see that Gary is a very successful and passionate Ham Radio operator. He told us some very cool stories of his electronic and radio adventures. The people he has communicated with (even the Astronaut that came to dinner after a chat they had over the airwaves).

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Amateur Radio covers so many aspects and there is lots of toys to play and experiment with.DSC_5088 (Large)

 

It was a very interesting talk and inspired a few of the members (including myself and Michael) to start studying for the Amateur radio license exams happening in May.

We had a 3d printer themed evening with local ‘large scale’ 3d printing guru Hans Fouche as a guest. He brought along lots of 3d printed goodies including printed shoes, a vacuum cleaner and a 3d printed lawn mower.

Hans shared a few of his successes and failures (not a lot really) in his 3d printing adventures. If you haven’t heard or seen the 3d printed lawn mower in action then surely your living underneath a rock. It’s all over the interwebs!
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Also ¬†check out the 3d printer that Hans built, it’s called the Cheetah, it’s fast, large and it’s awesome!
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I’ve also showed off my scaled up 3d printed 3d racers.

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Between all the meetups and hacking we have also been hard at work at improving the space. It recently got painted, were adding more work space, shelves for various hacks, projects and our beer glass collection. A new keg system is up and running.¬†It’s still a work in progress but it’s getting better and better every week. Thanks to everyone who helped out and all the donations we have received.DSC_5190 (Large) DSC_5191 (Large) DSC_5197 (Large)

 

Between all of this we still found time to check out the new Raspberry PI 2, work on our HAB project and build some Arduino game goodness:DSC_5173 DSC_5201 (Large) DSC_5196 (Large)

 

We also have a few new regular members. Welcome and we hope you have fun!

Lots of other projects also happening, but sometimes I’m just having so much fun that I forget to take pictures, so sorry if I missed something. But then again, if you attend the meetups you won’t miss anything ūüėȬ†Also, check out the project page for all current and future projects.

Until next time :)

T

 

The wireless is the same, only without the cat (Meetup 2014/01/22)

 

The wireless telegraph is not difficult to understand. The ordinary telegraph is like a very long cat. You pull the tail in New York, and it meows in Los Angeles. The wireless is the same, only without the cat

Last night we had our “Internet of Things” project night. Internet of Things has been a pretty huge buzzword the past year and there are various projects around the internet and crowd funding campaigns. This is our take on an “Internet of Things” project.DSC_5059 (Medium)

 

The project basically consists of a very low power sensor that can take various sensors and then report the value of that sensor to a base station. Most IoT modules talk directly to wifi/gsm but while it does work easily and is standalone, the problem is that most of these aren’t really low power. I mean who wants to change/charge the battery every week.

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Our solution is to create a low power sensor node that reports back to a base station. The base station can then migrate the information onto the internet. The advantage of this way is that the rf module we are using uses less power than for example a wifi module. Currently the first sensor node that was built has been running for the past 5 months and it’s still going strong measure temperature at regular intervals.

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For the micro controller of the sensor node we used an msp430. Why not an arduino? While the arduino is very easy to use and has a lot of great support on the internet, it does not make for the best low power option.

So how does the msp430 compare to the arduino in terms of programming? Well, actually almost as easy thanks to Energia. The Energia project is essentially an attempt to bring the Wiring and Arduino framework to the Texas Instruments MSP430 based LaunchPad. This means that most of your arduino sketches can be compiled directly for the msp430 without too much (if any change).

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The other big difference is that the msp430 does not have a easy to use bootloader like the arduino so you do need some extra hardware to program it. Fortunately it comes in the form of a cheap development board called the Launchpad. It looks pretty much like a red arduino, except that it has the msp430 chip on with a programmer section. The programmer section can be used to program other boards with the msp430. Since we needed a launchpad to program the sensor node, it also made sense to use it as a simple base station connected to a pc.

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So last night everybody basically built a sensor node, connected another wireless module on the base station (aka, launchpad dev kit) and had information sending between them :)

Add a 3d printed battery holder into the mix and your have neat little sensor node ready for more sensors

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For more detailed information on the project, have a look at the project page.

We still have lots of plans to build on this project, including interfacing various sensors to it.

Thanks to everybody who attended our project night last night, including Philip and Michael that came from far far away ūüėČ

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In other news, we now have a new keg system at the new space. The beer was sorely missed at our last two meetups.

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We had the guys from Trophy Robotics visit us, hope to see more of the stuff you guys do.

Wynand and Gys spent a while hacking away at some old motherboards removing components for a 3d printer ‘psu upgrade’

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All in all a fun evening. Thanks to everyone who joined us and hope to see everyone next week!

Color changing Wifi controlled light thingie devices (aka last meetup for 2014)

For our last meetup of 2014 we built our December project which was Wifi Controlled RGB Lamps. The wifi lamps basically consist of some laser cut parts, some 3d printed parts, a Nucleo, the wifi module (esp8266) and addressable rgb lamps.

DSC_7789It was designed so that it can be put together relatively easy with minimal soldering. Having a nucle development board in the lamp allows for lots of expansion. For example, adding a temperature sensor and have the color change when it gets too hot or too cold. DSC_7790 DSC_7784 DSC_7782

The enclosure consists of laser cut inner box in semi transparent white and then we cut a voronoi themed outer-box to make it look even more pretty.

DSC_7780The final result is a beautiful lamp that you can control from your smartphone :)

wifilamp1 wifilamp2Thanks to everybody who attended our last meetup for 2014. We are taking a break for the holidays and will back on the 8th of Jan 2015. Be safe out there and keep on making :)

Making, Etching and Printing

We had some awesome meetups the past two weeks. Last week we had our ‘Etch your own Arduino workshop’ which went great. We used the Nanino design for the pcb and they turned out great!

For the toner layout we used the blue Press-n-Peel, its very easy to use and you get great results. For the etching we used ammonium persulfate which is not as nasty as the usual ferric chloride (although you still shouldn’t drink it!), we used gloves when handling the etchant.

DSC_7521We used a regular steam iron for the toner transfer onto the blank pcb. Not sure if the guys would appreciate it if their wives saw that they can actually handle a steam iron …

DSC_7529 DSC_7524DSC_7525DSC_7532DSC_7535DSC_7537DSC_7567After some successful etching the board just needs to be drilled, cleaned and the components can be soldered onto the board.

DSC_7553 DSC_7556 DSC_7549 DSC_7558Just about everybody is currently at this point and we’ll finish soldering up and testing the boards next week!

Last year we started working on our own Cyclone PCB Factory. We were missing some parts back then and the project got shelved for a while. Last night Gerhard and Romeo started working on it again. They managed to get all the mechanical stuff sorted and next week we are hooking up the electronics.

DSC_7547Sebastian showed off his Perspex entertainment pc which is coming nicely.

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Myself and Sebastian are also currently working on a new monthly project for December which involves the new esp8266 wifi modules and some ws2811 LED’s. Sebastian gave a little demo of the code he has done so far. It’s going to be awesome … more info soon!

DSC_7546And lastly the 3d printer was running in the background printing another piece for our 3d printed chair project.

DSC_7565 DSC_7568 DSC_7572All in all, two great meetings. See everybody next time :)

Tom

To infinity and beyond! aka last night’s meetup – 24/10/2014

Even though the weather was not ideal, lots of people went through heavy rain and strong winds to attend our weekly meetup last night. The main topic of the evening was our Infinity Mirror project build. Whats an infinity mirror? The Wikipedia entry describes it as

… a set of¬†mirrors, one fully reflective mirror and one¬†one-way mirror, set up so that the one-way or partially reflective mirror reflects an image back onto the fully reflective mirror, in a recursive manner, creating a series of smaller and smaller reflections that recede into an infinite distance

Add some led strips to it and you get some awesome portal looking effects:

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A total of 9 infinity mirrors were built last night and they looked awesome. We had blue/red or green strips available and while everybody were mostly interested in the blue leds originally (Bunch of Geeks!) they quickly conceded that the other colors looked awesome as well.

This was a relatively easy build and just about everybody had theirs finished before the end of the night (good thing too since we also emptied the keg early).

The parts of the mirror consisted of wooden rings that were cut with a cnc, a normal mirror, a 1-way mirror (sold by our glass supplier as ‘stopsil’ glass), the led strip with color of your choice and various screws and glue.

DSC_7491As usual with our projects there were no strict set of instructions and after explaining the basic idea everybody got to work on their mirrors. Some were assembled one way and others were assembled another way. Lots of discussions were had about how this effect can be used around the home (baby rooms, stepping stones, etc) and also about swopping out the fixed color led strips with some addressable RGB strips to create time keeping pieces (also known as clocks).

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Org and Kobus from House4Hack also took the long drive to the Vaal to join in the build :) You guys are always welcome!

Other projects that went on in the background was among other Bertrand working on a new raspberry pi project and Sebastian showing of his wifi controlled sumobot!

All in all it was a successful night and everybody left with a smile and an awesome display piece.

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Thanks to everybody who attended last night!

P.S – For the last few weeks we have been having some serious space issues since we’ve gotten more regular hackers/meetups. We currently have a plan in motion for more space and we’ll be sharing those details soon :)

Google Cardboard Event

Last night we had our Google Cardboard event, and what fun it was. Lee did the presentation and helped everybody get up and running with their Google cardboard setup (even if they used an iPhone ;))

DSC_7453There are a variety of cool apps available from flying demo’s to first person shooters. You can even watch YouTube videos in a very cinematic experience!

DSC_7447The rest of the evening was spent with everybody staring at their phones and behaving strangely…

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Thanks to everybody who joined us last night and a special thanks to Lee who organised everything. Hope you guys enjoyed it!

Till next time :)

 

 

BinarySpace Monthly Project Premiers on 31 July 2014

We have seen lots of people come and go at BinarySpace. Unfortunately they sometimes get bored because they don’t have a project of their own to work on and we don’t always see them again (although they do stay in touch).

Bringing a project to work on is definitely not a requirement to come and visit and even have a beer, but let’s face it, It’s more fun working on something cool. We’ve done a few group projects in the past (Valentines Day Flower and xMas Beer Xylophone just to name a few) and they have been very popular and loads of fun.

To solve this problem we are now going to try and do a monthly project at BinarySpace. We will have a new project every month with one or two project build nights (depending on complexity of the project). The idea is that you can show up for the meetup and build something cool to take home. We will try to keep costs as low as possible, but also keep in mind that we do not want to build a blinky light every month.

For the premier of our Monthly Project night we will be building a pocket sized robot arm!


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This project will be done over two evenings. It’s possible to build it in one evening, but this way you don’t need to rush it. Also if you can’t make the first evening then you can still start on the 2nd evening.

The monthly project concept is still highly experimental and this is a test to see how well this would work. If you have any project ideas for the monthly project then feel free to mail us on projectnight [at] binaryspace.co.za

Details

More details on the pocket sized robot arm: http://www.thingiverse.com/thing:360108

Project Nights are 31 July 2014 and 7 August 2014

Even if you don’t participate in the monthly project nights you can still come and visit

The pocket arm consists of a few servo motors, some lasercut parts, nuts and bolts and a “brain”.

You need to provide your own “brain”, for example an arduino. There is currently code available for using either an arduino or a raspberry pi. You can ofcourse use something else but would probably need to do your own kit.

The kit for the robot arms comes in two flavours:

Mechanical Hardware Only (Lasercut pieces and nuts/bolts) –¬†R150

This Kit provides you with all the required lasercut pieces and all the nuts and bolts needed to assemble it,¬†but you will need to bring your own servo motors and “brain” (arduino)

You would need 4 9g Micro Servo’s:

Please note that you can’t assemble without the motors, since the motors are part of the structure.

Mechanical Hardware + Servo Motors –¬†R350

This Kit provides you with all the required lasercut pieces and all the nuts and bolts needed to assemble it including the required motors,¬†but¬†you would need to bring your own”brain” (arduino)

To reserve your kit(s) please send an email to projectnight [at] binaryspace.co.za. The cutoff for kit reservation is the 28th of July