Monday, 10 November 2014

Interaction design with circuits, sensors & motors

10 November 2014, 9.30am - 4.30pm
Instructor’s name: James Ashwell

An all day course using Arduino to bring work to life enabling active relationships between our creations, people and the environment.

I have done a bit with Arduino in the past but I have never attended a workshop on the subject, on a project basis in past I have learned from the Ardunio website which has some great lerning resources including Getting Started with Arduino and what I always find most helpful in learning the examples. In fact these pages are so good James repeatedly referred us to them throughout the day. So good to know I was on the right track with my previous projects using Arduino.

But what I had not had is someone taking me through the basics of Arduino, it's so easy when working by yourself to jump right into something more complex and especially when you are working on a specific project I had been skipping important parts. Of course when I got my first kit I went through some of the basic tutorials but I'd say I didn't take it in as well as during this workshop.

The workshop was well structured with time to go over a powerpoint of the different types of work that artists are making with arduino. Then we got to move on to an introduction to the Arduino platform and the kits which we were going to use, in our kit was an Arduino, a sensor, a servo, a LED, resistor and a bread board. Of course all the wires cut & stripped to short lengths too.

First was when Arduino is plugged into the computer you need to tell it which serial port it is located to allow the computer to talk to the board. On PC it is always the highest number for the serial port, however if working on mac it is something like /dev/tty.usbmodem (see here).

The first tutorial is of course blink! basically making an LED blink on a set time, we were then told to play and customise the code, so we can understand how it is structured and written.

James explained a bit more about how the digital pins and their signals are basically on or off, 1 or 0, 5v or GND. I knew it in my head but was good to hear it explained.

In terms of how to control the state of each pin you use code and the Arduino Software and we are introduced to integers and floats and further understanding of how to write our own code with help from the learning resources.

Next we were challenged to alter our blinking LED to include an analog infa-red sensor, so that when the sensor detects movement in it's range it will blink the LED. Took a bit of playing around and asking a few questions to include it into the setup, but feel like I learned a lot about further customisation and writing my own code.

After lunch next up was an intro to the servo which are used to get things to move. And again we are given some time to write a programe to connect sensors and servos through Arduino.

Next up was a chance to experiment and play with what we have been shown today and prototype our own interactive creation. We're encouraged to use cardboard and the bits and pieces lying around the tech lab to create very primitive prototypes.

A video posted by Jono Sandilands (@jonosandilands) on
I chose to use the time to play with making a very, very basic pinball flipper. However it was clear that using the servo for this was not going to work very well, but it's how to use the materials and equipment we had to hand to being an idea to life. It actually ended up working ok - proof of concept anyway!

Once I got the flipper working, I decided to add the infa-red sensor to count points or score. And the output was displayed via the serial terminal. It was a bit sketchy but good fun!