Ponoko + Arduino = DIY MIDI controller framework

Fantastic tutorial on how to build your own custom designs

Digital music production tools are so powerful these days that it seems you can compose and perform just about any kind of music entirely on a laptop. One of the weak points of digital production though is the physical interface: it’s hard to be expressive when you’re pushing your finger around a trackpad. You can have a lot more control if you have a few physical knobs and sliders and buttons. Enter the generic MIDI controller. (more…)

Arduino 1.0 programming environment and language released

The wildly popular open source hardware becomes official.

Since its release in 2005, Arduino has become exponentially more popular every year. It is used all around the world, and it is the leading open source microcontroller. Yesterday, Arduino programming environment and language version 1.0 was released, which suggests that this is the first, full, non-beta release.

My first thought was “That wasn’t already released?” It worked so well already, I just assumed this mile marker had already been passed. Anyways, congratulations to the Arduino team and everyone else who has worked on it over the last six years.

You can ready more about it in the Arduino blog announcement and download it from their site.

What happens when you turn a middle school library into a hackerspace?

guest article by Thomas Maillioux

above: David designs an animation for his LoL Shield with LoL Shield Theater

Editor’s note: Several months ago I put a call out on this blog for a DIY electronics blogger, and I couldn’t believe how many funny, friendly, fantastically qualified people from all over the world responded.

One such person was Thomas Maillioux, an unconventional librarian in France. He told me about his work to bring hackerspaces into the libraries of public schools in metro-Paris to teach kids about electronics, programming, design, and even 3D printing.

He graciously accepted my invitation in broken franglais to tell his story here on the blog. I hope you enjoy!

What happens when you turn a middle school library into a hackerspace?

by Thomas Maillioux

A hackerspace at school

I was lucky enough to work through the 2010 school year with a bunch of brilliant, curious pupils at the Evariste Galois middle-school in Epinay sur Seine in the northern suburbs of Paris.

2 hours a week, we’d meet up at the library to try and answer — through research and tinkering — all the questions they had about computers, electronics, gaming and programming.

We created a small hackerspace where the kids programmed RFID tags, designed a logging system of their own with Touchatags and Google Docs, created animations with Arduinos and LoL shields, compared automatically-generated and human-written code, and even designed their own video games. So what did I learn from this teaching-meets-tinkering experience?

“My project, my pace”

All of the projects I mentioned were chosen by the students themselves. For them, being able to decide what to work on was a huge motivator to actually doing the work — something which might also explain the amazing amount or work the pupils achieved over the few months of the hackerspace experiment. They wanted to come to school early and stay late so they could tinker together!


OOML might just be the easiest way to get into programmable shapes

Object Oriented Mechanics LibraryOOML is a system for creating programmable, shareable 3d shapes using the common programming language C++.

Imagine being able to design a 3d file based on some very simple rules, like “every hole for your fastener will always be the same size” or “the thickness of your laser cut bits will always be the same”. Imagine being able to download a design and change it with just a tiny effort, like taking a design intended to be cut from .11″ acrylic and instead altering it to work with .22″ instead.

That’s the beauty behind OpenSCAD. It’s a programming language for making shapes. However, the language it’s based off of is unique. It’s hard to pick up the skills required to build an OpenSCAD part anywhere else than using OpenSCAD. However, OOML seeks to change that.

Picture being able to program parts like you would a webpage or Arduino sketch. OOML lets you design 3d parts in the common, easy to learn, easy to access, incredibly well documented language: C++.  It lets you add on libraries of shortcuts, scripts, and tools to help make the whole process faster and more robust.

I’m eager to see the system become more popular, getting fleshed out with tutorials and examples to play with.

Chrysalis – Mass customization for visual designers

The power of Processing in the hands of Grasshopper users

Fabripod's Chrysalis in action

Fabripod has just launched a Kickstarter project for Chrysalis, a tool for translating designs made in Grasshopper into Processing sketches that can be used as web apps for digital making.

Basically, if you’re a visual designer, Chrysalis will make it possible for you set up a web storefront that lets people customize a design and then export it to another service (like Ponoko) for making.

Also, because Processing is a free, open source tool, Chrysalis will enable the sharing of 3D sketches in a way that just isn’t practical via Grasshopper. For example, the deployment of an interactive art installation is a lot more practical when it can be used on any operating system without the need for additional software licenses.

Chris Chalmers explains in the video below: (more…)

The making of Arduino: Five guys walk into a bar…

Discover how (and where) it all began

Arduino. It’s a catchy, funny little word… and the Arduino we have come to know and love has had a wide-ranging impact on the world of DIY electronics.

So where did it all begin?

The five handsome devils pictured above are the guys responsible for this little wonder. Hailing from the town of Ivrea in Northern Italy, Massimo Banzi (that’s him on the right) would relax after a long day teaching at Ivrea’s Interaction Design Institute by heading down to a local watering hole, the Bar di Re Arduino. You can imagine that an enthusiastic and forward-thinking electrical engineer and his buddies would have some pretty interesting conversations when they get together over a few drinks…

Since its launch in 2005, people have used Anduino to do some wonderful things. Reflecting on the past few years, Banzi says that the most important impact of Arduino is the democratization of engineering.

“Fifty years ago, to write software you needed people in white aprons who knew everything about vacuum tubes. We’ve enabled a lot of people to create products themselves.”

There is a fantastic article over at IEEE Spectrum that takes a deeper look into the story of Arduino. It’s interesting reading with many insights from Massimo and his collaborators David Cuartielles, Gianluca Martino, Tom Igoe and David Mellis.

IEEE via Engadget

Minibloq: Arduino programming made easy

Become a Beta tester now

Making DIY programming more accessible to eager young minds, the latest iteration of Minibloq is now open to the public in its Beta phase.

Minibloq is a graphical programming environment specifically targeted towards helping primary students, kids and beginners learn more about DIY electronics and hardware.

With a drag-and-drop interface and gentle learning curve, the mysteries of Arduino programming unfold and the real-time error checking keeps everything on track. Much thought has gone into the extensive feature list, and it looks as though the application is shaping up well to match, and indeed exceed, expectations from the recent Kickstarter campaign.

A quick video tour through some of the features follows after the break.


Design by Code

Biophilia Hypothesis in practice.  Beautiful practice.Many designers are inspired by forms or patters found in nature, but few articulate that organic influence through a scientific means.  Paul Krix from Neat Objects creates uniquely individual laser cut jewellery that is aesthetically informed by programming based on an algorithm he discovered some years ago.  The early seeds of inspiration were planted when Paul read a paper that compared city street networks with common leaf vein patterns, concluding that pictures of either were indistinguishable to most people.  Later, Paul came across research on algorithmic mimicking of the chemical process of leaf formation and decided to use that as a basis for a modelling program.

The basic idea is I tell it how I want it to behave and give it a few starting pieces of information, like where to start growing from and the shape of the surface, then it does all the hard work of deciding where the veins will grow.

Paul’s biomorphic inspiration comes from various natural patterns and processes that are both beautiful and complex: crystal growth, moth wing patterns, leaf veins, tree growth, petals, and the process of reaction-diffusion which is behind zoological colourings/patterns.  This design approach is based on the Biophilia Hypothesis that is rooted in the ideas of American biologist E. O. Wilson.

The premise is that human beings tend to like things that remind them of life. An example is if you design a room with high ceilings and exposed beams that look a little bit like tree branches, people feel comfortable and happy there even though they can’t say why.

At this stage all the designs are laser cut, but Paul is creating code for generating 3D printed objects.  All the laser cut pieces require minimal finishing, mostly a spray of lacquer and attaching findings. The packaging is custom cut for each jewellery piece and is designed to keep folding and gluing to a minimum. Most of the jewellery is cut from 3mm bamboo, which Paul describes as “incredible”.

The grain looks amazing and it seems to cut quite well. Bamboo is really strong, and as a plywood even more so. Even at 3mm I don’t have to worry about it snapping. It’s also a very sustainable wood. For me it ticks every box.

He is also a fan of acrylic and regularly works with felt, cardboard and paper.  He has trialled some of these materials for home wares, which is something he’s thinking of designing more of in the future.  At this stage, however, the focus is on making high quality jewellery products that do not rely heavily on prototyping.

I’m terrified of producing something that in a few years I’ll look back at and cringe. Because of that I have a remarkable number of prototypes lying around my house that I may never do anything with.

Paul has been a Personal Factory Prime member for a while, and for him it means creating to his heart’s content (time permitting) without requiring the capital for traditional fabrication methods that rely on economy of scale.  His hometown Canberra is a city of public servants and not manufacturers, and most of his ideas remained in a digitally modelled format until the day he uploaded his first file into the Personal Factory.

More from Paul after the cut:


Comic-style introduction to Arduino

A guide for visual learners:
Getting started with open-source programming

Jody Culkin is an artist of broad and impressive talents, and she’s done something wonderful for the DIY electronics community with one of her recent projects.

It’s not an award-winning sculpture, nor an emotive photograph or whimsical animation… this time, she has turned her hand towards helping newcomers get their head around just what this Arduino thing is all about.

The comic-style introduction has been CC-licensed for all to enjoy, and can be downloaded in full right here.

More than a guide to the ins and outs of the Arduino platform, this is also a handy introduction to electronics projects in general.

Introduction to Arduino via Boing Boing

DIY robot drawings amuse passers-by in studio window

drawing machine scribbles “The Chancellor”

Electronic-tinkerer-by-night Alexander Weber recently moved in to a new studio. And like all newcomers, he thought it would be nice to add some of his own decorating touches to the space.

Never one to shy away from a challenge, Alexander put together a collection of goodies including gears, pulleys, Arduino components and laser cut MDF from Ponoko’s German partner Formulor.

What do these items all combine to become?

It’s a neat little drawing machine, which has been dubbed Der Kritzler (The Scribbler). Suspended across the front window of the office, the device has been programmed to draw images onto the glass.

Click through to watch Der Kritzler plot out all the angles that make up German Chancellor Angela Merkel. (more…)