IMPORTANT NOTICE ABOUT C4DI HARDWARE GROUP

If you’re wondering where the Meetup site for the c4di hardware meetup group has gone, we’ve moved our operations to GetTogether. Alternatively you can just turn up at a Meetup at c4di on the first and third Thursday of each month, starting at 6:00 pm.

Note that the above picture is not one of mine, I’m using an image from unsplash.

PCB Design at the Connected Humber Hardware Group Meetup

 Thanks to Robin for the picture

Thanks to Robin for the picture

We had another great session at the Connected Humber Hardware Group tonight. Paul was telling us how to design our own printed circuit boards and get them made up. This is now so cheap that every electronics hobbyist should be getting their own custom boards made up. It turns out that it is all a matter of workflow, in that the sequence in which you put the design together is the important part. Unfortunately I was helping out with a recalcitrant LCD panel during this bit, so I’ll have to ask the other members to help me along when I start making my own circuits.

I want to make at least four, one for the fully featured Air Quality sensor, one for the “Mini MQTT” sensor, another for the Hull Pixelbot dual brain version and a final one as a badge which I think will look cool.

We’ll be continuing our exploration of PCB design at later meetups. They are free to attend, great fun, and take place on the first and third Thursday of each month at c4di in Hull. You can just turn up on the day (as a bunch of people did tonight) but you can also sign up for notification of upcoming events here.

Hello to Asda

 We had some robots on display…

We had some robots on display…

Robin and I were working in the c4di this morning when a bunch of folks dropped by with John to take a look at what we were doing. I had my old glasses on and taking a quick look at them, decided that it was perhaps a bunch of students, what with everyone looking fresh-faced and keen and whatnot. So I gave them what I thought was good advice for people in their position. I told them what I do with the robots, and the importance of playing with tech, learning how to write well and working hard etc etc

Turns out that they already work hard, as they were all Asda employees who had come along to take a look at what c4di gets up to. Oh well, I still think that my advice still holds good though….

November the 1st Hardware Meetup

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Another first Thursday of the month, another Hardware Meetup at c4di. This time I had an agenda of my own. I’ve just found out that you can get printed circuit boards made for really low prices. Really low. This has stirred within me an intense desire to find out how to make them. (posh prose eh?)

Anyhoo, it turns out that among the Hardware Group membership there are folks with experience with the tools that you can use to make your own PCBs using a free tool called Kicad. We’ll be doing a PCB design special event at the next meeting, on the 15th of November. If you’ve got any interest in building your own hardware you really should come along. The price of having lovely boards made specially for you is so low as to make them an extremely attractive prospect for makers.

You can sign up for the next meetup, and keep track of what we are doing, by joining our new group on Get Together.

c4di partnership with Barclay's Eagle Labs

 David Keel of c4di talking Tesla

David Keel of c4di talking Tesla

Yesterday, after a happy day building robots I went along to a big, posh, event in Hull Minster. The occasion was the announcement of big things for c4di, the place where I go and they let me play with robots.

I love c4di because it provides a place in Hull where people can take their ideas and make them real. It’s turned into a proper community of like-minded souls working to do great things. It means that you don’t have to leave Hull to make something world-beating. You can do it and still be able to find a local shop selling chip spice.

Barclays Bank have spotted what we are up to, and have now entered into a partnership with c4di which provides us with real financial muscle and expertise. You can find a lovely report on the evening, and what it means for Hull, here. I took some pictures….

 Shoutout to  Yasmin Coe , who provided some lovely music at the event

Shoutout to Yasmin Coe, who provided some lovely music at the event

 They had some c4di hardware on show, including Hull Pixelbots

They had some c4di hardware on show, including Hull Pixelbots

 They even lit up Hull Minster in c4di blue

They even lit up Hull Minster in c4di blue

Looong Day

 Being up town at 7:00 am does have it’s compensations….

Being up town at 7:00 am does have it’s compensations….

Today was a looong day. Headed out of the house at 6:30 am to review some newspapers for the BBC Radio Humberside Breakfast show and got back home at 8:45 pm after a Hardware Meetup at c4di. In between I did some software development on the Air Quality sensor which can now talk LoRa, MQTT and seems to work. I make that that a 14 hour working day, and it was wonderful. And to think I don’t have a “proper job”.

We had a splendid turnout at the hardware meetup, we’ve got people getting started with Arduino devices and learning how to code for them .Tonight we made an “accidental reaction timer game” and discovered how to store music in a C++ program. Who knows what we’ll come up with next time. We’ve got others entering into earnest discussions about sensors, Stephenson’s Screens and software services. And that’s just the things that begin with s.

If you want to come along and see what we’re up to next time, we’ll be at c4di at 6:00 pm on Thursday 1st of November. Find out more here.

Connexin Live

 I can’t help thinking that  HullOS  has a much better ring to it…

I can’t help thinking that HullOS has a much better ring to it…

A couple of weeks ago I was at the Hull Arena marvelling at how Hull could put on such a fantastic digital awards ceremony. Today I’m at the same place marvelling at how Hull can host a splendid technical event. One of of the first thing the delegates were told about Connexin was that they are a Hull company. Born and bred. And proud to be here.

Connexin are a local company with global plans and big hitting partners in the form of Cisco. A Cisco person had even flown all the way from San Francisco to speak at the event. The theme was something very dear to my heart; Smart Cities. We heard from Hull City Council and Hull University about their ideas for the future and from folks from Newcastle about what they had been up to.

These are challenging and exciting times for local government. Challenging because budgets are being squeezed as never before, and exciting because technology is showing real potential for improving the lives of the people that the councils serve.

It was great to hear all these inspiring plans being laid in Hull. I couldn’t stay to the end unfortunately, I had to go and see how the Hardware Group at c4di was getting on. The answer, by the way, is very well. We’ve got three new members who’ve turned up and want to have a go with the Arduino. I’m putting together some kits for them for the next meeting. You can come along and have a go too if you like. The next meeting is on the 11th of October at c4di, starting at 6:00 pm.

Hull Pixelbot at The Digital Awards

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I'm totally gobsmacked (a great phrase) to discover that the Hull Pixelbot has been made a finalist in not one, but two categories in the The Digital Awards 2018.  

"The little robot from Hull" is up for an award in the "Best Hardware" and "Best Use of Technology within Education" categories. Awesome stuff. Thanks so much folks. The awards ceremony is in September.

There's some impressive competition in the categories, including some from companies that are also based at c4di. I'm really pleased just to have made it as a finalist. If you want to read what I wrote about the robot, you can find my entry description here

LoRa Build a Node Workshop at c4di

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We've just had a bunch of folks around to build some LoRa nodes. Robin had put together some kits and we came up with a set of instructions. By the end of the day we expected our attendees to have their LoRa nodes sampling temperature, air pressure and humidity and maybe even be viewing the values on The Things Network website. 

Well, we got that and more. One person had the information going into Microsoft Power BI and was using Machine Learning to predict future room temperatures. Another used If This Then That to tweet temperature readings to his phone. Others left with plans to install LoRa gateways and sprinkle LoRa powered sensors all over their properties.

Very successful, in spite of the fact that we were soldering surface mount components and some folks hadn't soldered since they were 14, or even at all. Thanks for coming folks and being so determined. At some points during workshop you could have heard a pin (or other tiny component) drop. 

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We're doing another one in September, ping me an email if you want to get your name on the list. You can find our notes and sample programs here.

If you want to play with LoRa (and anything else that takes your fancy) take a look at the Humber Health Care Challenge. We'll make sure we've got some LoRa kits available there for people to have a go with this technology. 

 Mightier Than sword or pen?

Mightier Than sword or pen?

Make your own Theremin. Sort of.

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A Theremin is a musical instrument that you control by waving your hands. It's used a lot to provide spooky sounds for science fiction and horror movies. A "proper" theremin uses a tuned circuit that is which is controlled by the player waving their hands near a couple of antennas. 

I thought we could have a go at making something similar using just a light sensor and an Arduino, so I've come up with the circuit above to get started. You can find the detailed instructions here. We've been using these little exercises at the c4di Hardware Group, which met again today and will meet again on Thursday 5th July. Sign up here if you want to come along and make some annoying noises....

Working with the Arduino at the Hardware Group

I really must take more, or at least some, pictures of the Hardware Group at c4di in action. But I'm always too busy talking about stuff to get out the camera.

Anyhoo, we had a great meetup today. We've got a bunch of new members who are just getting started, so we've put together some tiny hardware kits that they can use to get started. Like those "Build an Aston Martin in easy steps" magazines that you can buy in the new year, If you want to pick up a kit and have a go, come along to our next meetup on the 7th of June. You can sign up here

Hardware Meetup - now with biscuits

 I had to tear myself away from a really good conversation to take this picture

I had to tear myself away from a really good conversation to take this picture

We had another really good Hardware Meetup at c4di yesterday. Three new folks turned up and we’re going to start working with Arduino devices at the next session. We’re assembling some kits and some content to get folks playing with hardware. The idea is that you spend a princely five pounds on a starter kit containing an Arduino and some lights and switches. And then over the next sessions we’ll introduce other components to play with. If you fancy coming along, you’d be more than welcome.

The next meeting is on the 17th Mary at c4di as usual. Only now we have coffee, tea and biscuits. And hardware. It would be great to see you. 

Hardware

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We had another superb Hardware group meetup at c4di tonight. Two new members, plus a host of others braved the horrid snow to come and talk tech. I was telling everyone of my problems with my soldering iron, which had come un-soldered (see above) leading to some nice "Catch-22" issues (in the end I bought another iron and mended my "proper" one).

Plans are afoot for another soldering evening, and a "build your own LoRa node" event too. Turns out that it's all happening..

Talking about robots for the children's university

 Showing of "Transparent Terry", one of the robot crew

Showing of "Transparent Terry", one of the robot crew

We had a bunch of folks from HEY Children's University come and see us at c4di today. It was great fun. I was showing off how we can put programs into robots to tell them what to do, and that a program is just something that takes in something (a distance from a distance sensor)  does something with it (run away if the distance is less than 100 mm). 

They were a great audience and I hope that a fair few of them get into software, robots and other stuff that can change the world. 

I said I'd put some links on here to resources. You can find out about the Hull Pixelbot (the robot I was showing off) here. You can find resources to build your own Pixelbot here. If you really do want to build a robot, come along to our hardware group meetings (there's one next Thursday). Sign up here

Kickstarting Hull's Smart City

 Paul Foster taking networks. 

Paul Foster taking networks. 

Well, that was fun. And exhausting. We did two Smart City events in one day. The morning event was all about getting people together to build a network, and the afternoon was all about the tech of LoRa. 

Both events had awesome attendance, lots of sensible discussion, and we even managed to fit in a bit of planning. As far as I'm concerned, the outcomes are:

  • We are going to get Lora gateways to cover the area as a first step towards building the Smart City infrastructure. There are already some commercial/proprietary LoRa gateways opening up in the region which would be a fantastic platform for industry strength applications, but from a community perspective an open one based on The Things Network would make a very good start. If you're not sure what LoRa is, read the attached slide deck....
  • We are going to start up a community effort building LoRa network devices. Lots of people seem quite keen on this. Once we've got the bits together we'll set up a happy afternoon where we'll build some network endpoints and get them going. Then we can start looking at using the devices to solve problems. 
  • We are going to set up a "Smart City Steering Group" to get all the interested parties together, share what we are all doing and try to put together a strategy that will start with LoRa and move on to consider other technologies including how to make some of the data gathered into open data. 

If you want to see my slides, which tell you all about LoRa, you can find them here.

I'm really excited about this. I think it could be the start of something not small. If you didn't make the events, but you want to get involved, feel free to contact me directly (put a comment on this post or message me via Twitter or email me or stand on a corner and shout loudly). 

c4di Hardware Group Monster Meetup

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Actually we didn't have any monsters turn up. But we did have a lot of people. Hayden was running a soldering masterclass. I was talking about Hull Pixelbots to a whole bunch of students who turned up to find out what we're about. Brian showed off a work in progress which simulates Hull Pixelbot movements in a nifty Python program. And we did some work with one of our youngest attendees, who's trying to make a remote controlled missile launcher (but only a small one).

We were playing with these super-cheap wireless devices. Connect a transmitter to an output pin on an Arduino, wiggle the pin up and down, and the receiver will wiggle an output up and down at the same time. So you can send messages wirelessly from one Arduino to another.

In the past I've not had much success with these, but we tried the RadioHead library and it seems to work rather well, We're going to look into adding a carefully crafted antenna to try and improve the range. And have a look at other wireless options too. 

It was great fun. If you fancy coming along,  the next one is on the 1st of March starting at 6:00 in c4di. 

Super Duper Hardware Meetup

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We had a really good hardware meetup today at c4di. A whole bunch of new members turned up. along with a bunch of "regulars".

I did a talk about the latest developments on the Hull Pixelbot front. The system that controls the Hull Pixelbot has been renamed "HullOS" for marketing reasons, and is now available on GitHub. There's also a manual for the new scripting language supported by HullOS and an editor program you can use to create HullOS scripts and load them into the robot. 

Finally, I've added the DXF files for laser cutting Hull Pixelbot chassis components, along with STL files for the 3D printed parts that you need as well.

I'll be adding more Hull Pixelbot stuff in blog posts over the next few weeks. 

There were lots of really interesting conversations going on all round the room, which was great. We've still got room for more though, the next meetup is on the 15th of February. You can sign up here