Etch, Sketch and Angry Oranges: Workshop at University of Ulm

Our second stop on our Gadgeteer Tour took place at University of Ulm, where the research groups of Michael Weber and Enrico Rukzio are located. 12 participants found together to hack away over the course of one day. Until the lunch break we introduced the .NET Gadgeteer platform, its beauties, quirks and possibilities and allowed people to try out different code samples and modules. The second part of the workshop focussed on participants’ ideas of application fields for hardware prototyping. 4 groups found together and started translating their ideas into concrete hardware gadgets.

Results:

Two groups tackled our suggested challenge of building an RFID-based coffee dispenser: Across several research institutions (ours included) we found tally sheets being used for keeping track of coffee consumptions. Therefore, we suggested to bring the coffee machine to the next century by augmenting cups with RFID chips and equip the coffee machine itself with a tag reader and a display resulting in

The Coffee Cashier:

Coffee Cashier

Coffee Cashier

Including consumption statistics

Including consumption statistics

In this scenario each person owns a unique cup. When placed on the reader platform the system increases the person’s coffee count and shows a statistic of recent coffee consumption. In case of an unknown tag the system offers an on-device registration service. Pretty cool and pretty scary when coffee statistics are being visualized..

Etch a Sketch:

Another group came up with a modern version of the Etch a Sketch drawing tool, originally invented by André Cassagnes in 1960: Two potentiometers control the x and y direction of a constantly progressing line. Different drawing colors can be selected by the press of a button. An accelerometer tracks if the device is shaken and erases the sketch accordingly. Nicely wrapped into a carton package this toy is ready to be shipped.

Etch a Sketch

Etch a Sketch

Artist at work

Artist at work

The fourth group figured out the possibility to build a lie detector based on a pulse and moisture sensor. Culprits would be hooked up to the machine and heart rate and sweat state will confirm or refute their testimony. The prototype draws a graph of both in real-time showing the person’s state of agitation.

Lie Detector: Behind the scenes

Lie Detector: Behind the scenes

To complete the lie-detector’s front-end it is dressed up in an orange costume and equipped with LEDs, vibration motor and servos to show and express its happiness with the current testimony. In the split of a second the relaxed, sun-soaked fruit can turn into an angry orange terminator.

A happy gadget

A happy gadget

An angry orange

An angry orange

Learnings:

There seems no limit to the participants’ creativity and engagement. Neither the occasional Bluescreen (reseting the Gadgeteer mainboard sometimes has a disruptive effect on the connected computer) nor the rather limited access to building material could prevent the results from turning out astonishing.

Neatly packed in a one-day workshop the strengths and limitations of Gadgeteer can concisely be exposed.