Rapid Prototyping with .NET Gadgeteer: Workshop at TU Darmstadt

The tour has begun. Last week we started off by conducting our first external workshop at TU Darmstadt with the Embedded System Group of Kristof Van Laerhoven. 10 participants  joined in and hacked away on our .NET Gadgeteer kits. The workshop lasted for 2 days, so we had enough time to introduce the Gadgeteer platform, walk participants through example projects and reserve an entire day for allowing them to hack on projects of their choice.

The workshop focused on getting hands-on experiences. After letting participants implement the classic 5-minute camera (even though most of the time it takes us 6 due to compilation delays) they had the chance to enhance the camera. Various ideas were born to mount the camera on multiple servo motors and remote control the resulting spy device. Over the course of the next day, two teams focused on a mobile camera while one team ventured off to make an attempt on augmenting a table to detect knock positions by spreading out multiple accelerometers across the table.

Results:

Camera Tower:

This construct of two servos could be controlled by joystick and send a camera live-stream to the touchscreen.

Oscilloscope: Bringing out the big guns..

Oscilloscope: Bringing out the big guns..

Knock Detection:

Knock knock... only one accelerometer there.

Knock knock… only one accelerometer there.

The idea of this spider-like construction was to use data from 3 accelerometers to detect the location of a knuckle knock on the table. Unfortunately, the project exceeded the bus capabilities of the FEZ Spider module. Even though the mainboard generally supports connecting multiple accelerometers, data can only be read from one at a time due to using the same bus system. Probably an I2C bus addressing problem which we will forward to Microsoft. Nevertheless, great idea.

The Batmobile:

Batmobile: Gadgeteer Workshop - TU Darmstadt

Batmobile: Gadgeteer Workshop – TU Darmstadt

This heroic prototype combines the power of servos with clever engineering. A joystick controls two servo motors which in turn control the wheels of the vehicle. It can ride forward, turn left/right and… kick things off the table. The camera is currently more a dummy weight than spy gadget, but could be combined with the functionality of the Camera Tower.

Learnings:

A two-days workshop was quite the right amount of time to let participants tinker with all the components, sensors and code fragments we dumped on them. Also, you can never prepare enough for all the eventual ideas that boil up from an engineer’s mind. But inventiveness helps out a great deal: Hence, tape rolls were turned into wheels, USB cables cut open to be soldered to extension boards and coffee cups were considered for controlling human breath rhythm.

Here goes another USB cable..

There goes another USB cable..

We learned a great deal and are excited to see what participants of future workshops will come up with.