iTead Boards


I got my first batch of iTead Studio boards in!  iTead Studio is a  pcb printing shop that offers absurdly cheap prototype boards. The new boards look great. I’ll definitely use them again. It only took 2 1/2 weeks to get here. For the price its an awesome service.

The particular board shown is a carrier board for the RN-42 Bluetooth modem, which is only $15 from Sparkfun if you buy it in its surface mount form. For another $15 I now have 10 12! carrier boards that allow me to adapt the surface mount device to through hole technology as well as control infrequently utilized device specific features such as factory reset, BT Master mode, force 9600 baud and more. The more you know the cheaper electronics gets.

The carrier, populated with the modem, etc., is destined for the GyroSkirt. The idea is that I’ll be able to adjust the gain and deadband processing on the gyro sensor reading wirelessly from a program on my Android phone via the Bluetooth radio in my phone and one of these boards affixed to the GyroSkirt driver. The GyroSkirt will again be driven by an Arduino,  so I hope to leverage the Amarino library to speed my development time.

Screeching Cat Railing

CNC Cutout of screeching cat inserted into porch railing

Recently we completely re-built our aging 2nd story porch. During the process I took the opportunity to add a little flair courtesy of the makerspace’s CNC Router. The idea was to place an emblem into the railing of the porch as decoration. After thinking about the emblem I’d want I decided that I’d never be happy with just one, so I incorporated spring hinges (look carefully below the cat in the photo) that allow me to pull back and replace the emblem at will with ease. With that done the only thing to do was decide on the first emblem. I decided on seasonal/occasion emblems.

Rich showed me a great site with free CNC artwork, some of which was Halloween themed. I downloaded that artwork, selected the screeching cat and had the CNC router cut the cat out of a 2’x2′ plywood. I installed the cat as part of the porch railing as you can see in the photo.  I’m now looking to round up a turkey for Thanksgiving, a snow man for winter, etc.

During the design process TomG had the bright idea to shine a light through the cutout. So I took a high brightness LED out of a malfunctioning flashlight and attached it to some sheet metal on a malleable aluminium boom. The result is that I now have a screeching cat projected down onto the sidewalk below. (It’s too dim for me to capture on camera)

I’m really looking forward to cutting out more shapes on the CNC Router!

ARM Investigations


My cat has been telling me she wants to get more into 32 bit ARM processors. So when ST started freely offering their discovery development board for their new Corex M4, I jumped at the chance. My luck was in and the board arrived today! The STM32F4 on the board has a full meg of flash and a single precision floating point unit! Oh and like a bazzilion hardware timers and lots more. The board itself has a number of sensors and a big LED on it.

My cat is looking forward to spinning up a compiler and putting the device through its paces. She is especially looking forward to the demo app where the board pretends to be a mouse.

Tie Pin Prototype.


This is the prototype of the tie pin we plan to make for our own little Learn-to-Solder sessions. It’s inspired by the Makershed tie-pin. We don’t have any RGB flasher LEDs at the moment, and won’t in time forb BarCamp. But the red LEDs still look pretty cool.

At some point we’ll put an order out to a real PCB shop and get a circuit board with red solder mask and black silk screen. But these boards are plenty of fun for now.

Carrie tests the GyroBelt

Tonight, at the Bayview Bash, Carrie tested out the GyroBelt to live Salsa music. As you may remember from previous posts, the GyroBelt is a prototype device for what will eventually become an eFashion skirt. The prototype and the skirt both try to avoid the Christmas tree effect by only illuminating the LEDs under certain conditions. Namely a high speed dance spin as detected by a MEMs gyroscope.

Gyro Belt Driver PCB

Pictured above is the driver board of the GyroBelt. In the lower right you can see the red SparkFun Gyro breakout board. Immediatly above that are the four transistors that lead out to the bus for the LEDs. (In addition to mono chromatic LEDs the driver board also supports RGB leds.) To the left of the Gyro you can see an ATmega168 running an Arduino sketch. Above that are a couple trim pots that I use to adjust variables within the sketch. Continue reading

Gyro graph of double spin.

Graph of Gyro output from Carrie doing a Double Spin in SalsaA quick graph of a double spin. This time it was to music instead of just counting.

I think for a first pass we’ll try a combo of intensity and color change.  I’ll add a Teensy to the belt and wire up half RGB leds and half Blue leds. The RGBs and blues will both be off in between 450 and 350 since the zero rotation value seems to be 400, ignoring the filter’s charge/discharge curves. Once the rate of spin exceed these values, on either side I will begin ramping up the intensity of the blue leds proportionately to rate of spin. The RGBs in contrast will have (relatively) constant intensity but will change color proportionately to the rate of spin and the spin direction. The color at 450 and 350 will be yellow-green. However, as the rate of spin increases toward zero, the color will shift to the red. As the rate of spin increases above 450 the color will shift toward violet.

I’ll put switches on the belt to allow me to select between RGBs and the Blues so that we can see what looks best.

GyroBelt Reading

Gyro sensor graph of spin plus head roll

Relative Rate of Spin vs. Time

Today my wife and I tested out the Gyro Belt. We recorded once specific dance move, what we call the Alex head roll. (We don’t know its real name, the dance teacher who taught us was named Alex) The flat part of the graph, you’ll notice, starts pretty flat and then begins to pick up some noise. After that the large pulses come in. Although were not able to take video, the move entailed a moment of standing still while I counted beats in preparation, two complete Salsa basics followed at last by the multi-turn head roll move.

As you can see the move registered quite nicely on the graph. But this is a simple move in isolation. Later we’ll test the reading inside of an entire dance routine. I would expect the signal to noise ratio to drop substantially, but we’ll see.

Once thing I do notice, that is curious, is that the resting level at the end of the chart is different than the resting level at the beginning of the chart.  That may give some trouble later depending on how much that zero rate level drifts. We’ll see.

Gyro Belt


Carrie wears a logging Gyro Belt! This is a little contraption I put together out of a surplus Li-ion cell phone battery, Sparkfun’s uLog “The Lil’est Logger”, and Sparkfun’s 1500 deg/s gyro breakout board. The logger simply begins recording the gyro’s output as soon as it is switched on.

The immediate intent is to have several Salsa dancers wear the belt and record the gyro over the course of a dance performance while I record them on video. Later I will examine the log files and video files together to see if I am able to isolate high rate spins from other types of manuvers. In the end my whole detection logic may just boil down to a threshold, but it will be nice to have the data to back that up.

The ultimate intent is to have the gyro detect dance spins only and have an eTextile react, in real time, to that spin in some way. Lighting up some LEDs for the duration the spin for example.