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We love soldering. It is one of the most fundamental skills that any maker can learn, but the fumes produced by soldering aren’t good for you. However, before you start panicking, there are a few simple rules to follow.
When we think of microcontrollers, we think of one of the many hundreds of boards on the market. But when we think of microcontrollers for children, the list is a little shorter, in fact only two boards spring to mind for us, the BBC micro:bit and Codebug. But before these two popular boards there was another board aimed squarely at children, and that was Crumble.
The Internet of Things is just that, things connected to the Internet. Sometimes they are useful, such as sensors for monitoring health and scientific data. Other times they are trivial/fun. Such as this project.
MicroPython has come a long way since Damien George first released his Kickstarter for the PyBoard in 2014. Originally a fork of Python 3 for microcontrollers we now have a mature Micro Python platform available for a diverse range of boards such as the BBC micro:bit, WiPy, and ESP32 and this range keeps growing. Adafruit, the American maker company has long been a supporter of the maker community, and in recent months they have released their own “fork” of the MicroPython project and it is called CircuitPython.
We’ve used keyboard shortcuts for years, from the humble copy/paste to exiting vi. Shortcuts save us time, but in some applications, such as CAD / CAM they are a necessity. So when the JacoBurge TouchPad Kickstarter went live in early 2018, we have to get one for a test. So let's take a look at what we get.
The biggest news was a new MKR format board, the VIDOR 4000. A board that can quite literally be anything you want it to be thanks to an FPGA (Field Programmable Gate Array) that can be instructed to behave like many different processors.
As makers, our laptop is to us as is a sketchpad to an artist. A tool that we wield to create new projects and record important information. Our typical daily driver laptop is an old Lenovo X220, with 16GB DDR3 RAM and 480GB SSD running Ubuntu. So when a really cheap Windows laptop caught our eye, we questioned just how much power do we need, especially with many of the applications that we use now being hosted in “the cloud”.
The Anet A8 3D printer that we reviewed in early 2018 is a bit of a beast for under $150, it produces decent quality prints and it is relatively easy to build. It may be a basic printer, made to a price point but we found that it was a reliable workhorse for makers.
The Raspberry Pi Zero W is a truly wondrous piece of kit. It provides access to the Raspberry Pi learning resources, it is really cheap so we can embed it in a project and forget about it, and it sips away at power, unlike its much larger relatives that guzzle power!
Here we are, the end of the journey that has taken us four parts, many mistakes and lots of learning. Building this project has used multiple skills, chiefly design and fabrication using the K40 laser cutter. Using a laser cutter for small projects (keychains, signs etc.) is rather simple, but an arcade cabinet requires careful design and lots of iterations in the fabrication process.
This week we start cutting the cabinet using the K40 laser cutter, and like any complex project, we hit a few issues. But remember dear reader, these issues are not roadblocks, they do not end our journey as a maker, rather they are wrong turns that help us understand how to create complex projects where tolerances are tight.
In the 1980s there was one place to go if you wanted the latest games, your local arcade. These arcades buzzed with electronic lights and sounds, designed to entice us to play the latest games. Classics such as Pacman, Space Invaders, Chase HQ, Operation Wolf offered an alternate reality for only 20p!
3D printers are getting cheaper and cheaper. Some are even as cheap as £99 (101 Hero), but with this level of cost-cutting, something has to give and, generally, it is in the parts that are used. So when I saw the Anet A8 on Gearbest for £118 delivered, I thought “Is this another cheap, low quality printer?”
The humble keyboard and mouse are traditional forms of input that are used to control computers. But for those of us too young, or those requiring a computer to be adapted for their needs, these traditional interfaces are not suitable and we need to adapt how we offer an interface for the user.