Monthly Archives: April 2015

Pattern language icons

via Open Source Ecology

One of the issues of open source hardware development is the fragmented nature of documentation materials which vary not only in clarity and quality but are also spread out across a host of different platforms. This situation contributes to a general sense of disorientation when newcomers want to contribute to projects they’re interested in but also makes tracking the development of existing projects and especially derivative works so convoluted that many people choose to start from scratch. It takes special attention to turn Open Source Hardware into Useful Source.

In order to streamline our development processes, we are creating sets of icons that will grow into a visual pattern language that can be used for anything from conceptual design to machine documentation and other learning materials in print and online. This builds upon Christopher Alexander’s Pattern Language, and our early work on technology pattern language icons.

OSE icons

Using icons as visual aids in communicating ideas helps readers absorb and understand complex information which we expect will lower the barriers to entry even further for people interested in participating and contributing to new and ongoing projects. Another benefit of having these icons will be in making navigating existing documentation more efficient by visually punctuating extended tracts of text and helping readers find the specific information they´re looking for more quickly.

Why not just use icons from The Noun Project (TNP)?

First, the OSE icon set is totally fluid and open source – we upload SVG source files. This way, if you don’t like a particular icon, you can help us immediately – by downloading the icon and editing with open source software, Inkscape, according to Style Guidelines discussed below. We have created a how-to for how anyone can do this.

Although TNP is a great resource, there are many icons, especially of the more technical variety, that are simply not available there.

Another reason we decided to create our own icon sets is that even if we could find all the icons we need they would most likely not share a common visual style. Even small differences in line weight, line endings, corner radii etc, would become especially distracting when using the icons in combination.

Lastly, while TNP´s focus is on establishing themselves as a platform for creators to license their work, we go a step further. We encourage and support people in learning basic vector graphics editing software skills – to create their own icons – more info below.

Goals and next step

Our goal is to create 1000 icons in six months and in the process start building a team of people with the necessary skills to contribute in creating OSE graphics throughout the year. We have started compiling a list of icons that includes development process steps, all fifty GVCS machines, agriculture icons, and safety + quality control icons, among others.

The next step will be to host a crowd sourced effort (design sprint) to generate icons as a larger collaborative team starting next week. To join, please sign up to our Design Sprint team by filling out a skills survey. We send Design Sprint invitations to this list. Future design sprints are announced on the Design Sprint page if you miss the email. If you would like to participate, please go through the Style Guidelinese and How-To below. Design Sprints will be held for the next 6 months starting this Monday, April 12, 2015, 1 PM CST. See Design Sprint page for details.

As OSE’s Graphics Lead, I have created Style Guidelines that cover some general rules and concepts to keep in mind when creating OSE icons.

Icon Style Guidelines

I have also created a basic tutorial for how to create icons using Inkscape, an open source vector graphics editor software.

Inkscape tutorial sample

We will work through a list of icons, which includes model icons that can be used as a reference for what the OSE icon should look like.

Related reading: Open Source Hardware Documentation Jam and recent blog post on the Open Source Hardware Development Method.

Video: Zumo 32U4 Robot Example Projects

via Pololu Blog

We have a new video showing several projects you can do with a stock Zumo 32U4 robot. The Zumo 32U4’s motors, encoders, line sensors, proximity sensors, accelerometer, gyroscope, LCD, LEDs, and buttons make it a versatile robot that can be used in a wide variety of projects. The ATmega32U4 microcontroller on the Zumo 32U4 robot can be programmed in C++ from the Arduino IDE.

All of the projects shown in the video use unmodified, stock Zumo 32U4 robots (except for the Zumo driving on the refrigerator, which had strong magnets taped to it). However, you can open up even more possibilities by adding your own electronics to the Zumo 32U4. The FuzzBot, Pixy Pet, and this smartphone-controlled tank are some example projects by our customers that involved adding hardware to our older Zumo Robot for Arduino.

The source code for many of the projects shown in the video is available as examples in Zumo32U4 library, and we are working on adding more of them. Check it out, and get some ideas for a cool Zumo 32U4 project!

New product: Sharp GP2Y0A60SZLF Analog Distance Sensor

via Pololu Blog

New product: Sharp GP2Y0A60SZLF Analog Distance Sensor

We are now offering Sharp’s GP2Y0A60SZLF analog distance sensor by itself. This is a great sensor with a wide 4″ to 60″ (10 cm to 150 cm) detection range and a high update rate of 60 Hz, but it requires additional components to use and has a non-standard 1.5 mm pitch. You can use this sensor with our compact carrier boards to make a complete sensor module, or you can get our carrier boards with the GP2Y0A60SZLF already installed.

For more information, see the GP2Y0A60SZLF product page.

Looking for Wixel feedback

via Pololu Blog

Looking for Wixel feedback

PeterPan, an active member of our forum, recently started a thread asking other Wixel users to push for us to get Wixels FCC certified. The Wixel is getting to be one of our older products, so it is due for some updates, too (e.g., our new USB products have moved on to Micro-B connectors). We realize many of our customers do not necessarily want to publicly discuss their projects, so if you do not feel like participating in the forum thread, please feel free to contact us directly about your thoughts on FCC certification and other ways you would like to see the Wixel improved.