Tag Archives: arduino

Arduino goes to space series: A new hope

via Arduino Blog

We recently sponsored one of the labs at Lulea University in Sweden, the INSPIRE (INstrumentation for Space and Planetary Investigation, Resources and Exploration) Lab. It is not just any lab, it is the lab from Prof. Mari Paz Zorzano and Prof. Javier Martín, both known for their work in the possibility of discovering water on Mars’ surface, this extent was published in this Nature magazine article in 2015, among other places.

What I learned rather quickly, thanks to my interactions with both professors over the last couple of years, is that Arduino has been a basic component in the countless projects made in their lab–the Mega and Due are their students’ favorites due to the amount of available pins as well as robustness of the earlier; but also because of the floating comma, analog to digital converter, and general relevance for instrumentation of the latter.

This article is going to be the first of a series where we will highlight the way the Lulea lab is using Arduino for instruments, real life experiences, zero gravity tests, low orbit missions, and general teaching. We hope they will inspire many to follow in their steps and look at the stars with a renewed interest in science and technology.

Meet the players

Mari Paz and Javier were known to me before I actually got to meet up with them in person. As a researcher, I had heard of the article in Nature, who hadn’t? Plus, since both of them come from Spain (as I do), you can imagine that the national press was covering their finding pretty well when it was published. Funny enough, they knew about Arduino because they, as many researchers, needed to figure out methods to better finance their experiments, and Arduino is a tool known for being affordable, as well as technically competent to command many of their tests. I should confess that, by the time we all got in touch, I was already trying to figure out how to talk to them.

In November 2016, Mari Paz and Javier had just opened their lab in Kiruna, their discovery had given them new positions at a new university (Lulea University, owner of the Kiruna campus, closer to the launching station), a new team, and access to a lot more resources. And so they got back to work. I was invited to give a speech as part of their seminar series and later host a short workshop mainly for master and PhD students. The Kiruna campus in November is completely surrounded by snow. You can make it there skiing several months in the year, something I got told people do sometimes. However, the city of Kiruna is going to go through a bunch of transformations (the city center will be moved 30km due to the mine that is literally under it), and the professors decided to move their lab to Lulea’s main campus for the time being. Follow the descriptions of some of the projects developed there.

Project 1: PVT-Gamers

One of the biggest challenges for spacecrafts is how to weigh the remaining propellant (fuel) in the absence of gravity. With contemporary space vehicles in mind, which can be reused, this has become one of the most economically critical limitations to be taken into account. PVT-Gamers is the acronym for ‘Improved Pressure-Volume-Temperature Gauging Method for Electric-Propulsion Systems’ experiment designed at the INSPIRE Lab. It is exploring the use of pressurized propellants, like Xenon, and monitoring how it is used and how much is left to keep the spacecraft moving.

PVT-Gamers has been chosen by the European Space Agency (ESA) to fly on-board the Airbus A310 ZERO-G airplane. For those of you not familiar with it, it is a flying vehicle that reaches a state similar to zero gravity, and therefore is used for simulating space conditions. PVT-Gamers has been selected within the ESA program “Fly Your Thesis! 2018,” which will give the research team behind it the ability to test their assumptions in a real world scenario. A new method will be applied to small pressurized Xenon gas containers under hyper/micro-gravity cycles at a stationary cooling. Arduino boards, specifically six Mega 2560, are instrumental in recovering all the data, such as temperature, pressure, deformation, or acceleration. Subsequently, it will be possible to reproduce on-orbit, thrust phase, external accelerations, and fuel transfer conditions over a propellant tank at its End Of Life (EOL) stage, where there is almost no propellant left.

The potential applications from this scientific experiment may provide the upcoming spacecraft generation with a fuel measuring and control method that could constitute a turning point for long-term space missions. This can be applied to CubeSats or telecommunication satellites, and also to large future projects using electric propulsion such as the lunar space station “Deep Space Gateway” or the Mercury mission BepiColombo.

Current design of the PVT-Gamers experiment rack configuration to be attached to the A310 ZERO-G cabin. Photo credit: PVT-Gamers

Simulation of the velocity distribution in magnitude within a spacecraft propellant tank as consequence of external heating. Photo credit: PVT-Gamers

A310 ZERO-G cabin during a micro-gravity stage. Photo credit: ESA

Closing with a reflection: Why is this so important?

You might wonder… Why should Arduino be so interested in the creation of machines aimed at the exploration of space? The answer is three-fold. First, space is the ultimate frontier, the conditions are very tough, shipping electronics out of the atmosphere is expensive and forces engineers to become very creative, reusability is key (a part has to be used for more than one thing, even the hardware components). For Arduino, proving that our boards and choice of materials, while still cheap, are good enough to be part of the space career, is of course of vital importance. If it works in space, it works on Earth, also for the industry.

Second, the limitations are such, that many of the designs become very useful in everyday situations. If we made a greenhouse for Mars, it would work for the Arctic, or for poor villagers on the mountains anywhere in the world as well. Isn’t an excuse good enough to make a machine that will help improve people’s lives?

Third, in education we need icons to follow, and we need experiences to replicate. The ones from Mari Paz, Javier, and their team will for sure awaken the scientific vocation in many of our younger ones. Helping science is helping education!

Building interactive plant lamps with Arduino

via Arduino Blog

As part of a physical interaction and realization course at KTH Royal Institute of Technology, a team of students decided to build an interactive installation called “Alone Together

Their setup consists of sensor-equipped, networking artificial plants. The leafy plant model, dubbed “Thorulf,” uses flex sensors to detect leaf movement, while “Svamp” mushrooms employ circular force sensors for interaction.

Arduino Uno boards, along with Bluetooth modules and a computer running an openFrameworks server, allow the plants to communicate. When one plant is bent, it signals its partner to light up with a fun LED pattern as seen in the video below.

We imagine a series of plants all around the Library, assigned to one another to communicate. Our concept could even be applied over the web, so that the plants could be long distances apart, and used to communicate from one country to another, similar to the “friendship lamp” concept. In this case, the light interaction could be changed, so that the plant stays lit up when touched.

More details on the project can be found here.

Antique Coke machine enhanced with Arduino can counter

via Arduino Blog

“ChrisN219” is the proud owner of an antique Coke machine that he uses to store his favorite beverages. While a very cool decoration, it doesn’t have a way to reveal how many cans are left.

To add this functionality, he turned to an Arduino Nano along with an ultrasonic sensor that he embedded inside the machine to sense how high the cans are stacked. This allows the user to know when it’s time to stock up again, and after inserting another ultrasonic sensor to the display unit on top, an OLED screen automatically shows the sodas (or beers) available as someone approaches it.

If you’d like to build your own, you can find more details, code, and 3D printing files in ChrisN219’s write-up.

We went all the way to the pyramids and found Arduinos!

via Arduino Blog

On March 10th, I was a guest speaker at Maker Faire Cairo 2018 as a representative of Arduino. I took the opportunity as I had never been to Egypt and was really curious about the maker culture there. You can imagine that different cultures are always going to adopt ideas in various ways and Maker Faire is a great example for this. If you’ve ever been to Maker Faire Bay Area, where the event is arranged inside some old hangars and known for its steampunk character, then you would realize how very different it is from Maker Faires throughout Europe.

Take for example, Rome, which we help organize every year (and that my partner, Massimo Banzi, curates) whose location changed for several years in a row until finding its place at the Fiumicino exhibition center and features a number of Italian universities and institutions that come and exhibit (in fact, there was a full CSI lab from the Carabinieri, the national police force, at last year’s event); but also from smaller ones like the one in Bilbao, Spain, held at an old cookie factory and that has the compromise to remain small as a way to allow makers to meet and talk to each other.

You’ll ask yourself: what kind of Faire was Cairo then? The truth of the matter is that Maker Faire Cairo is still a small event that gathers about 10,000 people at the gardens of Smart Village, a complex inhabited by tech companies ranging from multinationals to local startups. Thanks to the support of both local and international institutions (namely the U.S. embassy), the crew behind the event put together a remarkable show that is clearly going to grow over the next couple of years.

To start, the two days before the Faire, all the international guests and makers were invited to a tour to see the FabLabs, the city, the pyramids, the national museum with the national mummies (hundreds of them), and to get to know one another a little better. Even if I could only join for the second day, I could value the importance of this trip. It also happened in parallel with the Egyptian Maker Week, which was arranged prior to the event in an effort to raise awareness around the Maker Movement and its importance for STEAM education.

But back to the Faire. The whole event happened outdoors; in Cairo it barely rains, so they were running no risk when they decided to book a garden to bring in some open tents and build the booths. Not to mention, the gardens were located by a fountain that kept the air fresh, despite the heat of over 30 degrees Celsius during the day. People are used to the temperature, because nobody seemed to be concerned about it. Besides, it’s all about wearing a cap, sunglasses, and drinking plenty of water. 🙂

Engineering could be considered the main theme of the Faire. Most of the projects on display, from older and younger makers alike, were exploring different topics within the field of engineering: robots looking for mines, robots making cotton candy, fighting robots, drones, a “formula student” car, a wheelchair that could go up and down stairs, the FabLab Egypt experience, underwater robots, and so on. During my talk, when I asked to the audience about their field of interest, 99% of the people were or wanted to be engineers.

While engineering seemed to be the signature of the Faire, something that should–in my opinion– make the organizers proud about such an achievement is that there were other things going on. There was a decent amount of cosplayers that came to celebrate their geekness. I had the chance to listen to some of the international cosplay guests about how much work goes into creating certain elements of the costumes, particularly the gadgets are the problem, and specially if they have any kind of interactive technology. Yet again, cosplayers weren’t afraid of the heat either, even if their hours-long make-up work could easily be washed away by it.

The FabLab network in Egypt had a great presence with both separate booths for some of the most permanent labs, as well as with their collective booths to show the work they do in promoting the Maker Movement. Some of their initiatives are remarkable, like the “FabLab on wheels:” a van with a mini fabrication laboratory that has been traveling across the country for an entire year and that will continue to do so in the forthcoming future.

Small independent designers presented their work in the field of upcycling; I liked the work from a group that looked at glass, car tires, and wood as basic construction pieces. But I was also nicely surprised by a painter that created his own version of  “projection mapping” using cardboard boxes as a canvas.

The presence of Arduino at the Faire was simply astonishing. Most robots had something Arduino inside. The aforementioned electric wheelchair was controlled by Arduino Uno boards. There was even a vending machine that accepts cryptocurrency payments thanks to its arducrypto library! I was seriously impressed by the quality of some of the projects I saw.

The Faire closed with a concert with hip-hop artists MTM, an Egyptian band that made their comeback at the Maker Faire Cairo. The stage was equipped with the latest LED technologies, huge DMX lights, fireworks… That’s what I call ending in style! The party took place directly on-site, at the main stage. All the makers, cosplayers, and visitors came together to dance and celebrate an outstanding event.

But one cannot talk about something like a Maker Faire and not talk about the people behind it. The speakers, who came from all across the Middle East and beyond–had the best hosts possible: Omar, Ahmed, Madonna (sorry for not mentioning everyone, there were so many volunteers)… To all of you: thanks for a great time and for showing us around!

You can now use Arduino to program Linux IoT devices

via Arduino Blog

Today, at Embedded Linux Conference 2018, Arduino announced the expansion of the number of architectures supported by its Arduino Create platform for the development of IoT applications. With this new release, Arduino Create users can manage and program a wide range of popular Linux® single-board computers like the AAEON® UP² board, Raspberry Pi® and BeagleBone® as if they were regular Arduino boards. Multiple Arduino programs can run simultaneously on a Linux-based board and interact and communicate with each other, leveraging the capabilities provided by the new Arduino Connector. Moreover, IoT devices can be managed and updated remotely, independently from where they are located.

To further simplify the user journey, Arduino has also developed a novel out-of-the-box experience for Raspberry Pi and BeagleBone boards, in addition to Intel®  SBCs, which enables anyone to set up a new device from scratch via the cloud without any previous knowledge by following an intuitive web-based wizard. Arduino plans to continue enriching and expanding the set of features of Arduino Create in the coming months.

“With this release, Arduino extends its reach into edge computing, enabling anybody with Arduino programming experience to manage and develop complex multi-architecture IoT applications on gateways,” said Massimo Banzi, Arduino CTO. “This is an important step forward in democratizing access to the professional Internet of Things.”

“At Arduino we want to empower anyone to be an active player in the digital world. Being able to run Arduino code and manage connected Linux devices is an important step in this direction, especially for IoT applications that need more computing power, like AI and computer vision,” added Fabio Violante, Arduino CEO.

Laser arm

via Dangerous Prototypes


Facelesstech published a new build:

So some time last year I ordered one of those servo 2 axes (pan and tilt torret) arm kits from aliexpress. It was fun to play with but I didn’t quite find a reason to use it in a project. Then I seen this project on hackaday and a light bulb went off in my head, Why hadn’t I thought about adding a laser to the arm. This would be great to let your cat or dog play with or drive them mad.


Check out the video after the break.