ESP8266 MicroPython Contest Gives You the Excuse You Need

As if the prospect of having everyone’s favorite scripting language ported over weren’t enough to get you to install MicroPython on a spare ESP8266, there is now a contest for that. Over on Hackaday.io the MicroPython on ESP8266 contest is under way and you’ve only got until the end of August to submit your creation.

The prizes? First place gets an OpenMV camera board because [Radomir], who’s running the contest, has an extra one. OK, it’s not as lush as the corporate-sponsored goody-bag that we’ve got running in the Hackaday Prize, but there’s no reason that you can’t enter both. And if anyone wants to throw some more goodies into the pot, I’m sure they’d be welcome.

The rules are simple: use an ESP8266 or ESP8285 with MicroPython and post the project up on Hackaday.io. Bonus points are given for creating new libraries or hardware drivers. Basically, this just gives you an extra reason to get in there and play around. How cool is that?

If you need a start-up on MicroPython on the ESP8266, the official tutorial is great. We wrote up a first-look review of running MicroPython on the WeMos D1 hardware, but were plagued with (re-)flashing difficulties, so we’re going to have to give it another go.

Hack the Hackaday Demoscene from Your Own Home

We are just two weeks away from the Hackaday | Belgrade conference, and tickets have completely sold out. That means you can’t get your hands on one of these sweet hardware badges, but you can still take home some prizes for pulling off a gnarly hack with the badge firmware.

What we’re talking about is the Hackaday Belgrade Badge Demoscene – which includes a surrogate presenter program for anyone who wants to send in their own code for the device. You have two weeks to work on and submit your code — and we’ve made it really easy for anyone who has a working knowledge of C.

The day of the conference we will download all entries, and have a surrogate at the conference load it onto their badge and present it on your behalf. There is a separate pool of prizes for online entries, so hackers not at the con will win. And of course we’ll be celebrating the awesome demos with some posts on the front page.

No Hardware Needed

Badge emulator scrolling the word "Hackaday"
Badge emulator scrolling the word “Hackaday”

Hack in C for Abstracted Bliss or Be Hardcore:

You can use the emulator shown here to write your code for this badge. It comes with a set of basic functions that abstracts away the low-level hardware functions, and launches a demo window on your computer to test out your code. Check out this barebones C framework to get started.

For those that want more control, we have published the official assembly code that the badges will ship with (including a user manual). We’ll be squashing bugs right up to the day of the con). You can alter and compile this code yourself, or just start from scratch using the design spec if you prefer to travel the hardcore bit-monkey path.

Either way, you have an 8×16 display and 4 buttons to work with. Exercise your creativity and amaze us by doing a lot on a rather modest canvas. That’s what demoscene is all about.

How to Enter

Entry is easy, just start a project on Hackaday.io and submit it to the Belgrade Badge Demoscene contest using the “Submit Project To…” menu on your project page. You need to upload .C and .H files, or a precompiled .HEX to the file hosting part of your project page by Saturday, April 9th.

That’s the extent of the requirements. But it would be super fun if you recorded the software emulator playing your demo for all to see. The easiest way to do this is to record a video of your computer screen using your smartphone. Good luck to all!

Raspberry Pi Zero Contest Grand Prize Winners!

The Raspberry Pi Zero Contest presented by Adafruit and Hackaday came to a close last week, as the clock struck 11:59 am on Sunday, March 13, 2016. Since then our team of judges has been working to pick the top three entries. It was a hard job sorting through nearly 150 amazing creations.  In the end though, the judges were able to pick three grand prize winners. Each winner will receive a $100 gift card to The Hackaday Store.  So let’s get to the winners!

[JohSchneider] and [Markus Dieterle] both won Pi Zero boards and went on to win $100 gift certificates. [shlonkin] didn’t win a Pi Zero, but persevered and continued working on the classroom music teaching aid even without a Zero board. The top winners aren’t the only ones who are doing well. Everyone who entered has a head start on a great project for The 2016 Hackaday Prize.

I’d like to thank Hackaday’s own [Dan Maloney], [Kristina Panos], [Sophi Kravitz] and [Brian Benchoff] who joined me to judge the contest. The entire Hackaday staff is indebted to [Limor Fried] and [Phil Torrone] over at  Adafruit for coming up with 10 live videos, and providing 10 hard to find Pi Zero boards for our winners. The biggest thanks go to the entrants. If I could send a prize out to each and every one of you, I would!

Raspberry Pi Zero Round 1 Winners!

The Raspberry Pi Zero Contest presented by Adafruit and Hackaday has been going incredibly well! We currently have 132 projects entered, and there is still time for YOU to get in on the fun! The only problem entrants have had is getting their hands on these amazing $5 computers. We’ve made that easy by giving away ten Raspberry Pi Zero boards. The following projects were well documented, well thought out projects were selected by the judges. We’ve already informed the winners through Hackaday.io, and will be shipping out the Pi Zero boards to them right away.

Please join the judges and the entire Hackaday staff in congratulating the winners of the Pi Zero boards!

If you didn’t win, all is not lost! There is still time to enter the contest. The deadline is 11:59 pm PST on March 13, 2016. You’ll be in the running for one of three $100 gift certificates to The Hackaday Store!

Nessie, the Educational Robot

At the Lifelong Learning Robotics Laboratory at the Erasmo Da Rotterdam in Italy, robots are (not surprisingly) used to teach all of the fundamentals of robotics. [Alessandro Rossetti] and the students at the lab have been at it for years now, and have finally finished their fifth generation of a robot called Nessie. The big idea is to help teach fundamentals of programming and electronics by building something that actually uses these principles.

The robot is largely 3D printed and uses an FPGA to interact with the physical world through a set of motors and sensors. The robot also uses a Raspberry Pi to hold the robot’s framework. The robot manages the sensors in hardware with readers attached to the CPU AXI bus. The CPU reads their values from memory space, though, so the robot is reported to be quite quick.

The lab is hoping to take their robot to a robotics competition in Bari, Italy. We hope that they perform well there, since we are big fans of any robot that’s designed to teach anyone about robotics and programming. After all, there are robots that help teach STEM in Africa, robots that teach teen girls about robots, and robots that teach everyone.

Hacklet 96 – Pi Zero Contest Projects Week 3

The calendar is rolling through the third week of the house that Hackaday and Adafruit built: The Raspberry Pi Zero Contest. We’re nearly at 100 entries! Each project is competing for one of 10 Raspberry Pi Zeros, and one of three $100 gift certificates to The Hackaday Store. This week on The Hacklet, we’re going to take a look at a few more contest entries.

tizen[Phil “RzR” Coval] is trying to Port Tizen to the Raspberry Pi Zero. For those not in the know, Tizen is an open source operating system for everything. Billed as a go-to OS for everything from wearables to tablets to smartphones to in-vehicle entertainment systems, Tizen is managed by the Linux Foundation and a the Tizen Association. While Tizen works on a lot of devices, the Raspberry Pi and Pi 2 are still considered “works in progress”. Folks are having trouble just getting a pre-built binary to run. [Phil] is taking the source and porting it to the limited Pi Zero platform. So far he’s gotten the Yocto-based build to run, and the system starts to boot. Unfortunately, the Pi crashes before the boot is complete. We’re hoping [Phil] keeps at it and gets Tizen up and running on the Pi Zero!

harmNext up is [shlonkin] with Classroom music teaching aid. Guitar Hero has taught a generation of kids to translate flashing lights to playing notes on toy instruments. [Shlonkin] is using similar ideas to teach students how to play real music on a harmonica. The Pi Zero will control a large display model of a harmonica at the front of the classroom. Each hole will light up when that note is to be played. Harmonica’s have two notes per hole. [Shlonkin] worked around this with color. Red LEDs mean blow (exhale), and Blue LEDs mean draw (inhale). The Pi Zero can do plenty more than blink LEDs and play music, so [shlonkin] plans to have the board analyze the notes played by the students. With a bit of software magic, this teaching tool can provide real-time feedback as the students play.

retro[Spencer] is putting the Pi Zero to work as a $5 Graphics Card For Homebrew Z80. The Z80 in this case is RC2014, his DIY retro computer. RC2014 was built as part of the 2014 RetroChallenge. While the computer works, it only has an RS-232 serial port for communication to the outside world. Unless you have a PC running terminal software nearby, the RC2014 isn’t very useful. [Spencer] is fixing that by using the Pi Zero as a front end for his retro battle station. The Pi handles USB keyboard input, translates to serial for the RC2014, and then displays the output via HDMI or the composite video connection. The final design fits into the RC2014 backplane through a custom PCB [Spencer] created with a little help from kicad and OSHPark.

brambleFinally we have [txdo.msk] with 8 Leaf Pi Zero Bramble. At $5 each, people are scrambling to build massively parallel supercomputers using the Raspberry Pi Zero. Sure, these aren’t practical machines, but they are a great way to learn parallel computing fundamentals. It only takes a couple of connectors to get the Pi Zero up and running. However, 8 interconnected boards quickly makes for a messy desk. [Txdo.msk] is designing a 3D printed modular case to hold each of the leaves. The leaves slip into a bramble box which keeps everything from shorting out. [Txdo.msk] has gone through several iterations already. We hope he has enough PLA stocked up to print his final design!

If you want to see more entrants to Hackaday and Adafruit’s Pi Zero contest, check out the submissions list! If you don’t see your project on that list, you don’t have to contact me, just submit it to the Pi Zero Contest! That’s it for this week’s Hacklet. As always, see you next week. Same hack time, same hack channel, bringing you the best of Hackaday.io!

Controlling RGB LEDs With The Pi Zero

The Pi Zero is a great piece of hardware, even if you’re not designing another USB hub for it. [Marcel] wanted to control a few RGB LED strips from his phone, and while there are a lot of fancy ways you can do this, all it really takes is a Pi Zero and a few parts that are probably already banging around your parts drawers.

This isn’t a project to control individually addressable RGB LEDs such as NeoPixels, WS2812s, or APA102 LEDs. This is just a project to control RGB LEDs with five four connectors: red, green, blue, power, and or ground. These are the simplest RGB LEDs you can get, and sometimes they’re good enough and cheap enough to be the perfect solution to multi-colored blinkies in a project.

Because these RGB LEDs are simple, that means controlling them is very easy. [Marcel] is just connecting a transistor to three of the PWM pins on the Pi and using a TIP122 transistor to drive the red, green, and blue LEDs. You’ve got to love those TIPs package parts!

Control of the LEDs is accomplished through lighttpd. This does mean a USB WiFi dongle is required to control the LEDs over the Internet, but it is so far the simplest way we’ve seen to add multicolor blinkies to the web.


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The Raspberry Pi Zero contest is presented by Hackaday and Adafruit. Prizes include Raspberry Pi Zeros from Adafruit and gift cards to The Hackaday Store!
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