Extremely Organized Prototyping

We’ve got a couple of very high-tech shoe boxes in which we store our prototyping accessories. You’ll find a collection of LCD modules, chips on breakout boards, switches soldered to homemade boards for easy breadboarding, and much more. That is assuming you can find anything in that mess of components.

[Shahriar] took a different approach. He’s mounted all of his prototyping gear inside of a briefcase. This large collection of high-end boards include PIC prototyping, various LCD screens, and a large portion of SparkFun’s stocked boards. It’s much more advanced than the Arduino to-go platform, and you can see a full walk through of the system after the break.


Short overview


Full monte

55 thoughts on “Extremely Organized Prototyping

  1. i like it … but personally i use a book shelf to hold all my proto stuff and pull them down as needed

    id like to see him prototype with this on an airplane and better yet see the face on the guy next to him XD

  2. The purpose here was (as explained in the video) to create a library of code for these components and share it with others. The purpose it not to just store these parts, but to have them readily available and interconnected.

  3. This is a great project. Nice job on keeping everything so neat! I’ve made a development board myself and I know how much time it saves in prototyping. I can’t image how much better a full kit is. I can’t imagine adding too much more to that.

    What do you do if you need the RFID reader on the ds PIC? It seems a little complicated to do all that wireless when a jumper wire would suffice.

    I’m really looking forward to seeing your libraries develop. Are you programing the PICs in C or assembly? If C, are you using the HiTech or Microchip C?

  4. OK so be basically stuck a bunch of pre-made boards in a suitcase… Why is this relevant? Sorry, HAD, but I have known hundreds of engineers and I doubt a single one of them would have any interest in doing something like this! It makes no sense, no one is going to set a bulky aluminum suitcase full of crap on their desk when they want to mess with their DSPIC development board!!!

    I mean, if he had any relevant project mentioned that used ALL of this crap in both boxes, and showed it working, then maybe I’d accept it as a valid project… This looks like a kid with a bunch of money and some gorilla glue, who didn’t know how to make something with all this stuff, so he glued it in a box and called it a project.

  5. That is an impressive case of stuff. I, too, want to see you try to bring that through an airport. I suggest showing up a few hours early and telling them before you even put it on the belt.

    Also, when adding new stuff, stay clear of Arduino.

  6. I think Jake’s jealousy has him on an angry rant – he does make a point that this isn’t a 100% working hack/project, but it’s definitely a VERY IMPRESSIVE portable electronics workstation, probably best for the dedicated hobbyist or engineer who isn’t bored of his day job…once a “hobby” becomes a “job”, it’s not as much fun anymore.

    Folks, don’t whine that this guy has spent “too much” money on this — if you’re all such engineering and programming geniuses why in the heck aren’t you selling your cool projects to high bidders so you can afford your own briefcases of prototyping madness?

    Don’t be upset at Shahriar for having more money to spend than others…this is AWESOME, and deserves praise and respect!

    Very cool Shahriar — I love taking my work with me when I travel as it appears you do (a few hours of work here and there in Hawaii or MX helps make extra coin for those late night luaus and bar-hopping expeditions!)

    Be sure to update us on your future projects that are birthed from your briefcase duo!

    Uber praise and respect! ;p

  7. @supershwa

    No, that’s not it at all – This kid has a bunch of pristine dev boards and accessories in suitcases. That makes no sense! When I am working with a dev board, I don’t want a bunch of other stuff that is irrelevant to the current project cluttering around me. To me, it makes no sense to put things together like this, and I don’t know a single engineer who’d think this is a good idea. Furthermore, what if you need to solder to those boards? What if you need to etch your own board and interface it with them? The briefcase clutter suddenly becomes a huge problem

    Your statement seems to imply that this OCD person’s dream is a marketable concept that is capable of making money – I just isn’t.

    It looks to me like he enjoys looking at his dev boards and wants to be able to carry them around and show them to people to get some oohs and aahs. That’s fine, but it’s just not practical. I don’t have a single development board left that doesn’t have random wires and parts glued or soldered to it from projects of the past. I don’t carry around my entire collection when all I need is a single FPGA board. I can’t effectively use these tools if they are fastened in to a re-tasked briefcase. His boards are virgin – It’s my guess that he’s probably in college and is still learning how to use and interface them, and likes to look at them and touch them and have them all in one place. That is fine, just don’t act like this is some breakthrough! It’s not even a hack!!!

  8. @Chris

    Me too, it has worked well. I get the snap-top plastic cases for all my passives (Save big money at menards!) and have a few file cabinets that I’ve gotten at auctions. One piece of advice – If you use file cabinets to store things, put a piece of plywood in the bottom! I had a newer (read: cheaper, wal-mart special) cabinet that had rather thin metal in the bottom, it collapsed under the weight of the stuff that was in it, and I damn near had to flip the cabinet upside down to get it to open back up. They just don’t make things like they used to!!!

  9. More advanced hardware than the A2G? Yes
    More advanced hackery than the A2G? No

    Interesting concept. Would like to see a project that actually uses all of those components, though.

    @Jake I more or less agree with you, but the one advantage this has over your setup is its portability

  10. Ahh, maybe it is just a bunch of devices in boxes, but for others it may be an idea for workplace/hobby organization. Of course the practical usage will show if this is useful. Therefore let him learn on his own instead of criticizing him personally and don´t criticize just for showing it. I don´t know the intended group of readers for HAD, but usually all are in different places on their personal learning curve.

    Not every try to avoid chaos is OCD or ADS. Some protection to those boards is necessary or they die by pieces of metal lying on the desk.

    I think it´s a nice idea to have them in those boxes and have some system how to store the equipment – which does not mean the way shown here is the best.

    First, because it´s (at least for some people) nice to start something from a nice and tidy state and second, because… when people without any clue of how this stuff works need to look at it and maybe pay for whatever you do they look for spruceness and order instead of practical usage.

    It strongly depends on your way how to start with something. Some people yank the exactly fitting piece out of a heap and assemble a complete device in this way, others spend their spare time in sorting the heap before they start and create a new heap that they call project.

    Regarding the airport security stuff: they have no problems with wires and electronics, they´ve somehow gotten smart enough to know bombs usually need explosives (because… honestly, a cell phone contains enough electronics to achieve the same result).


  11. @Jerome Demers
    If you’re trying to defuse a bomb, you could always Harrison Ford’s logic from Air Force One. Clearly the red/white/blue wires can’t be it since he’s the president so cut the green one!

  12. @supershwa

    Its nice to see the internet anonymity at its best! I didn’t know that you could figure out my whole life by just looking at these suitcases! How nice of you.

    To answer your unjustified assumptions, no I am not a kid, in fact I have a Ph.D. in Electrical Eng. If you would like to see my publications please, send me an email and I will gladly give you my full info. If you need my consultation for you next mm-wave mixed-signal IC, I charge $200 an hour.

    Second, had you actually watched the video, you would realize that I don’t plan to “sell” and make money out of this, this is a TOY and just for me. However, I felt that I would share the library of code that I am working on. What a horrible thing to do!

    Third, yes I do make enough money to afford all this. I don’t see this as a problem.

    Fourth, I have made hundreds of projects, most of them as gifts and many are lying around my place.

    Good luck,

  13. I have to agree with the doubters here. Nobody I know who actually does prototyping keeps all their stuff bundled up like this. Here the focus is on the set up, not on actually doing something useful with it. Every well-used prototype board I have seen looks like Jake’s: horribly abused and mangled for the sake of making something work. Not to mention it is pretty rare (in my experience) to need to prototype anywhere other than your lab. Unless, that is, you carry a van full of all your other parts around with you as well.

  14. sure, it may be a bit over the top, but it looks convinient for storage. How nice it must be to just pull out one “tool” for most of your prototyping needs, and sure, you will need breakout boards for other components and stuff, but having a breakout board for many hard-to-prototype-with parts (smt, potentiometers, led/resistor combos) makes it so much easier, less of a pain, and a lot less stress on where an error can be. Granted, I feel like this isn’t the best execution, but it would certainly be handy.

  15. Brian, I don’t think the point of these suitcases is to pull anything out – The wiring is all zip-tied in, he seems to want to keep these boards all together and inside the suitcases…

  16. It seems like Hack a Day commenting is settling into a contest to see who can be the biggest douche to the person/project in question.

    That’s a sad commentary indeed.

    It’s clean, looks cool, and if it works-it’s good!

  17. hmm, this is a pretty different approach then I use to take, I usually come up with something I want to do, and then get the get the hardware necessary to get there, sure, if I suddenly got a bunch of money, I have a lot of things id like to buy, but I don’t think I would get it all at once.

    It would be frustrating program one of the boards when you have so many other things taking attention. But maybe thats part of the challenge.

    Also, some stuff just don’t make sense, why is the accelerometer mounted inside the case? Imagine trying to debug your code swinging the case around while looking at one of the many lcd:s :P

  18. With regards to the accelerometer, you have to consider that the box runs on battery as well. One of the things that I did with it was to write a ‘logger’ and then have the suitcase in my car on the way to work. Then at work I could download the log and see my acceleration to way to work!

  19. @strider_mt2k
    i agree. i actually like it really, its a cool way of combining all his development boards and keeping them safe. though it would be better if you could pull them out and use them individually. He could put an etched PCB on the bottom with headers, that all the boards and parts plug into. then when he only needed one board, he could just pull it out.

  20. @Jake

    Who the hell are you? What projects have you done and why should we care what you think?

    Shahriar has gone ahead and put some time and effort into giving us a look at his interesting development setup and all you can do is level completely unsubstantial and ill-informed criticism.


    Please ignore Jake’s comments and those who agree with him. They’re intentionally trolling, haven’t watched the videos, and/or haven’t put in any thought into the potential of your development environment.

    I’d love to see more in depth info on how you put it all together and how you intend to use it for future projects. Cheers!

  21. @Dick

    I assure you that my feedback is not ill-informed. I’ve been working in an APD group for about 3 years now, and hardly a week goes by where I am not hacking up some development board, or some board from an old project, trying to make it do what we need it to do. If you ever get in to development, you’ll see that my statements are true!

    Myself and those who agree with me just have a different viewpoint than you guys – We are apparently the ones that are working in the “real world”, while you guys are in the “liking to look at cool stuff” stage or something? That is fine, but just understand that I in fact *do* know what I am talking about; I would never fasten a bunch of virgin dev boards in suitcases like this, nor would any of my fellow engineers. It makes no sense from a development standpoint. It is, however, completely acceptable if you have friends who like to look at circuit boards and LCD screens that flash clever little messages when you press buttons ;)

  22. @Jake

    Well not everyone is the same as everyone else, and not everyone thinks the same as everyone else. Shahriar was just showing it off, its not like hes forcing everyone to use it. if you don’t like it don’t build it.

  23. @chris

    I guess my only point here is that this isn’t a hack and I don’t see this “platform” being useful for anything other than looking at!!!


    I don’t feel like I am insulting here, just giving some criticism that is hopefully constructive? I am dead serious when I say that I’ve never known an engineer that would think this is a good idea. If you don’t believe me, look for some pictures of a hardware engineers work area. I promise that you’ll never see suitcases full of neatly organized, virgin development boards ;)

  24. @Jake:

    “If you use file cabinets to store things, put a piece of plywood in the bottom! I had a newer (read: cheaper, wal-mart special) cabinet that had rather thin metal in the bottom, it collapsed under the weight of the stuff that was in it, and I damn near had to flip the cabinet upside down to get it to open back up. They just don’t make things like they used to!!!”

    That’s for sure.. the real story there is if you want something of some decent quality, don’t find it at Wally-World. I got a 4-drawer cabinet at Staples a few years ago, and have stored almost everything in there. They’re so flexible! From electronics boards to tools to a fair number of heavy gold and silver coins without a single problem with metal warping from excess weight (rarely ever kept paper files in there though, ironically). The damn thing must be bullet proof (note: I have never tested its bullet-proofness, however I have kept thousands of rounds of ammunition in there already).

    Relevant to this topic, maybe smaller boxes with more product-specific contents would be more my thing, but whatever works for him is fine for him.

    Personally, I do all my prototyping on a repurposed cafeteria-style plastic lunch tray with some velcro strips (soft loop side) stuck to the top, with a double-wide breadboard in the center. Any accessory boards I need for that project are in modular form with velcro (hook side) on the bottom so I can stick them anywhere. Works great for me.


  25. @Jake

    You’re certainly being very critical, but I wouldn’t call it constructive criticism.

    I must say I have no idea why you’re focusing on the professional applications of this particular HAD entry. Most HAD posts are from/for hackers and hobbyists, not professional engineers.

    This is interesting to me as an educational project. One can learn a lot in the process of linking up several different devices and learning how to interface and create code libraries for them. Yes, the ultimate practicality of such a setup is debatable, but since when has that been a major issue on HAD? As it is, it’s fun and educational, and that’s good enough.

    Maybe you can lend your expert opinion on the Daft Punk Helmet replica, and explain why no hardware engineer would ever put that on his desk. In fact there are hundreds of articles like that on HAD, and I’ve always asked myself why any self-respecting engineer would want to sully their hands with things so useless to them. I’m sure you can do HAD a real service by pointing out all the things that are useless in the professional world of electronics, so that should any unsuspecting engineers come to HAD looking for ideas on how to setup their companies’ labs they won’t be led astray.

  26. “once a “hobby” becomes a “job”, it’s not as much fun anymore.”

    Guess this is why I can’t get a job and being alcoholic since years cause I dont want to grow up and accept the truth in this :(

    But hey I have 6-7 years more left before I kill myself with alcohol and drugs so I can say I was right.

    You fucking drones go back to the factory and have fun thinking about ur lives on 40-50 yo. I already lived a full one!

  27. This is AWESOME. I think what some of the other commenters are missing is that this is perfect for embedded software development. Maybe it’s less useful from a hardware development standpoint, but who cares? The point of these development boards is that you don’t want to bother with all of the minute details of hardware interfacing while you’re getting your software written.

    Assuming that this guy can change around the modules in his suitcases to fit whatever project he’s most interested in at a given time (and let’s be honest, of course he can), then this is a very good prototyping solution. I frankly don’t see a downside, especially if the alternative is a bunch of bare circuit boards spread across a messy workbench with jumpers strewn everywhere to connect things together.

  28. I think this is just wonderful!! But it might be good for some people only. For example I study Electronic Engineering 1200km from my hometown and when I go back and visit I always take some stuff with me to keep working on some project and ALWAYS forget something!!
    It really pisses me off!!
    But again, I see how this might seem too much for someone…
    I would like to see something like this but with oscilloscope, function generator, variable power supply, a 50watt 0,01ohm resistor, multimeter… what am I missing?

    Either way, nice piece of equipment!! Keep it up!!

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