While Mumbai and Bengaluru have an active and large hacker community, New Delhi, India’s capital, seems to have leapfrogged ahead when it comes to hackerspaces – four at last count. So when the latest one in town, Maker’s Asylum, opened it’s doors last month, we decided to put together a hacker congregation to bring the community together and introduce them to the Hackaday Prize. Having already done Hackaday Prize bring-a-hack events in Mumbai and Bengaluru, we thought of doing something more substantial – a day long KiCad EDA workshop followed in the evening by a Show-n-Tell brag show.
Hackaday’s [Matt Berggren a.k.a. @technolomaniac] has done a couple of “Design a PCB from zero to WiFi with Hackaday!” Eagle EDA workshops recently. He designed a simple breakout board that allowed connecting an ESP-01 module to the USB port via an USB-UART cable with level conversion, pull up resistors and push button switches to make it easy to program. We had a slightly delayed start, so I quickly rushed through the awesome presentation that [Matt] has prepared, running through the “What is a PCB?” section and skipping the rest. We also discussed a couple of candidate designs for the day’s workshop – a pair of ATtiny line following robots, a simple Attiny SmartLED controller, but eventually, everyone got excited when I mentioned “ESP-8266” !
First off, I got everyone to manually sketch out the schematic we were going to build. For those starting off fresh, it’s good practice to do this until you get more proficient with working directly in EDA. Having a reference sketch handy helps a lot. All the hackers already had Kicad installed on their computers, so we quickly got down to creating the schematic. By lunch time, we had finished drawing out the schematic, wrapping it up at the netlist stage. I was worried about the effects of lunch, but luckily, everyone was raring to get going, so the rest of the afternoon/evening was spent in designing the PCB layout and we wrapped it off by generating the Gerbers. The project is posted here, where you will also find a link to the GitHub repository. We hope to get a couple of boards fabricated soon.
We wound up the workshop, and then moved upstairs, for an evening of show and tell. [Vaibhav Chabbra], founder of Maker’s Asylum, started off with a welcome note and a quick round of introductions of the team that helps run the makerspace. I followed up with a round-up of the Hackaday Prize 2015 and showed off last years winners.
Kicking off the Show and Tell, [Sahil Sahajpal] showed off Suraksha – a safety glove for self defense. The glove contains a high voltage, low current generator powered off a rechargeable battery. It gives a safe, but uncomfortable jolt to the attacker, giving the wearer some time to make a quick getaway.
[Mahesh Venkitachalam] traveled all the way from Bengaluru to attend the KiCad workshop, and brought along two of his hacks. An Arduino audio laser display from his upcoming Python programming book – Python Playground. It’s quite an interesting hack. A computer processes an audio stream, doing some FFT using Python. The processed output goes via the USB port to an Arduino. The Arduino sends data to a motor driver, which in turn controls the speed and direction of two small DC motors. Mirrors, glued at a skewed angle to the motors axis, bounce off the beam coming from a LED laser pointer. With no audio, a circle is projected. When the audio stream starts, beautiful figures similar to hypotrochoids are formed. The other hack [Mahesh] showed was a 555 based motion sensing night lamp featuring a constant current drive for the high brightness LED. No Arduino, no programming, 9V battery powered and available in kit form, making it an easy to assemble first kit. The PIR sensor triggers the monostable 555, turning the LED on for around 15 seconds. He handed out several boards to hackers after his talk.
[Jasmeet Singh], is founder of the JMoon, a makerspace in Delhi. He has been a tremendous help to us in setting up Maker’s Asylum, rolling up his sleeves and helping out with electrical wiring and making sure we were ready before throwing the doors open last month. He dropped by to show off his Automatic Plant Water System. It uses a soil resistance sensor hooked up to an Arduino which controls a water pump to keep the plants watered. [Jasmeet] added a simple paddle wheel type flow meter to ensure the right amount of water is fed to the plants.
[Gursehaj Singh] and [Karmanya Aggarwal] are interns at Maker’s Asylum, and recently built an all analog, VU meter that uses an LM3914 and an AD620 opamp to display audio levels. It’s several feet high with lots for LEDs and makes for a fascinating display. [Gursheraj] also talked about a navigation aid for the blind that he is working on, in which he wants to use maps, haptic feedback, ultrasound sensors and a camera.
[Utkarsh Kumar Gupta], another intern at Maker’s Asylum showed off his amazing DIY Projector. It uses a 180W COB LED from Bridgelux, running at approx. 150W. Liquid cooling with a small radiator and cooling fans helps keep the LED cool. A TFT LCD color display, with it’s backing removed is fixed in front of the LED. Between the LED and the LCD is a Fresnel lens, and a second Fresnel lens in front of the LED. A standard projector optical lens unit is then used to focus the final output. A universal graphics input card provides VGA, DVI, HDMI, Component, S-Video and Composite inputs. A couple of beefy power supplies power up all the electronics. A mechanical lever changes the angle of the front Fresnel lens, which takes care of keystone correction. It’s a fairly comprehensive build which cost him under $300 to put together.
Next up was [Jithin], who showed off his Python Powered Scientific Instrumentation Tool – a highly capable measurement system consisting of a microcontroller-powered box containing just about every imaginable benchtop electronics tool from constant current supplies, LCR meters, waveform generators, frequency counters, to a logic analyzer. He also showed off his Versatile Lab Tool – a low-cost lab tool that pairs with the Raspberry Pi and aims to equip teaching labs with a veritable set of test and measurement instruments. This one is a stripped down version of his other project, but is still highly capable and introduces wireless hardware nodes. It was extremely interesting, and I guess I could have spent the whole night discussing the project with [Jithin]. As an aside, his dad [Prof. Ajith Kumar] has been instrumental in setting up the expEYES project that came from the PHOENIX project of Inter-University Accelerator Centre, New Delhi.
Finally, we had [Sandeep Kumar], [Kuldeep Singh] and [Anupam Kaushik] from Mad Resistor talk about Box1 Electronics learning lab tool. Their project is similar to what [Jithin] and expEYES are working on, but we couldn’t get much details since it is still under beta. They did show off an accelerometer module connected to an ST ARM-based main board sending data to a Python based tool kit on the computer.
We had expected to wind off by 8:00pm, but it was way past 9:00pm before we finally did.