Learn Arduino In Time And In Tune For Christmas

If you’re one of the lucky ten thousand today who still haven’t tried programming electronics with the Arduino platform, this detailed guide by [Dafna Mordechai] should hopefully give you enough incentive to pick it up now and make a simple bit of Christmas-themed decoration with it.

The guide isn’t exactly aimed at complete ground-up beginners but it does give some pointers on where to look up whatever information you don’t have in order to follow along. Other than that, it’s very simple and has well-detailed steps, showing you how to turn a breadboard into a simple animated arrangement of LEDs in the shape of a Christmas tree, along with a piezo buzzer playing “Jingle Bells”. If you’ve never done this sort of stuff before, [Dafna] explains in pretty good detail which part of the code does what, making it pretty simple if you want to play around with it and customize it to your taste.

Once you’ve gotten the hang of the basics of Arduino, why not try a project that’s a little more elaborate? Without having to stray too far from your comfort zone, you can easily build a kid’s toy full of switches and lights or even a very extra clock that has no shortage of lights and dials.

Kelly Heaton’s Artwork Blurs The Line Between Traditional And Electronic

Digital electronics are all well and good, but it’s hard to ignore the organic, living qualities of the analog realm. It’s these circuits that Kelly Heaton spends her time with, building artistic creations that meld the fine arts with classic analog hardware to speak to the relationship between electronics and nature. During her talk at the 2019 Hackaday Superconference, Kelly shared the story of her journey toward what she calls Electronic Naturalism, and what the future might bring.

The Pool of Reflection Loop was one of Kelly’s early electronic installation pieces.

Kelly got her start like many in the maker scene. Hers was a journey that began by taking things apart, with the original Furby being a particular inspiration. After understanding the makeup of the device, she began to experiment, leading to the creation of the Reflection Loop sculpture in 2001, with the engineering assistance of Steven Grey. Featuring 400 reprogrammed Furbys, the device was just the beginning of Kelly’s artistic experimentation. With an interest in electronics that mimicked life, Kelly then moved on to the Tickle Me Elmo. Live Pelt (2003) put 64 of the shaking Muppets into a wearable coat, that no doubt became unnerving to wear for extended periods.

Analog electronics parallel living organisms while programmable logic merely simulates life.

Forrest Mims

Wanting to create art with a strong relationship to organic processes, Kelly focused on working with discrete components and analog circuitry. Basic building blocks such as the astable multivibrator became key tools that were used in different combinations to produce the desired effects. Through chaining several oscillators together, along with analog sequencers, circuits could be created that mimicked the sound of crickets in a backyard, or a Carolina wren singing in a tree.

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Circuit Art Brings Out The Lifelike Qualities Of Electricity

Functional circuit sculptures have been gaining popularity with adventuring electronic artists who dare attempt the finicky art form of balancing structure and wire routing. [Kelly Heaton’s] sculptures however are on a whole other creative level.

Not only does she use the circuits powering her works as part of their physical component, there are no controllers or firmware to be seen anywhere; everything is discrete and analog. In her own words, she tries to balance the “logical planning” of the engineering side with the “unfettered expression” of artworks. The way she does this is by giving her circuits a lifelike quality, with disorganized circuit structures and trills and chirps that mimic those of wildlife.

One of her works, “Birds at My Feeder”, builds up on another previous work, the analog “pretty bird”. On their own, each one of the birds uses a photoresistor to affect its analog-generated chirps, providing both realistic and synthetic qualities to their calls. What the full work expands on is a sizable breadboard-mounted sequencer using only discrete components, controlling how each of the connected birds sing in a pleasing chorus. Additionally, the messy nature of the wires gives off the impression of the sequencer doubling as the birds’ nest.

There are other works as well in this project, such as the “Moth Electrolier”, in which she takes great care to keep structural integrity in mind in the design of the flexible board used there. Suffice to say, her work is nothing short of brilliant engineering and artistic prowess, and you can check one more example of it after the break. However, if you’re looking for something more methodical and clean, you can check out the entries on the circuit sculpture contest we ran last year.

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Re-purposing Old Electronics To Inspire New Designs

We love seeing how things work. Exploded views are like mechanical eye-candy to most engineers, so when [Chris’] Kindle Touch died, he decided to give it new life… on his wall.

Inspired by others, he decided to mount all the components of his Kindle onto a piece of plastic that he could hang up on his wall. As an electronics design engineer, he’s always looking for new ideas and ways to design and build circuits — what better way to inspire creativity than to see a real product blown apart? Does anyone remember reading [Stephen Biesty’s] Incredible Cross Sections or Incredible Explosions as a child?

The construction is quite simple, relying on mounting holes where possible to screw parts directly to the board, or by using heavy duty double-sided tape. After finishing the Kindle, [Chris] found an old iPod of his and decided to give it the same ritual.

For some more in-depth exploded physical models, take a look Bolt.io’s office art we covered last year!