The Python Programming Language For Physical Hacking

We see projects here all the time that blend computing with the real world. Some people are naturally stronger on the mechanical end of things, whereas some are better with electronics or coding. All three specialities can be needed depending on your project. If your weakness lies in making a computer do your bidding, I might suggest that the Python language is a good one to learn.

I’ve been going through Learn Python the Hard Way, which is offered for free online, or you can pay for it if you so choose. I’ve published my thoughts on lessons 1-10 and 11-20 so far. As a mechanical engineer with limited (but not totally nonexistent) programming skills, it’s been an excellent experience so far.

If you’re wondering if Python is a good language to learn if you’d like to participate in [HAD] style projects, why not check out the following projects featured here:

Or just do a search of [HAD], and you’ll find many other projects for inspiration. If you’ve got a Python project to share, be sure to tell us about it in the comments!

Physical Computing Just Got A Lot Easier

Putting microcontrollers in everything and tying appliances into the internet has become the DIYers’ bread and butter. There’s a ton of benefits from an Internet-enabled coffee maker, but actually building these projects takes a little bit of knowledge. Enter [Dave] and [John] with Twine – a little Internet enabled box that connects physical reality to the digital world.

The hardware inside a Twine is a small board that combines WiFi, an accelerometer and temperature sensor. The Twine is programmed ‘in the cloud’ with a simple if/then condition. A Twine will send you a text, email or tweet when the condition is met. For example, you could put a Twine on a door and program the accelerometer to text you when someone comes knocking.

Twine isn’t an entirely closed system; there’s a plug for additional sensors (moisture detection, for example), and the data from sensors can be pushed out to a server. You can pick up a twine for $100 from the Kickstarter; it’s a little rich for our blood, but we’re sure it’ll be a useful device.

TinkerKit, Physical Computing Toolkit


TinkerKit is a collection of 20 different sensors and 10 actuators. It’s meant to make prototyping of physical computing devices much quicker/easier. The devices plug into a Sensor Hub Arduino shield. There is also a similar hub board that can emulate a keyboard; it translates sensor input directly to key strokes. It looks like a very ambitious project and it’s still in development. We love the idea though and think the wide variety of components will foster better final designs. The TinkerKit site covers the current component lineup and there’s a demo video embedded below.

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