In the winter, I hatched a vague plan to learn some of the modern unmanned aerial vehicle tech. Everybody needs an autonomous vehicle, and we’ve got some good flying fields within walking distance, so it seemed like it could work. Being me, that meant buying the cheapest gear that could possibly work, building up the plane by myself, and generally figuring out as much as possible along the way. I learn more by making my own mistakes anyway. Sounds like a good summer project.
Fast-forward to August, and the plane is built, controller installed, and I’ve spent most of the last month trying to make them work well together. (The firmware expects a plane with ailerons, and mine doesn’t have them, but apparently I’d rather tweak PID values than simply add a couple wing servos.) But it’s working well enough that it’s launching, flying autonomous waypoint missions, and coming home without any intervention. So, mission accomplished, right?
Nope. When I’m enjoying a project, I have a way of moving the goalposts on myself. I mean, I don’t really want to be done anyway. When a friend asked me a couple weeks ago what I was planning to do with the plane, I said “take nice aerial videos of that farm over there.” Now I see flight opportunities everywhere, and need to work on my skills. The plane needed an OLED display. It probably still needs Bluetooth for local configuration as well. Maybe a better long-range data link…
This is creeping featurism and moving-the-goalposts in the best of ways. And if this were a project with a deadline, or one that I weren’t simply enjoying, it would be a problem. Instead, having relatively low-key goals, meeting them, and letting them inspire me to set the next ones has been a blast. It makes me think of Donald Papp’s great article on creating hacking “win” projects. There he suggests creating simple goals to keep yourself inspired. I don’t think I could have planned out an “optimal” set of goals to begin with — I’ve learned too much along the way that the next goal isn’t obvious until I know what new capabilities I have. Creeping is the only way.
What about you? Do you plan your hobby projects completely in advance? Not at all? Or do you have some kind of hybrid, moving-the-goalposts sort of strategy?
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As a consequence of the social distancing and self isolation, many a maker has been searching for ways to cure boredom. So what happens when you put a maker in a closed space with electronics parts. The answer is a bunch of random microcontroller projects that help beat boredom. [Danac1886] posts a video with a bunch of experiments with the ATtiny series of microcontrollers which can be a source of time-killing inspiration for these tough days of solitude.
The video is based upon a variety of controllers ranging from the ATtiny85 to the ATtiny84 and even includes the ATtiny2313. There is also a project with the ATtiny10, an SMD SOT23-6 package that is quite amazing to behold. All the devices can be programmed using the Ardino as an ISP so all you need is another Arduino lying around in case you do not have an AVR ICSP.
As for the projects themselves, there is an assortment of things that start with the basic blinking LED, adding an I2C LCD and then moving on to a 7 segment display counting up with variable speed controlled with a pot. We really loved how much these tiny projects inspire and can help someone get started with basic electronics and programming.
Most of us have been there, some projects just don’t get finished. Everyone shelves an in-progress build from time to time, and some hackers drop almost every project for fully finishing it. Why does it happen? What can we do about it? Or does it even matter? My own most memorable one is the wine glass rack I was making for my sister’s birthday, still sitting incomplete on a shelf eleven years later.
The answer may lie in what you consider to be a “done” project. Is it a fully completed build with every possible feature implemented and polished? With that rubric you could be counting all of your completed projects on one hand. What are you really getting out of your personal projects? It’s an interesting topic to consider as pivoting your mindset can end up boosting your productivity. So let’s dig in!
Kids generally can be amused pretty easily, but when jangling keys stop holding their interest you might want to take a look at [drenehtsral]’s new project. He’s created an automatic bubble robot (YouTube link) that keeps the kids endlessly entertained!
The project started as an idea at a festival where one of [drenehtsral]’s kids took great interest at a bubble machine. [drenehtsral] had never heard of a bubble machine before, but it turns out that it’s pretty simple in practice. All that’s required is a tank of soapy water, a motor to turn the bubble wands, and a fan to form the bubbles and make them waft gently through the air.
[drenehtsral] also used a 12V battery for power, some other hardware to hold it all together, and a 5V regulator and some other control electronics for the fan and the motor. He notes that he could have bought a bubble machine but in true hacker style found it fun to build himself. The next step in this project could be something to vary the size of the bubbles, or perhaps a set of wheels for the robot so it can entertain the kids on the move!
We have many more exciting projects planned for the near future. Projects involving high voltage, lasers, and thermite! We could always use more ideas though. What projects would you like to see done? Think big, we want to remind people just how awesome hacking can be!
We now have access to some high speed cameras, a wonderful and professional gentleman named [Jay] who is an astounding video editor, and quite possibly the brightest readership in the universe. Let us know your ideas for awesome projects!
A few weeks ago we wrote about our Bus Pirate universal serial interface tool. We used the recent holiday to add some new features, like a JTAG programmer, macros, frequency measurement, and more. A major code reorganization makes everything easier to read and update.