Tag: arduino

Collaboration: An Art and a Science

by on Apr.16, 2011, under technoPHILE

In my day job, I manage an engineering team and have always valued usability in the products we craft. Usability is a broad term. I use it to encompass the ease of use but also the approachability of a product. The design of a thing really can make an experience pleasant or frustrating.

As engineers we can create the function, shuttle bits and bytes down the wires in an orchestra of logic, model the forces at play, but often create a product cold to the touch and to the eye. Artists and designers, by contrast, can create something that calls out to be interacted with, that evokes an emotional response, and a lasting connection to a product. However, artists are not always trained in microcontrollers and physics.

In recent travels to North Carolina and Lexington Kentucky, I was amazed at some of the kinetic sculptures and ceiling fans designed in their airports. Many engineers could create the motion, but could not easily create the experience that caused me to smile, to ponder, to stop and admire the work. That is what an artist did, and this is why the world needs collaborations of artists and engineers.

(Courtesy Jeremy Stern: www.jeremysternart.com)

Our Collaboration

I was contacted by artist Jeremy Stern who had seen my motion-feedback instructables.com project towards the end of last year. He was planning an installation for his Masters in Fine Arts that would, if possible, incorporate an element I had used in my project. He reached out for assistance, and I was thrilled to help.

Products such as ioBridge and Arduino make technology available to everyone as a language in which to voice their creativity. It just takes a little time from someone who has done it before. It helps when there are engineers who can show that the concepts are not intimidating, just the words may be. It’s not “analog and digital”, think of it as a light switch vs. a dimmer. It’s not binary 0 and 1 and how many bits, its how many combinations of heads and tails you can have with a couple pennies. By the end of the project a soldering, wiring artist had been let loose.

“Response to the project was extremely positive, and many agreed that the water and traffic portions were the most noticeable in terms of how their movements corresponded with playback. Thanks again for all your help, Steve, working with you was definitely one of the highlights of the entire project for me.”

Jeremy and I worked several times via email and over video chat and put together a design that would function for a portion of the audio elements for his project. I would like to congratulate him on his successful project “Following”, and subsequent award of Outstanding Graduating Graduate Student from UNR. Perhaps some time he’ll encounter an tinkerer/engineer who really needs help bringing her metal and plastic construction to creative life in a way that will ignite a users imagination. Perhaps he will use his considerable eye and creativity to make that happen in a future collaboration. We engineers need help from artists like Jeremy.


“Video documentation of different visitors to the Sheppard Fine Arts Gallery, at the University of Nevada, Reno, interacting with an artwork entitled “In Concert,” as part of Jeremy Stern’s MFA thesis exhibition, “Following,” on view March 7 – 11, 2011. This exhibition explored the reconciliation of personal experience with mapped information by using the gallery’s own systems (cameras, 4-channel ceiling-mounted speakers, ceramic tile floor, hidden door, and lights) to transform the place of the gallery into an impression of the space of Reno/Sparks through a sampling and live mixing of site-specific sounds.

“In Concert” utilized two systems to measure visitor movement through the entire gallery space and play back sounds of the larger Reno/Sparks environment in which the gallery also sits. One system, co-developed with Steve Struebing of www.polymythic.com, used 3 PIR sensors per device to trigger changes in environmental sounds through an Arduino controlled mp3 player. Two devices were active in this system: one that controlled water flow of the Truckee River where normally loud sound diminished with increased movement along the sensors’ range; and another that increased the normally diminished sounds of auto traffic with increased movement along the sensors.

The second system, Eyecon, used 4 computers, each with a webcam pointed at the gallery’s 8-channel security monitor, whose cameras were angled at the grid of the gallery’s ceramic tile floor. The 8 x 12 square grid was transposed onto a Rand McNally road map of Reno/Sparks, and site specific sounds were gathered from locations on that map, within that grid. Using Eyecon, these site-specific recordings were programmed to drop down over top of anyone entering the view of the security cameras through the gallery’s 4-channel, 8-speaker sound system. The result was that visitors walking across the gallery became literal giants in the Reno/Sparks landscape, and based on how slow or fast they moved through a tile/mapped space, one might hear a brief clip or a lengthy environmental recording identifying that abstract sound as a specific location.

This work was collaboratively made with Anthony Alston, Joseph DeLappe and the Digital Media Department of UNR, Greg Gartella, Shelly Goodin, Audrey Love, Jean-Paul Perrotte, Clint Sleeper and Frieder Weiss.”

Leave a Comment :, , , more...

Humana Health by Design Challenge – HALO Project Results

by on Feb.09, 2011, under technoPHILE

The results were published, and I am honored to have won the Assistive Tech Grand Prize.  I would like to thank everyone for voting at www.instructables.com.  I would like to say a big thank you to Humana for hosting the competition, and congratulations to everyone else who entered.  There were some spectacular entries, especially in the area of Autism.  Right in line with my interests, both high and low tech demonstrated innovative thinking.

Excerpt from Post:

“The Grand Prize for Assistive Technology went to Steve Struebing from Annandale, Va., for his Haptic Assisted Locating of Obstacles, or Project HALO. Struebing used simple sensors and vibrating motors to help people with reduced vision identify and avoid obstacles, and navigate the world more safely.”

“Humana is thrilled with the responses of so many individuals who offered well-being innovations on Instructables.com,” said Raja Rajamannar, chief innovation and marketing officer for Humana. “The many entries we received were excellent examples of how individual ingenuity can enhance health and well-being for people facing challenges.”

Thank you to the judges of the competition, who are as follows:

  • Saul Griffith, PhD – 2007 MacArthur Award recipient, winner of multiple inventor awards
  • Matt Herper – senior editor at Forbes magazine, covering medicine and science
  • Joan Kellydirector of well-being and innovation, Humana
  • Quinn Norton – freelance journalist covering science, technology and medicine
  • Aaron Rulseh, MD – editor at Medgadget.com
  • Kelly Traver, MD – founder, Healthiest You; author; former medical director, Google
  • Tyghe Trimble – online editor, Popular Mechanics
  • Eric Wilhelm, PhD – winner of multiple inventor awards, founder/CEO of Instructables

BusinessWire Humana Post

Instructables.com Contest Page

Leave a Comment :, , , , more...

HALO – Haptic Feedback System for Blind/Visually Impaired

by on Dec.12, 2010, under technoPHILE

Mols takes the Halo for a spin.

Complete Build Instructions:

Please visit www.instructables.com for the complete build instructions and story.



– Approximate 4 feet of range

– Variable haptic sensation (frequency and intensity of vibrations increase as range decreases)

– Just over 180 degree field of view from 5 Parallax Ping))) Ultrasonic Rangefinders


I have recently been introduced to some new and interesting people with passions for ideas and a belief that our power to be creative with technologies can really make a difference in the world.  I used this as a springboard to create the H.A.L.O. This stands for Haptic (meaning touch) Assisted Location of Obstacles.  I had watched an episode of “Superhumans” which featured a blind man who used a series of clicks, like a bat, to echo locate his surroundings. I got to thinking about other blind people and their ability to navigate freely – perhaps without the use of a guide dog or cane.

The solution uses a series of rangefinders that take input from sensors and output feedback to pulse vibration motors placed on a person’s head. As a person gets closer to an object the intensity and frequency of the vibration increases – it’s directly proportional to the distance of an object. If a region was lacking feedback, then it is safe to proceed in that direction.

Perhaps this can be useful for the visually impaired to have the freedom to possibly move about hands-free without the assistance of a cane or seeing eye dog, or serve as a complementary enhancement to those solutions. Technology has undoubtedly made our daily lives better. By using a few inexpensive components and sensors, I’ve made a device that will allow the blind to navigate their surroundings and avoid collisions.

Great posts and comments over at:





HALO and Haptic Headband, with the control package displayed

Wearing the HALO without the Haptic Headband

Wearing the Haptic Headband without the HALO

Arduino Mega 2560, breadboard, LED field, power section, and wiring

The lab in full swing. HALO, microcontroller, and a rats nest of wires.

8 Comments :, , , , more...

Solar-Powered Temperature Sensor

by on May.18, 2009, under technoPHILE

Solar Powered Temperature Sensor

In case you’ve not heard, there is a Green Revolution in progress.  To quote a popular commercial, “The way we use energy now can’t be the way we use it in the future.  It’s not conservation, or wind, or solar.  It’s all of it.”  I have long kept a solar-energy project in the back of my mind, so I ordered a 12v/.2A solar panel power supply from a vendor (note: I erred while filming and said it is a 2A panel.  It is a .2A panel).  As a first step project, I figured I would power up my Arduino, use my shiny new XBee modules, and relay some sort of meaningful data back from this wireless solar-powered microprocessor.


How is the weather outside today?  If I am getting data, its sunny!  And 65 degrees on my deck according to my newly built solar temperature probe.

XBee Communications

I did some first-steps using 2 Arduinos communicating over the default broadcast configurations over a span of about 2 feet.

The Salt and Pepa of the Arduino world.

The Salt and Pepa of the Arduino world.

Arduino 1:  “Yo.  How you doing?”

Arduino 2:  “Fine thanks.  Wow, we are talking wirelessly.”

Arduino 1:” These are great days we’re living in, man.”

Arduino 2: “Now, if only I could unhook from this power cable.”

I settled down Arduino 2 after his diatribe likening himself to Pinnochio, and told him that I would take care of it.

Detail of an XBee wireless communication module

Detail of an XBee wireless communication module

XBee Modem off of the adapter board

XBee Modem off of the adapter board

Serial Communications

After getting the Arduino twins talking (and hey, its all serial!) I grabbed my ioBridge and slapped on the Serial Communications smartboard.  In about 1 minute, I had my ioBridge chatting with my Arduino.  Sweet….  Now, on to untethering my Arduino.  “I got no wires…to hold me down… la-la-la-la”

The Wireless Temperature Probe

I ran out to Radio Shack and picked up the right barrel plug adapter, and added some wires to run into the Arduino.  Note: the jumper must be set on the Arduino to take power from external.  My Solar Panel provides 12v, and the Arduino can take power up to 12v.

XBee hooked up to temperature sensor

XBee hooked up to temperature sensor

Temperature sensor

Temperature sensor

I used the temperature probe that I had from my ioBridge, crafted a quick sketch (see below) on the arduino (the analog scaling factor may be off since its not precisely linear, but c’est la vie) and waited for the sun.  As soon as I plugged it in, the Arduino woke up, lights blinking, and was soon processing and wirelessly communicating!  All this achieved because of energy provided by that flaming ball in the sky.  Now that’s cool.

A quick run upstairs onto the ioBridge dashboard and guess what?  The serial monitor widget was telling me what the temperature is outside.  65.31 degrees Farenheight.  Wirelessly and without another power source…

ioBridge and Serial Smartboard hooked up to XBee module

ioBridge and Serial Smartboard hooked up to XBee module

A nice springlike 65 degrees outside at the moment.

A nice springlike 65 degrees outside at the moment.


Now that I have a solar powered wireless microprocessor at my disposal, I am thinking of giving it some legs, and onboarding some Artifical Intelligence.  Its top priority could be to take over the world.  Take some solace in the fact that the processor is 1KB of RAM, 512 bytes of EEPROM, and runs at a “blazing” 16 MHz.  If that’s not enough, then know that all you need to do to shut down its diabolical scheme is stand over it and block the sun.  Hmm.  Perhaps its better served as  a temperature probe….. for now…

Sketch for Arduino

#include <NewSoftSerial.h>

NewSoftSerial xBeeSerial =  NewSoftSerial(2, 3);

void setup()  {

  // Initialize the on-board LED

  pinMode(13, OUTPUT);

  //Initialize the HW serial port


  Serial.println("Ready to send data:");

  // set the data rate for the SoftwareSerial port



void loop()                     // run over and over again


  //Read from the analog input from analog pin 0

  int tempValue = analogRead(0);

  // Send the message to the XBEE Transmitter

  xBeeSerial.print("Time: ");


  xBeeSerial.print(" Value:");

  // Do scaling ~6.875

  float scaledValue = tempValue / 6.875;



 // Update every 2 seconds


15 Comments :, , , , , , more...

Arduino/ioBridge Airsoft Target Range

by on Jan.20, 2009, under technoPHILE

Indoor Airsoft Shooting Range


A friend of mine who is something of an avid shooter had mentioned the lack of affordable “action” type targets.  After some discussion, we determined it would be fun to build such a contraption for some indoor airsoft practice.  The Arduino Diecimilia was a great choice for the “programming side” of things (I have 2 of them, he has one as well).  

As a shooter, you would want to be up-range from the targets, so having something portable with a web interface was a great solution so nobody would have to be “in the line of fire”.  The iPod Touch and the ioBridge module I used in another recent project.  Of course, why build a custom target enclosure when I could snap one together with my Construx.  

Victory!  Let the fun start!

Victory! Let the fun start!

I used 3 of my hobby servos to turn the target faces. I am tightening the Construx frame to the hobby servo mount.

Building the target faces

Building the target faces

Arduino Pin-Outs:

  • Pin 13 – Debug LED
  • Pin 12- Ready for Command
  • Pin 11 – PWM for Servo 1
  • Pin 10 – PWM for Servo 2
  • Pin 9- PWM for Servo 3
  • Pin 8- Incoming Command Pin (PWM from IOBridge)
  • Pin 7- Command Waiting from IOBridge
  • Pin 2- Peizo Speaker Control

Not to mention the ioBridge wiring, and the Servo wiring. Yeah I have a diagram or I would STILL be working on it. 

A rats nest of wires for the first pass

A rats nest of wires for the first pass

Debugging the system 

Debugging the system

It looks a monstrosity, but once the target face is on it, I cut up some cloth as the Airsoft BB trap, it will look just fine. 

All done, ready to rock!

All done, ready to rock!

System debugged, targets turning!  Now I can call out the programs remotely using the web browser in the iTouch and let the IOBrige tell the Arduino to do my bidding.


How the Airsoft Target Range Was Built



Arduino Source Code: Arduino-ioBridge-Airsoft-Source-Code.txt

I would say this was a fun, interesting, and rewarding project.  I have also made it future-proof enough to scale up the number of targets for even more options.  For those of you airsofters who don’t want your skills to dull over the winter, turn your basement into a range!  

Now, should I put hay-bales on a servo platform for an indoor archery range?

Happy tinkering!


Full Video Version (Combined Demo + Instructions)


41 Comments :, , , , , more...

Looking for something?

Use the form below to search the site:

Still not finding what you're looking for? Drop a comment on a post or contact us so we can take care of it!

Visit our friends!

A few highly recommended friends...