Thursday, January 29, 2015

Relearning to Mad Science

As of about six months ago, I had to put aside my mad science equipment. My robotics, my microcontrollers, and my welding gear all went into the closet. The reason? I had transferred from a two year college to a full university. To pursue art.

Yes. You heard me right.


If you've ready my previous articles, this probably isn't super weird. I've always prided myself on the diverse nature of my various talents, technology only being one of them. I eventually want to be a computer animator. (You know, for my cover story.) So art is the logical degree to pursue. 

This was a bit of a sad transition, since I'd pull my MC stuff out at least a couple times a month. Since I was making a four hour round-trip to and from college, my time got sparse. So I got to do homework. And homework. Oh, and did I mention sleeping? Waking up at 4 am will do that to you. Not that I begrudge it. I learned a lot at college. I mostly took art history classes, so that was pretty easy homework-wise; there was just a lot of it.

Moving on...

I finally got my mad scientist kit out of the closet last week and have been playing around with the stuff in it almost every day. I started out relearning how to connect an LED to a Parallax Propeller MC and make it blink. I kid you not. This took me two hours to figure out. I wouldn't have had as much trouble with the BS2, since I used it a lot more before I had to put my stuff aside and eventually pack it away.

After I overcame that initial hurtle, things started coming back to me at a logarithmic pace. I started out with Programming and Customizing the Multicore Propeller Microcontroller: The Official Guide, which goes over the basics of the Propeller, the cores, and the LED blinking program. Ideas started flooding into my head faster than I could keep up with, so I started jumping between books and projects. With the LEDs working, I wanted to check to see if any of the RevA PIR sensors I'd gotten three years back actually worked or not. This took me to my other Parallax book: Microcontroller Kickstarts

Microcontroller Kickstarts is a must-have for any Parallax enthusiast. It's not super detail in the program descriptions, but it comments the code liberally and starts out with a strong description of the module to be used. Also, if you're not into the Parallax BS2 or Propeller, it also has sample code for the Arduino. It covers a wide variety of the modules and give you a few ideas and just enough code to get your brain cranking away. Which is exactly what happened for me.

detecto bots: revA and revBI tested my PIR sensors and found out that they do indeed work. I also relearned how to hook up a piezo speaker and control it. So I now have the working knowledge to operate and utilize LEDs, PIR sensors, and piezo speakers. If this doesn't say Evil Detecto Bots to you, than you aren't a mad scientist.

So this will probably be my first project to complete this year! A motion detector that lights up an LED and buzzes at anyone foolish enough to approach my evil lab/studio apartment.

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