Arduino at the Mad Dog!

(This Post is a class requirement for History 9832b Interactive Exhibit Design)

As Namir and I live in Toronto and will be doing the majority of our class work remotely, we wanted to kick things off by getting in a routine.   We also figured since the class is working in pairs on Arduino, we’d do the same for the blog.  So my blog today will be on the experience of tinkering with Arduino in Public Spaces and Namir is going to tackle a carry-over enhancement on last week’s Arduino tutorials, which oddly enough blended right into this week’s assignments!

 Call it serendipity, but for whatever reason Namir and I who are both taking grad studies in archaeology at UWO live only a couple of blocks away from each other.  This made it extremely easy to find a public place to spread out our computers and Arduino kits.  I chose the Mad Dog Cafe on Gerrard and Logan.  It’s usually quiet in the morning and they have plenty of space.  One downside is the food is great and a little bit of a distraction (note to self: do next session at the pub!).

We settled in and started unpacking.  The Barista didn’t look too concerned however as patron’s flowed in and out, there where some curious glances.  First, a streak of panic went through me thinking that people might think we’re bomb makers and/or nerds with no jobs and nothing better to do with our lives!  However, once we started getting into it, the background “noise” disappeared and that magic discovery began.

Like I mentioned, Namir will blog about our experiment to have the LED off with full ambient light using a light sensor, then turning it on with varying degrees of shade and/or darkness.  To the right is a quick picture of the code Bill suggested last class, but as Namir will explain, we really wanted to know “why” and “how” the numeric values entered would effect the way the Arduino responded to the inputs provided.

After our extended experiment from last class, we hunkered down to work on the first tutorial called “Digital Read Serial“.  This one went by quickly as we realized halfway through that the Serial.begin (9600) is what Namir had discovered during the week to solve our other experiment!  In a nutshell, the tutorial is designed to demonstrate how the Arduino code can print back digital or analog input back to the computer through a Serial Monitor in Sketch.

Of course we went way off tangent, either because we are men or men acting like boys, to get more instant gratification than just watching “0’s” and “1’s” scroll by.  So an hour later, we had an LED light up when the button was pushed and stay on or off!  We did encounter some flakiness in combining the initial state variable with how the button would work, sometimes requiring 1-3 button pushes before the LED would stay on.  Namir chalked it up to a mechanical problem with the button, but after trying another button, same thing still occurred meaning…………our code sucked!  With about an hour and a half burned through that one experiment, we moved onto the Analog Read Serial tutorial.

After realizing that this one was better done with two breadboards (or our inability to get one board working properly) we burned through the tutorial quickly and then of course went off track again trying to get the potentiometer to adjust the LED light levels.


The third tutorial was getting Arduino to emit a Tone.  At first we didn’t understand that the speaker didn’t need to be connected to the 5v input on the Arduino, but was drawing it’s power through the Digital 8 connection (we of course are assuming this!).  This too was done quickly, but the sound was too low.  Immediately we wanted to connect the potentiometer up to this setup thinking that if we did, we could adjust the volume of the speaker!

Well, another 30 min’s later and now way past our agreed 3hrs of tutorial time and we hit the wall.  The picture on the left is our attempt to make the potentiometer adjust the sound of the speaker.  Call it delusional, but we actually thought we could make this one work without any assistance.  So I leave this blog with a question………..does anybody know how to make this work!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Apart from our fun, we had a really interesting conversation with a High School Physics teacher on maternity leave.  He was fascinated with what we were doing and came over to chat.  As per my blog last week on “What to do with Arduino”, I suggested that he introduce the concept of his Arduino to his students next year.  It’s an amazing multi-disciplinary tool set.  Our other conversation came from the table beside us during the lunch hour rush.  We were asked whether we were making a new motherboard for one of our Apple laptops…….this was when everything was all over the table, which Bill advised not to do.  He asked if we were programmers with a curious look on his face when we replied that we were Archaeologists, which drew an even odder facial expression!  Got to love how Arduino connects  and intrigues us all!

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