Epilogue…

It was great to see everyone’s projects the last couple of days. It seems like we all moved outside of our comfort zones to learn a new skill, which really shows how inspired we all were. I also like that all of our projects were a work in progress and that none of us were really satisfied with them being “good enough”. We all wanted to make improvements to what we made and those of us who planned to make those improvements showed a genuine interest in doing them. In other words, we were all invested in our projects beyond them being a class project and didn’t want to see them get pushed to the back of some closet. To me that is really cool, as we would never do that with a final paper or similar project.

I really enjoyed this course and the MLIS program as a whole. I’m sure I’ll be seeing you all quite a bit a little down the road…. good luck in your endeavors!

Au Revoir,

David

The Last

Well here it is, my last blog post for L7963. This evening I will give my last presentation. Yesterday, I turned in my last assignment. And not only for this course, but for my MLIS. I’m so close to being done! I’m not trying to hold it above anybody, it’s really just a time for me to reflect back. I know I’ll miss it, I had fun. Still, I’m excited to move on to the next phase… which is hopefully a public library position.

This course has been more fun than most and was a great way to end the program. More fun doesn’t mean easy though, as I probably spent 3x the time on my final project than I would have on a final paper, but it was FUN and so interesting, and it didn’t feel that way. I’ve been working with the Arduino for a month and a half. I started with the basic circuits from the kit. It’s really interesting as I progressed through them how terrified I was by the prospect of building something like my final project. The turning point came just by jumping in head first and start building and coding, which was just about a month ago with lots of time each day during the week and on weekends spent towards research and building it.

I’m really excited to see all presentations this evening and on Wednesday as I saw some really interesting work going on during class the last two periods and the different blogs my classmates have been writing. I know we all gave it our best!

 Here is a link to my Instructable: http://www.instructables.com/id/Automatic-Garden-Watering-Device-Arduino/

And so I leave you with a song that has been stuck in my head the past couple of days as I thought of this post The Replacements – The Last (which has nothing to do with a last day, but rather a last drink… still a great song!)

Coming Up to the End

Wow, what a busy week both Maker-wise and regular-life-wise. In class on Wednesday, we got to use the 3D printer and Cameo in class, so I decided to print a LEGO type block with my wife’s name on it. This came from a design in Thingiverse, which allows you to modify it by putting which ever words you wanted on it. I then used TinkerCad and put her name backwards on the other side. I thought it turned out pretty cool and she is going to display it on her desk at work.

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I also used the cameo Silhouette software to play around with one of my favorite pictures of my Beagle Maggie. I used the trace function to see what types of cuts it would make on the image. By messing with the saturation of the cuts, I was able to get it to look like her and then meticulously picked the vinyl pieces out. I turned out really well, but I wish I had saturated the right side a bit more.

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My project is going really well, and I have to deem it a success! On Saturday, I housed it in a waterproof box and drilled/Dremeled holes for wires, the solenoid switch, and the LCD screen. I tested it out on Sunday, and it works excellent… it senses correctly and then turns the solenoid valve on, which runs to the soaker hose that watered the hostas. I set it for 1 minute intervals so that it would water 1 minute, wait 1 minute and take a new soil reading. I worked! It also stayed perfectly dry. The down side is, is that my connections to the garden hose spray a ton of water out, there is just too much pressure on it. That is ok though, as I want it to work with a rain barrel and be gravity fed which will solve the pressure problem. I don’t know why I didn’t take any pictures of it in action! I think I was too excited about the fact that it was actually working.

The last step for the project at this point is to design a simple gravity fed system that will allow me to demonstrate it at the Maker Faire. I’ll do that work outside of class though as experimenting with water systems should be an outside activity. Today in class, I will be setting up and Instructable about how to make my project. I was at a get together this weekend and another Arduino enthusiast was there who told me about 123d circuits (the same people that do Thinkercad), which should allow me to easily draw up a diagram for the project. I was really worried about how to show those steps in photos, so that is a huge relief.

 

Standstill… (and Moving Again)

When I last blogged, I had the technically difficult parts of my project complete and just had to hook up a water valve to turn on and off when I want it to… easy right? It’s just a little 12v solenoid with two wires! Nope, not the case, it turns out that to use it I need a circuit with a diode, relay, and transistor. Uff…

I had electronics in high school (almost 20 years ago) and learned how to use most of these components, but really haven’t done much with them since. So in order to move forward, I had to relearn electricity and electronics. Fortunately, SparkFun have a great set of tutorials (and a really nice online store) which helped greatly and after three days, 10+ tutorials and a trip to Ax-Man, I was able to get my valve working Sunday afternoon. In the end, it was nice to go through those tutorials, as I really feel like I have a better understanding of what I’m doing with this project and it will really help me put everything together. That diode…. a one way switch that keeps the 12v current from flowing back to the 5v Arduino board and frying it. The relay… allows the 5v Arduinio to tell the 12v solenoid to turn on/off. The transistor…. well I still don’t have a great idea what that is doing. It can have two functions (1) amplification-which it isn’t doing in this case or (2) a logic switch – which is what it’s doing here I’m just not sure why… I just know I need it. More learning to do!

So now I need to put everything all together and waterproof it in an attractive looking box, and I am done with the build part! Then I will tear it apart again and rebuild with instructions.

 

On a side note, while researching items for my digital and content creation lab project I came across the 3D printing store at Amazon, which is a great idea, but the items are REALLY expensive. A phone case will run about $25, you could buy a whole spool of ABS for that. Plus, to me, a lot of the value of 3D printing is doing it yourself and not just ordering it.

Taking Big Steps

I’ve really been frustrated with my progress through my projects the last couple of weeks. I was stumbling along with my Learning Paper, the words just weren’t coming. I was building some of the sample circuits for my Arduino, but that really wasn’t very satisfying. I didn’t know how much was going to be applicable to my final project and it didn’t give me any idea as to whether I was going to me able to create my soil monitor or not.

I was really floundering, just not making any progress. I like to set aside time to do certain tasks and when I don’t complete them or at least move forward I start to feel like things are never going to be right again, I have a hard time seeing through that murk and sludge.

It is days like yesterday that really clear things up, my paper had been completed Tuesday, and it was time to tinker with the final project. Not only was I able to get the hygrometer working (I thought that might take me to the end of our class time), but I was able to display the readings on an lcd screen. Now my mind is flowing with possibilities, I ordered a solenoid valve to turn water on, I’m envisioning a drip system that will water the garden from a rain barrel, I’m thinking about how to power it with solar panels.

It’s amazing what a little success can do for the creative process. It clears away that murk and sludge and opens up the world of possibilities. The sludge will come back again, something will end up being difficult, but again I’ll have some success to move me along. Those little successes are so important and in running a Maker Space, you need to ensure each participant is having these successes. My question is how do you do this without making it too easy or obvious? How to you ensure somebody has a meaningful success?