Exciting #BCTECH Summit Launch: SMRT1 Technologies Brain STEM Toolbox

This is definitely MIDAS Fab Lab Director Brad Pommen’s week!  First, the announcement of his featured speaking gig and now the exciting unveiling of a project dear to his heart and one that has been much anticipated by Brad, his company, SMRT1 Technologies Ltd., and anyone who has had the privelege to witness the idea’s evolution over these many months.

Eight years ago, having initiated his first tech club, the Nelson Tech Club, Brad found himself in search of an effective way to provide the growing local maker community a way to not only find the tech products and equipment they needed but also how to use it.  In one efficient step.

While a huge ask, he looked to the traditional vending kiosk system for his answer.  The idea simmered, and the concepts were pondered and explored for the next six years.  It wasn’t until shortly into his tenure as Director of MIDAS that the idea started take physical form.  He purchased his first vending machine directly from the factory and began the long and iterative journey of prototyping.

At the same time, his new business, SMRT1, also began taking shape.  His entrepreneurial journey was assisted when he registered with the BC Venture Accelerator Program under the expert guidance of entrepreneur-in-residence and current Executive Director of KAST, Don Freschi.

From basic vending machine to state-of-the-art touchscreen technology, SMRT1 Technologies is taking a pretty brilliant stab at revolutionizing what is a very conventional industry.  Vending machines have been slow to change and the Brain STEM Toolbox technology gives brand new life to the traditional vending machine with incredible touchscreen capabilities that go well beyond simply choosing your desired item off a rack behind glass.

MadeAtMIDAS SMRT1 BrainSTEM vending machine.

A very early iteration of what is now the clean and efficient touchscreen technology in the final version of the SMRT1 Brain STEM vending machine.

Education is a huge driver behind the Brain STEM Toolbox.  It isn’t simply about the purchase.  Rather, SMRT1 Technologies  has created a learning system designed to be easy and fun.  The touchscreen allows for full specs, details and the ability to rotate and zoom on the image of the product to allow for a far more educated purchase.

SMRT1 has been enthusiastically received by local education institutions.  There are currently six Brain STEM Toolboxes set to roll out to BC schools in September.  Teachers who are already using the learning modules and projects are excited to have in-school access.

The Brain STEM Toolbox takes the vending machine as we have always known it to a whole new level: this is an interactive and educational shopping experience.  It’s perfect for schools, technology retail, or any other pop-up retail location. Payments are easy and secure with cash, bank card or digital wallets.

“Snack vending machines are retro-fitted with our custom hardware which uses machine learning to interact with the student to help them choose the right project.  It also allows cash, credit or a digital wallet to pay for the project which is then dispensed.  It was the best way I could think of to get the projects that pair with the online learning modules close to the students and the teachers,” said Brad Pommen CEO of SMRT1 Technologies.

“The Brain STEM Toolbox can shape-shift to have application to a wide variety of micro-niche retail sectors.”

SMRT1 BrainSTEM Toolbox #BCTECH Summit launch

SMRT1 Technologies bridges the physical shopping experience with that of e-commerce. Not only does this technology revolutionize what is possible through a vending machine, it’s a completely custom experience available for less than $10,000!

This high-tech touchscreen tech vending machine will be on display at the MIDAS Fab Lab booth at the upcoming #BCTECH Summit in Vancouver next week, May 14-16,

If you want more information on the Brain STEM and SMRT1, do visit: www.smrt1.ca.

#madeatMIDAS #makersgonnamake

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Fun Friday: DIY Raspberry Pi Photo Booth

A DIY photo booth for your next party

Looking for a cool way to amp up your next party?  This DIY Raspberry Pi Photo Booth should do the trick!

If your in need of a cool addition to your next party, check out this cool little DIY project.  Forget renting a photo booth to document your friends and loved ones, with a little techie elbow grease, a DSLR and the magic of a Raspberry Pi, you can set up your own rig for simply pennies.

There’s two parts to this project. You may find that connecting all the components is the least challenging part of this project with the slightly harder part the wrangling of the software.  While there’s a lot of similar projects out there on the ol’ interwebs, this one from developer Phillip Trenz, with a useful local Wi-Fi feature for downloading photos, seemed to be pretty good.

To install it, follow Trenz’s instructions from the Github page for the project. Essentially, what you’re doing here is installing the various pieces of software the program needs to run — including gphoto2, which is a super comprehensive piece of open-source image capture software that works with almost every camera ever made.

Next step:  install the app, and you’re good to go.

What you need:

  • A Raspberry Pi 3, or an older Raspberry Pi with a Wi-Fi adapter.
  • A monitor with HDMI-in, to be the screen of the photo booth.
  • A DLSR or other camera that can connect to the Pi over USB, along with whatever weird cable your camera needs to do it.
  • A mouse and keyboard, which you’ll need to get things set up on the Pi.
  • A tripod, ideally one that’s taller than your screen so that you don’t block the camera.
  • Patience for messing around with network settings.
  • Props!

Tips to putting it together:

A few hints: once you connect the camera, you need to eject it from the local filesystem, since it can’t be mounted as a folder and used as a camera at the same time. Similarly, I’d recommend setting the camera to shoot in JPEG — not RAW — if you’re using a DSLR. This is because the Pi has trouble handling the larger images.

There’s also a config.json file where you can edit some settings, like whether or not the app will run in fullscreen or if you want the camera to save pictures or simply store them directly on the Pi.

Trenz’s app also includes a local webapp for viewing and displaying pictures. The trick here, though, is to get the Raspberry Pi to broadcast a local Wi-Fi network, which is kind of complicated. This guide from developer Phil Martin over at Frillip is a good place to start.  When you get everything setup correctly, you’ll have a local network. You’ll just need an IP address to share with guests for access to the photos. If you’re really clever, you can use DNS mapping to make an actual simple address for your local network, like photo.booth, to make it easier to get to.

Now, all you need are the fake moustaches, feather boas and some crazy hats!

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Fun Friday: Stop Motion Camera With Raspberry Pi

There is a ton of fun to be had with the Raspberry Pi!  This low cost, credit-card sized computer enables people of all ages to explore computing, and to learn how to program in languages like Scratch and Python. It’s capable of doing everything you’d expect a desktop computer to do, from browsing the internet and playing high-definition video, to making spreadsheets, word-processing, and playing games.

But…. there’s so much more!  This nifty little gadget is a dream for makers as the Pi can be used in a multitude of digital maker projects, from music machines and parent detectors to weather stations and tweeting birdhouses with infra-red cameras.

With all the myriad ways to make use of the Raspberry Pi, this week it was this one that caught our eye.

For all you aspiring film-makers, dig out your old Lego minifies – or an orange – and start creating fun, interesting, totally home-baked movies in no time!

OK, so maybe not a beginner project, but definitely inspiration!

With this resource, you will make a stop motion animation using a Raspberry Pi and a camera module to take pictures, controlled by a push button connected to the Pi’s GPIO pins. The photos will be automatically generated into a video by using the command line tool avconv.

By creating a push button stop motion machine with your Raspberry Pi you will learn:

  • How to set up and use the Raspberry Pi camera module
  • How to use the Python picamera library to capture photographs
  • How to connect a button to the GPIO pins on a Raspberry Pi
  • How to control the camera with a button using GPIO Zero
  • How to generate a video from the command line using avconv

This resource covers elements from the following strands of the Raspberry Pi Digital Making Curriculum:

What you’ll need for this project:

Hardware

  • Raspberry Pi camera module
  • 1 x Full size breadboard
  • 2 x Male-to-female jumper leads
  • 1 x Tactile button

Software

You’ll need to make sure you have the following packages installed to proceed with the workshop.

  • libav-tools

Check out the entire project HERE and, if you take it on, be sure to let us know!

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Selkirk College GLOWS RoboGames 2018 – Cheer On Your Favourite Robot!

RoboGames GLOWS Selkirk College 2018

 Imagination meets technology at the Selkirk College GLOWS RoboGames!

Prepare to enjoy a robot competition like no other!  Everyone is welcome to attend this Saturday, April 28th at the Castlegar Campus Gymnasium, the 2018 RoboGames, where Kootenay – Boundary youth aged 6 to 18 bring their robotics a-game to compete in this fun and exciting competition in local innovation.

Get there early as the games begin at 10am!

Selkirk College GLOWS RoboGames

RoboGames is a unique opportunity where, experimentation and mentoring, youth from throughout the region learn how to design, build and program robots that they will enter into RoboGames, a fun and free-spirited event full of prizes.

Look forward to teams competing their robot in up to two specialty events.  Each event is approximately 45 minutes and the schedule of events is as follows:

  • Line following – This event utilizes the obstacle course, except the robots must follow the line from end to end. There may be crossed or intersected lines, as well as obstacles to create havoc. Speed and accuracy will be highly praised. The line will be about the thickness of electrical tape.
  • Obstacle course – Robots maneuver the obstacle course as quickly and carefully as possible. Navigate walls and obstacles to reach the end of maze.
  • Robot battles – Robot gladiators in the ultimate destruction event!
  • Robot soccer: One on one, head-to-head, mano-a-mano! Robots grab the most robot soccer balls to their side in two minutes.
  • Special tricks – The crazier the better! Dance, tell a joke, fetch an object… it could be anything! A creative and fun event challenging the kids’ innovation.
  • Balloon popping – Which robot will pop the balloon first?! Robots enter the ring prepared to burst the balloon before their competitor.

Judges will be looking for design and assembly; programming and logic; the robot’s ability to problem solve as well as its ability to adapt to challenging situations.

Awards will take place between 3-3:30pm.

Find out more HERE!

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The Maker Movement: DIY, Hands-on, Innovation In Action!

maker movement fostered at MIDAS

There is a movement afoot and, with the help of education, tools and equipment (such as welcomes you at MIDAS!) to more easily and cost-efficiently bring ideas to life, it’s gaining tremendous steam!

The Maker Movement – or in more familiar terms, Do-It-Yourself – is growing in participation in schools, communities and industry throughout the province, and, of course, beyond.  What makes this a movement, rather than simply the act of puttering in one’s garage, is the resources, equipment and materials available to support it in ways we’ve never seen before.

This movement is grassroots innovation and it’s being enthusiastically embraced and fostered in more and more communities, nurturing an ever growing number of people, creative and curious.

The digital age has really blown the lid off what was formerly tinkering, or on a larger scale, inventing and innovating with significant effort and resources to bring an idea to prototype, using specific manufacturers located by and large overseas.  Inventing and innovating, as it has previously been known, has required very specialized software and fabrication equipment, not easily accessible either in terms of cost or location and has made it prohibitive for potential innovators to see a project through to completion let alone market.

With technology expanding as it is, so fast and with such scope, the creative process of invention and innovation is being transformed.  The access we have to imaging, scanning, drafting and other specialized software as well as the fabrication equipment to translate plans into tangible, surprisingly high quality, prototypes allows and encourages Maker creativity and invention unlike any time before.

MIDAS, and our MIT certified facilities, is a great example.  As part of this movement gathering momentum, every day we see makers contributing to what is becoming their own market ecosystem, developing incredible new products and services. The combination of ingenious makers and innovative technologies such as the Raspberry Pi mini-computer and Arduino micro-controller along with 3D printing are driving innovation in manufacturing, engineering, industrial design, hardware technology and education.

Makerspaces are cropping up in communities big and small. Offering everything from Repair Cafes – where makers offer up their talents to fix and repurpose everything from computers to mobile phones to toaster ovens – to workshops on soldering and Arduino to imaging software education to actual fabrication and prototyping equipment, as we do here.

Inquiry-based and more hands-on education trends are beginning to trend as well.  Schools, for pre-schoolers through secondary students, are offering more and more resources and opportunities to explore and nurture their curiosity.  Through electronics and technology, young people are challenging their own creativity, innovating unlike ever before through coding, robotics and other fun and hands-on ways of expanding their knowledge and experience in the various facets of Science, Technology, Engineering, Art (Design), Mathematics, or STEAM.

While many makers consider themselves simply hobbyists or enthusiasts they are a vibrant and fundamental source of innovation, embracing creativity, developing new products and generating value in the Maker community.  In fact, it’s not unusual for some of these Makers to take the leap as entrepreneurs and start companies.  We see it all the time!

While there are several industry professionals who take advantage of the incredible Maker opportunities at MIDAS, it’s not necessary to be an engineer or techie to enjoy all a space like MIDAS offers.  Check out our #madeatMIDAS features to see the examples of ordinary people making extraordinary things.

That’s what’s so great about the Maker Movement: accessibility!  You don’t even need to bring an idea… just your imagination and curiosity.  The ideas will flow soon enough!

What can MIDAS can help you make!  Check out our calendar of courses HERE!

#madeatMIDAS #makersgonnamake

Introduction to MIDAS from MIDAS Fab Lab on Vimeo.

Fun Friday! Raspberry Pi DIY Laptop With A Little Trotec Laser Cutter!

 

Raspberry Pi Trotec Laser Cutter DIY laptopWhat do you get when you combine the magic of a little Raspberry Pi with a wood casing courtesy a Trotec 120Watt Laser Cutter?  One heckuva DIY laptop!

Between the Raspberry Pi, loaded with powerful capabilities in such a tiny little package and the Trotec (upcoming Trotec 120Watt Laser Cutter course April 20th!) making short work of model making, industrial design, prototyping and just about any kind of DIY application, this creative idea is a great example of an integration of both.

Trotec Laser Cutter and Raspberry Pi DIY laptopThis project also relies upon a 3D printed component (Ultimaker 3D Printer course, April 13th!in the design for the screen hinge, but the rest of the PlyTop is cut out of a three 2′ x 4′ sheets of 1/8″ Baltic birch plywood.

The Plytop base and top are held together with a fair amounts of translucent wood glue.

This design uses a Peripad II B Touchpad, apparently the only self contained touch pad close to the size of a normal laptop trackpad at a decent price. It sits neatly in the Plytop shell and works just fine out of the box with the Raspberry Pi 3. Plug ’em in and they behave like your typical trackpad.

The Waveshare 10.1 is the best LCD screen on the market that includes a form fitting HDMI interface driver, powered through USB. These screens come attached to a laser cut acrylic base and some cheap HDMI and USB cables.

The monitor is affixed with some very brittle plastic screws and nuts and will require an HDMI cable with a very low connector profile (Monoprice cable) to best fit into the Waveshare’s port once it’s installed in the top shell.

If you’d like to see this project coming together click HERE.

If you’d like to see all the plans and ingredients to make this neat little device click HERE!

 

 

Plytop DIY laptop - Raspberry Pi Trotec laser cutter

 

 

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Fun Friday: Remote Controlled Car With Raspberry Pi & Bluetooth

Remote Controlled Car Using-Raspberry-Pi-and-Bluetooth

Credit card sized and jam packed with capabilities, the Raspberry Pi can function as a proper desktop computer, to build smart devices or to just have fun bringing new life to otherwise everyday items or old toys.

The Pi was originally intended to be a microcomputer to teach children coding. Its scope has since expanded as hobbyists and engineers realized how much could be achieved with the small device, making it one of the most popular technology items in the world.

This easy remote controlled car project, takes advantage of the little computer’s seamless wireless capabilities, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, allowing a smart phone remote control of the driving.

The car selected is an RF toy car with moving left-right steering feature. The original RF circuit has been replaced with that of the Raspberry Pi. You can use any toy car that has two DC Motors to rotate the front and rear wheels.

The Pi is used to receive command wirelessly from an android phone with an Android app (BlueTerm) installed along with a Bluetooth serial adaptor for communicating with the Raspberry Pi to control the car.

Read more about how to make your own HERE!

Wondering where the name Raspberry Pi came from?  The name, Raspberry, is an homage to early computer companies being named after fruit, like Apple, Tangerine Computer Systems, Apricot Computers, and Acorn (which inspired the microcomputer’s design). Pi is derived from the original idea to make a small computer to run only the Python programming language.

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Raspberry Pi: Super Power in a Tiny Package!

Credit card-sized, and low-cost, this powerful little device is a computer designed initially for education, to improve programming skills and hardware understanding for young people, pre-university.  Due to its size, affordability and versatility, the Raspberry Pi quickly inspired the interest of hobbyists, makers, inventors, and electronics geeks enthusiasts for projects requiring a little more oomph than the basic microcontroller like the Arduino.

While slower than a modern desktop or laptop, the Raspberry Pi is still a complete, yet mini, Linux computer providing physical computing capabilities beyond that of a regular PC allowing you to connect electronic components and program physical devices in the real world.

Here are just  a couple of examples of possible applications of the Raspberry Pi, from the fun to the practical, this tiny computer having the ability to help with environmental study in the field:

Using the Raspberry Pi and open source software, a team of National Geographic Explorers were able to more easily measure water quality, wildlife sightings, and more.  Using the tiny hardware, they created a portal to share data openly, helping to preserve a portion of African wilderness.

According to Shah Selbe, one of the Explorers, they implemented the Raspberry Pi in their conservation work as the brains of a data station custom-built into his mokoro (traditional canoe) as he travelled the entire expanse of the Delta.  You can read the full interview here.

raspberry pi applications

For a little fun, here’s an example of a project combining the fun of a skateboard and some Raspberry Pi ingenuity: an electric skateboard that can zip you around town at up to 30kmph!

The brains is a Raspberry Pi Zero, and the speed is controlled by a Nintendo Wii Remote over Bluetooth.  With a motor from Alien Power Systems attached to the rear axle, a speed controller from the same company, and a battery offering a range of 10km.
The project is the brainchild of the Raspberry Pi Guy, the man behind the popular series of YouTube tutorial videos, and features just 100 lines of code!
Meantime, check it out:

 

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3D Printed Handheld Raspberry Pi Zero Retro Game Console

Raspberry Pi Zero Handheld Retro Game

If you’re looking for a cool new project that combines the magic of your Raspberry Pi and a 3D digital printer – your own, or of course, ours here at MIDAS – check this out!

This Raspberry Pi Zero finds a new home encased in a 3D printed casing making for a retro gaming console designed specifically for smaller printers and only requiring an 80 x 104 mm print bed size.

The files are actually available to download via Thingyverse and follows the Adafruit PiGRRL Pocket One project with a few modifications, according to its creator.

Here’s ANOTHER handheld Raspberry Pi game console! It was designed to use the Pi Zero and fit smaller printers whilst still being simple to put together. The front and back are completely separate until you close the case, so you can work on one half at a time and keep everything neat.

This build pretty much follows the Adafruit PiGRRL Pocket one, but the image doesn’t work on the Pi Zero (for me anyway) so you’ll have to manually set up the screen and buttons after installing a Retropie image for the Pi Zero. This build does not have any audio.

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