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Final Electronics Project...Am I on the right track?

Discussion in 'General Electronics Discussion' started by PrototypeA, Apr 16, 2015.

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  1. PrototypeA

    PrototypeA

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    Apr 16, 2015
    Hello everyone! Never posted here before but I'm having trouble putting together all the right pieces for a final project I'm working on. I'm currently an electronics student, graduating soon with my associates. I have a pretty broad range of basic knowledge but I wouldn't say I'm an expert at anything. I thought I would toss this out to a forum and see if anyone has some advice or other ideas.

    Project: My group wants to customize our graduation caps, like many have already done; with LEDs possibly a matrix?. However, we want the caps to be able to sync with each other and blink or change color via some programming. So far we've been researching some Bluetooth and IR transceivers and we were initially thinking we could program these devices (possibly with a raspberry pi) to act autonomously when apart but synchronize when within range of each other. Problem is, I'm not sure If I want to try and incorporate a raspberry pi with every graduation cap and of course powering each one.

    So... I'm looking for something more portable and able to be ran with some small batteries. If I could figure out how to create my own circuit board with something like a MSP430, could I connect a Bluetooth or IR transceiver to this and code such a project? An ideas I've looked into is setting priorities for each module and having each hat blink at a certain frequency according to it's priority level; for the synchronization part.

    Conclusion: I guess I'm just wondering I this sounds even remotely possible and If what I'm describing as far as hardware is actually gonna work and is worth purchasing.

    Any help/advice/tips or tricks would be greatly appreciated. Thanks in advance!

    -P
     
  2. hevans1944

    hevans1944 Hop - AC8NS

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    Jun 21, 2012
    An Arduino Uno with an XBee shield and Xbee module would probably do it for you. Writing the sketch (program) might take a bit of effort, but there are examples galore on the Internet. The Uno can be powered with a 9 V "transistor radio" battery.
     
  3. PrototypeA

    PrototypeA

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    Apr 16, 2015
    Thanks for the response hevans1944... the main issue being, which I should have noted earlier, is that our instructor is not allowing us to use Arduino's. The Raspberry Pi is as close as we can get.
     
  4. hevans1944

    hevans1944 Hop - AC8NS

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    Jun 21, 2012
    That's pretty dumb, IMHO! Does your instructor specify what solder you can use? The Raspberry Pi is a power hog, and way more than you need to light up and synchronize a few dozen graduation caps, but I suppose you could fit each student with a backpack concealed under their clothing to operate it. Maybe throw in a small keyboard and video display along with WiFi to sync everyone together.

    If you are "not allowed" to use appropriate technology, such as the Arduino, will you be allowed to use the MSP430 with Bluetooth? That is a good solution, potentially better than an Arduino when it comes to sippin' small amounts of power. TI offers inexpensive evaluation kits with a USB connector for downloading programs into non-volatile memory. I acquired one of these (everyone present received one) while attending a sales seminar a few years ago. At the end of the seminar everyone in the class was linking to a projection display that showed the temperature of each module. All automagical: turn one on and it linked up with the others to display its temperature. I think we had twenty or so going at the end, but I am sure there was plenty of room for more. You might even be able to use the eval modules "as is" but you may also need to add external LED drivers. Read the TI docs and purchase a few to play with.

    Oops! The little USB eval module I was given is no longer sold by TI. They do sell other eval boards and low-power Bluetooth solutions though. Browse through the links at their website I linked to above.
     
    Last edited: Apr 17, 2015
    PrototypeA and Arouse1973 like this.
  5. Gryd3

    Gryd3

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    Jun 25, 2014
    Well... I would assume the Raspi would be banned... not the Arduino.
    In any case, What about PIC or AtmegaAVR?

    http://lifehacker.com/5989906/build-your-own-arduino-clone-for-less-than-5
    (Sound like he restricted the name on the board, and not the hardware XD)

    You can also look at this : http://hackaday.com/2014/12/08/compiling-your-own-programs-for-the-esp8266/

    The ESP 8266 is gaining some more uses, and it's wireless!
    You can also directly program it if you wan't want to simply use it as a wireless transceiver.
     
    PrototypeA likes this.
  6. yusefHD

    yusefHD

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    Mar 24, 2015
    Hey OP,

    You could check out Upverter's free version if you want to fiddle around with Raspberry Pi schematics. It's perfect for teams of any size. You and your classmates could collaborate on the same project.

    Full disclosure, I work with Upverter, so let me know if you've got any questions!
     
  7. PrototypeA

    PrototypeA

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    Apr 16, 2015
    Awesome! Well thanks for the links and suggestions. I'll browse the TI site some more and I'm also really curious about the ESP8266. The world of electronics/tech is so vast it's hard to get a good idea of whats possible or impossible to do with all the new stuff coming out. Hopefully I can come back and post up updates if we get a working setup going. Thanks again.

    -P
     
    hevans1944 and Gryd3 like this.
  8. hevans1944

    hevans1944 Hop - AC8NS

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    Jun 21, 2012
    Remember, when forming your working group, to select people with a variety of interests and skills. Four to six people is about the right size for this project. You never know where the next good idea will come from, so encourage discussion. Set some project goals and follow the KISS principle (Keep It Simple, Slick!) throughout. Try to avoid the temptation to do something "just because you can" or "because, that would be so kwel!" If you are leading the group, make sure everyone has a task and everyone keeps their eye on the ball. Avoid formal meetings, but if someone has a problem make sure the group is aware of it. You aren't writing a term paper, or preparing a presentation to a prestigious engineering society. It's just a bunch of caps with amusing decorations that talk to each other.
     
    Gryd3 likes this.
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