Getting Started with Physical Computing (not a guide)
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Getting Started with Physical Computing (not a guide)

by njaldwin on Tue Nov 18, 2008 12:38 am


I just got an Arduino. I have been reading about projects done with them and I think that people are so creative in their creations. My question is, how do I get started with physical computing? I have programming experience and some wiring experience, so those are not my problems. My problem is coming up with ideas for projects. How did you get started? What would be the best way for me to get into this way of thinking?


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Re: Getting Started with Physical Computing (not a guide)

by Amberwolf on Tue Nov 18, 2008 2:40 am

Ask yourself: "What do I want to do?" "What nifty device doesn't exist that I want?" "What nifty device exists that I can't afford to buy myself but could make myself?"

That's the only thing you really need to come up with a project. :)

It doesn't matter if the project has been done before, in a better or worse way than you want to do it. In fact, if it HAS been done before it's often easier to troubleshoot your own problems, because you can ask "hey, when X started happening, what process did you go thru to find out why and fix it?". ;)

If somehow you really don't have any ideas of your own, there are bajillions of ideas out there that others who *don't* know how to do any of this want to get done. A recent example would be my ebike safety lighting project. That one is a real doozy, because it is multidisciplinary, and has quite a number of very specific things it must do, some of them in a certain way, and others in whatever way would be doable. And all of it has to happen in realtime, on the road.

I see people with ideas but no knowhow to do them all over forums like this, if ideas are all you need. :)

The questions at the top are ones that led me to my project for the bike. No one makes an integrated set of systems that will increase road safety (for everyone, not just the rider) for an ebike, to control the motor, lights, etc, in a useful and intelligent way that is also customizable by the user. I want one. I also think a lot of other people would want one if they existed. So I am trying to figure out how to bring it about.

I dont' know how to program, so right now all my systems are separate, and just hardware. So my turn signals, side markers, headlight, brake and taillights are all just switch-controlled LED clusters. My motors are just recycled radiator fan motors with rollerskate wheels to drive the rear tire with, controlled by a modified electric-scooter controller, which is just dumb analog (op-amp) technology. My battery chargers are just linear-regulated transformer-based power supplies that have to be monitored by me to ensure no overcharging. And so on.

Since all those things could be done way more interestingly and intelligently by software, and with many more options not requiring redesigning and rebuilding the hardware for every little change, I want as much of it as practical done in software. Big big project. :)

That's one way I get my ideas.
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Please be positive and constructive with your questions and comments.