A beginner electronics maker’s journey through ELL-i Hackathon – part 2/2

This is the continuation of my journey through the ELL-i Hackathon. You can also read part 1.

Back to work, the final part was to connect the whole circuit back to the ELL-i board, to an Analog-to-Digital converter that could read the received voltage and adjust the circuit to keep it always around 12 Volts. This was the “feedback loop” and it had to receive an even lower voltage for the board to be able to read it. There were more resistors, diodes and condensers to put in the circuit, but I was lacking space. I put a new protoboard, connected some wires to make it part of the original one and kept going. After a few hours of testing, connecting things and checking with the voltmeter it seemed ready to be connected to the ELL-i. I put the cable, but nothing was happening… Where was the problem now?

I connected to the serial monitor of the ELL-i board and noticed that weird numbers were appearing, as if the cable would have been in the air. I double checked my protoboard and there I found the reason: I had inserted the cable in the wrong row, so it was indeed in the air. I changed it to the correct row on the protoboard and everything looked fine. I connected again to the ethernet cable with power, and there was no smoke. The last test was coming: I put the voltmeter and I had a steady 12 volts on the point where the Power LED had to go. All set! I finally connected the power LED, put the ethernet cable in the ELL-i and the light turned on!

Complete circuit from Hackathon

My complete circuit connected to the ELL-i board

I was able to complete the workshop with a very little background in electronics, and it was a great experience. It increased my confidence in being able to interact with the environment using a computer system, in this case a board like ELL-i and I learnt that by using power-over-ethernet solutions I can power things, like a light, with only one cable and also be able to interact with the environment through sensors and in the future also with the internet. Smart Spaces was now at my fingertips!

I had a lot of fun in the workshop, learnt many new things and met nice people, so if you have the opportunity to participate in one, don’t miss it!

A beginner electronics maker’s journey through ELL-i Hackathon – part 1/2

The ELL-i Hackathon was my first experience with the ELL-i platform, and my second experience with an Arduino-based system. I come from a software development background, so in the morning, when the Hackathon started, I had no idea about what the icons of the diagram shown below tried to tell me or how that could be represented in a protoboard. Building this and making it work was my goal for this Hackathon.

PoE LED driver schematics with low-pass filter highlighted

The circuit diagram

I first walked around the tables and found a team that was speaking in English, so I joined them. They had different levels of experience in electronics and software, so that was good as we could support each other. I started by collecting the parts for the LED driver we wanted to build, and got an ELL-i board for me. I opened the development environment that I installed and tested beforehand and wrote my first program that I found around the internet to turn on a LED. Basically, a digital output of 3.3 Volts on one pin. I remember from my previous studies that someone told me that you should not connect a LED directly to the board because the LED has almost no resistance and can burn. So you should also have a resistor, and that was pretty much all I remembered about electronics.

I also knew that something like PWM existed and it was used to turn on and off the 3.3 Volts of the pin very fast to drive servos, motors or to dim LEDs. This was important to know for the LED driver, as it basically takes the voltage down by turning on and off a transistor very fast, that is like a light switch.

LED with resistorI found among the parts available for the participants a small LED light that was already wired to a resistor, so I guessed that was what I needed. I connected the LED to the corresponding pin, the other side to ground and loaded my program….. And nothing happened… Then I remembered another thing about LEDs: They have a direction, so the long leg must go on the side of the board pin. I wired it the other way around now, turned it on and finally I had a small LED on! I was very happy of this achievement and looked at my table companions that were already building complex circuits, so after loading a new program to blink the LED on and off and seeing that it also worked, I started building the circuit.

 We had a tutorial in the morning that explained the icons of the diagrams and how the whole circuit worked, so I already had identified the pieces I needed and in what part of the diagram they had to go and what the whole idea and objective of it was. I started following the instructions to build the circuit part by part and test it, so I built the first part and it seemed to work. You should have checked it with an oscilloscope, but I never understood how to really use it, especially the portable one we had on our table, so I just checked with a voltmeter and using the small LED to see if I was getting the desired behaviour.

It was all working as expected, so now was the time for the truth. The ELL-i boards gets about 50 Volts from the ethernet port using power-over-ethernet. I was using only the power from USB of 5 volts to test that all was working, so now it was time to wire the 50 volts to my circuit and see if something burnt. While I was doing this, one of the protoboards that someone was using on my table started smoking, a resistor was blown. I was hoping that this would not happen to my circuit as I would have to start again. So, I plugged it in and… no smoke! that was good! And I put my voltmeter on the other side of the circuit and I was getting around 13 Volts, so the whole power switching thing was working! My 48 volts were down to almost 12V, that I needed to turn on the Power LED!

Now we were all hungry, so together we walked to have lunch and spoke of several things including ELL-i, Finland, other electronics projects and what each one had as a background. This was a nice break to reload energy and get to know better the people I was working with.

Continues on second part.

Video greetings from happy hacking at ELL-i Hackathon!

Ell-i organized a hackathon on 22nd January at EIT ICT Labs in Otaniemi. That was quite a day! We had about 20 participants. Some were complete newbies to electronics and microcontrollers, some were experienced electronics hackers. That was no problem as everyone found a group suitable for their skill level. Take a look at the video to enjoy the great atmosphere at ELL-i hackathon!

ELL-i is a member of EIT ICT Labs Business Development Accelerator and supported by EIT ICT Labs.

Hackathon in Otaniemi

We organized a great hackathon on 22nd January 2014 in Otaniemi.

The Ell-i hackathon day started with Pekka telling us what Ell-i is all about, the current state of the Ell-i boards and our goals. Teemu followed by explaining the structure and operation of what we were going to build: a simple DC-DC buck converter.

Every group got an Ell-i board, a power over ethernet injector for powering the Ell-i board, a breadboard shield, and a bunch of components. The first task was to install the development environment for Ell-i boards. It is a slightly modified version of the standard Arduino IDE, modified to support the custom Ell-i runtime. Connection of a led, a resistor, and compiling the basic Arduino blink sketch proved that the setup was working.

The real goal of the day was this simple buck converter circuit:

hackathon circuit

Not a particularly efficient or a high power circuit, but designed for demo use. It has a low component count, and all components are suitable for breadboarding. The circuit is able to convert from the 48 VDC coming from the PoE supply to a constant current driving a power led. The switch of this converter is driven by a PWM signal from the Ell-i board. By the way, arduinistas: this circuit does not work with an Arduino. In an Ell-i board, the frequency of the PWM controlled by the analogWrite() function is 50 kHz, not the measly 500 Hz of standard arduinos! That is high enough to be usable for controlling the switch of a DC-DC converter.

In some groups, the circuit was quicky completed; in others, much headscratching ensued. Having two instructors roving around answering questions worked perfectly – all groups got their converter done at some point of the day. My group made the power led to fade in and out in a couple of different ways, and flash out some morse code. Quite easy, once the buck was working.

IMG_4815 cropped

One group had brought their own set of components, including a bit better coils capable of handling more power, and an awesome ouch-my-eyes-hurt power led — with 50W rating! They managed to get roughly 30 watts from the PoE port through their breadboarded buck converter and into the led. That was so much that they had to keep the led covered to prevent the ouch-my-eyes-hurt thing from happening.

The most delighting thing about the day was that everything went smoothly. We had no major problems, no fire or escaped smoke. A very educational day all in all! Thanks everybody for participating, we rock!

All materials are available at GitHub, if you want to take a look.
More photos are available here.

The hackathon was organized at the EIT ICT Labs in Otaniemi. ELL-i is a member of EIT ICT Labs Business Development Accelerator and supported by EIT ICT Labs.