Archive for the ‘Microcontrollers’ Category

David Blaine – Electrified by ArcAttack!

David Blaine Electrified

David Blaine near the end of his 72 hour endurance event.

You may know that Austins own ArcAttack was responsible for the massive Tesla coil set-up for David Blaine’s latest endurance event at Pier 54 in New York. Here is Arcattack’s Facebook page.

Look here for some behind the scenes videos.

It was a privilege to work on this project, and although a lot had to be done in a short time, it was very rewarding to see it through a successful conclusion.  The coil electronics proved to be solid.  Kudos to Joe DiPrima and Steve Ward for an excellent design and Christian Miller for the show controller.  Great work by Sam Mcfadden in the design and the build.

Heres a shot of the crew after David left in an ambulance. (Pat Sullivan didn’t make it in the picture though he was there.)

From Left to right, Tyler Hanson, Stephen Chao (David’s Producer), Adron Lucas, Joe DiPrima, Steve Ward,  Craig Newswanger (me).  Other team members: John DiPrima, Pat Sullivan, Sam Mcfadden and Christian Miller

1 Comment

Got it done!

Thanks to the help of some friends I was able to deliver a working artillery game to the Dorkbot event last Friday night.

Amazingly to me, the code came together Friday morning with lights a-blinkin’ and speakers a-beepin’.  The machine came to life at about noon on Friday.  I think the game was well received by all the people who took a try.  One young fellow pictured here, really got into it!

Special thanks to Angelo Fancello and Oliver Greaves for late night assistance.  And thanks to my wife, Sally for her help and patience with the crazy schedule I’ve been keeping.

I’ll post the details here soon, including schematics and “code” (it ain’t pretty but it worked!).

Thanks to RadioShack for the opportunity to produce something fun with RadioShack.


No Comments

Percussibot Drum Controller Kit, Available Soon

I have received a number of inquiries about the availability of a drum controller kit. I am working on it. The kit will include a midi decoder board and 1, 2 or 3 FET driver boards depending on the number of output channels you need. Each FET driver board has 8 outputs.

Percussibot Kit

Percussibot Kit

This photo shows the MIDI decoder, one FET driver board,  LCD and a set of menu buttons

The kit will include the assembled PC boards, LCD display with cable, three push buttons, ribbon cables and a “wall wart” 12 volt power supply(US only).

Documentation will include schematics, parts list with sources, instructions, suggestions about the use of the kit and a description of how it works. Source code is not included but hex files for programming your own PIC’s will be provided upon request. You are free to write your own code of course. The midi board can be programmed through an ICD connector on the board. Each channel on the FET boards use a 12F683 to generate independent PWM signals. These PIC’s need to be programmed off the board.

All IC’s are DIP socketed.

I’ll be selling assembled and tested boards to avoid issues with assembly problems.

The prices will be as follows:

Midi Decoder board $275

8 Channel FET board $325

(The prices do not include shipping.)

All spares can be ordered through Digikey.

I am not taking orders yet.  I’ll be ready to accept orders in a couple of weeks.

Please leave a comment or email me  if you would be interested in purchasing a kit.

The following is not a link. You have to type it in.



ArcAttack Now Touring Netherlands

Here is a photo from Tony Smith of the drum set on the stage in Abu Dhabi.

I hear the guys are happy to be touring after the long gig in the desert.


Check  Here for show dates.

1 Comment

One more video from Abu Dhabi

YouTube Link

This one is from an English language newspaper from Abu Dhabi, The National.

1 Comment

New Arcattack! Video from Abu Dhabi

No Comments

Workin’ Hard

I’ve been busy working on a new, more durable and road-able drum kit.

Once done I’ll have a more repeatable and standardized kit that will be versitile.  I won’t be using any one of a kind components so the cost is a bit of a problem.  The first kit is being made to tour with ArcAttack!.

I’ve also revamped my code to clean-up some spagetti-code left behind when I rushed to finish it on the first pass.

I’m gradually attempting to port the code from the 8-bit PIC’s to a single PIC 32.  Bit of a learning curve there but it’s progressing.  It was helpfull to clean up my original code before attempting to port some it into C for the new chip.

I’ll provide some photos soon of the new components.

On a side note, I recently upgraded my laptop from Ubuntu 8.10 to 9.04 without a hitch.   Everything worked great, but…  Kpovmodeler would not save rendered files.  I found a patch that takes care of the problem for now.



No Comments

Learning to use Microcontrollers

If your interested in building robots, LED art or jewelry, midi controllers, (robotic drum sets) or anything else you might think of, you will need to learn how to use micro-controllers.  There are many types and manufacturers to choose from.

Here are links to a few manufacturers:

Among these and other manufacturers there are a number of paths of entry with  varied learning curves.  A popular and fairly new product is the Arduino. This is an open source range of microcontroller boards and a free software development interface written in JAVA which is base on GNU C++.  The hardware is based on ATMEL microcontrollers.  The software works on Windows, Apple and Linux operating systems and is real easy to use.

I use mostly Microchip PIC controllers.  I like the variety of devices available from 6 pin to 100 pin devices.  There are many ways to program PIC controllers.  I started using the free MPlab IDE to program chips using assembly language and a serial programmer.  I then purchased PIC Basic Pro compiler from MicroEngineering Labs.  I really like this product and have been surprised by the speed of the code that is produced.  My Midi controlled drum kit is currently running on code written in PicBasic Pro. MELabs makes great programmers and prototyping boards as well.

Microchip sells compilers based on GCC (which is free).  I’m not sure how this works but I believe you are paying for header files and such.  Nice thing is, you can download a student version of the C compiler which, after 30 days produces less optimized code but works fine for most applications.

I am currently learning to use these C tools for the PIC 32 series of 32 bit controllers. These chips run at up to 80 megahertz. These are powerful devices! Wish me luck, I’ll report here on my progress.

All these choices have related pros and cons so you will have to make a choice and jump in with both feet.

Do NOT be afraid!


1 Comment