Friday New Product: Grove, Charger, Strobe LEDs

May 1, 2015

Posted By Yana

We are going to continue with some nice Grove products and mix it up with other bits and pieces:

Grove – Moisture Sensor

This simple Grove moisture sensor is ideal for measuring soil dampness.
Grove – I2C Touch Sensor
This advanced Grove sensor breaks out into 4 touch sensor pads for finger proximity detection.
Grove – Light Sensor

Inexpensive and well designed, it’s handy for general light intensity measurements.
Grove – Water Sensor
A simple but effective Grove water sensor. Expose the electrodes to a drop of water, and the signal drops very low. Can be used with both analog and digital ports.
SparkFun LiPo Charger Basic – Mini-USB

Simple, no-brainer method to charge up a single cell Li-Ion / LiPoly battery.
5mm RGB strobe LEDs

Quick and simple way to add cycling Red/Green/Blue LEDs to a project.
44mm Piezo Speaker

For making a LOUD beep, this piezo suits your need. Comes mounted in a plastic case with mounting tabs.

The Arc Reactor Project

April 24, 2015

Posted By Yana

We needed all our superpowers for the Calgary Comic & Entertainment Expo this past weekend, so we decided to create our version of Arc Reactor for the team to wear at the show in order to augment the intelligence and add superhuman-level multitasking and learning capabilities (imagination is key at the Comic Expo).

Not happy with just a blinky light, we added connectivity to our setup, which consists of:

  1. The arc reactor pendants. These are worn around the neck and under the shirts, shining through the light fabric, each containing a Synapse mesh-networking radio and control electronics.
  2. The activation box. This contains a Synapse module in an acrylic box. The button initiates a “synchronize to THIS color” signal to all modules on the network.


The pendant case is consists of a 3D printed housing made in-house on our Kossel (we’ll be selling units shortly), with a laser engraved semi translucent acrylic diffuser on top.

A static Arc Reactor just isn’t very visually appealing, so we spiced it up with a flicker, with a “power pulse” on color-mode change.

Component Layout:

The Activation Box

Parts List:

1 x Synapse-to-FTDI Adapter Kit
1 x Synapse RF200P81
1 x Concave Button  (Arcade button)
1 x 5 x AA Holder
1 x DPDT Slide Switch
1 x 330 Ohm Resistor

Principles of Operation:

The box features only 2 input, the main power switch, and the big red button. The button pulls the Synapse module Pin 3 high, which then causes it to transmit a single ascii character (1 through 8 ) to all the receivers.

Synapse modules have an embedded python interpreter, which is called “SNAPpy”. We use this to create “Remote Procedure Calls” (“RPC”) that are routines we can call either local or wirelessly from up the network. The script in the transmitter has a global variable which increments each time the button is pressed, and is multicast out to all the Arc Reactor receivers. The auto-mesh-networking of the Synapse modules means that these calls will be aut0-relayed down the chain to all nodes in the network, even if the Activation box is out of range from the furthest Arc Reactor. With an outdoor range of nearly a kilometer, we didn’t any signalling problems inside the event hall.


The Arc Reactor Modules

Parts List:

1 x Adafruit Neopixel Ring 24
1 x Synapse RF200P81
1 x Solarbotics Synapse Breakout Board Kit
1 x Arduino Pro Mini
1 x Flora RGB Neo Pixel v2
1 x Polymer Lithium Ion Battery
1 x Vibrating Disk Motor
1 x NPN Transistor
1 x JST-PH-2.0 2 Pin Connector Plug w/Wire
1 x 330 Ohm Resistor

Principles of Operation:

The Synapse radio in each Arc Reactor takes the received value and turns it into binary number output on 3 pins.  (1 = 001, 8=111). Time was tight, and we went with a robust, simple method to send this information to the Arduino controlling the LEDs.

The Arduino Pro Mini monitors these pins, and changes the color palette as required. We selected the 24 element Adafruit Neopixel ring to provide illumination connected to the Pro Mini Pin 2.  The awesome Library was used to communicate the data to the pixels.

Initial experiments proved power consumption to be a problem. Rather than powering all LEDs to some level of power, we rewrote the code to turn on only 4 adjacent segments at a time, with the first element at 100% power, the second at 50%, the third at 25%, and the fourth at 12%. This created a really nice flicker effect when rapidly cycled through the ring.


Thoughts, and Conclusions

At one point during the first day of the event, we discussed how funny it would be if we could feel when the reactor is activated, so we could all “JUMP” in unison when somebody hit the switch. A quick on-the-site hack later with a transistor and vibrating disk motor, with a quick code-update (on the fly through the wireless mesh!), we were all buzzing.  Unfortunately, when kids and evil co-workers discovered how nasty it felt to have simulated mild heart palpitations available on-demand, we had to snip the wires on most of the reactors. Haptic feedback, especially mid-chest, can be disturbing.

The technique we outlined here was used in a very similar way on the movie “Tron: Legacy” where similar hardware was used to control the costumes. We found it a very quick and robust way to add group-control to our project.

The Arc Reactor itself was well received by the Cosplay community in attendance. Although not for sale at the time, we’ve been strongly encouraged to make the visual aspect of the Arc Reactor available as a kit. Stay tuned…



Arc Reactor – Synapse code for the Button

Arc Reactor Pendant Synapse – Synapse code for the Pendant

Arc_Reactor_Pendant.ino – Arduino code for the Pendant

Friday New Product: Grove and More

Posted By Yana

Since we haven’t announced new products for a while, we are bringing you a multitude of items, including Grove-compatibles, SD cards, and a lonesome piezo speaker:

Grove – Encoder

This grove unit is a simple way to add a rotation input device to your project.
Grove – PIR Motion Sensor
The Grove PIR sensor is specifically tuned to detect the moving heat signatures of human bodies.
Grove – Tilt Switch

Super simple – it’s a ball in a tube that plugs into the Grove system to detect tilt.
Grove – LED Bar
Another nice visual indicator for the Grove system, with a 10 segment display.
4GB MicroSD Card with Adapter
Name-brand memory cards are a safe bet for getting a quality memory card.
8GB MicroSD Card with Adapter
Name-brand memory cards are a safe bet for getting a quality memory card.
SparkFun Venus GPS with SMA Connector
GPS units continue to improve, and the SparkFun Venus is one of the smallest & versatile available.
44mm Piezo Speaker
For making a LOUD beep, this piezo suits your need. Comes mounted in a plastic case with mounting tabs.


Solarbotics and Art Hack II at ACAD

April 6, 2015

Posted By Yana

Solarbotics has supplied some tech bits and pieces for the recent ART HACK II, an intensive artistic boot camp led by Visiting Artist, Raul Nieves (Blablablab, Practipo Barcelona), where students were building open source the 3D printers. The work produced by students during the workshop will be available for viewing on Thursday April 9th, 2015 in the ACAD’s Lower Mall from 5pm to 7pm – come check out the filament creations if you are interested! This exhibition will be accompanied by a public lecture on state of the art creative applications (art, design, engineering etc.) using the 3D printers including the work created at ACAD.

New Product: EggBot Pro, Batteries, Raspi S.A.F.E., and Day Off

April 2, 2015

Posted By Yana

We are closed tomorrow April 3 for Good Friday, so we are bringing you the new product early:

Today we are happy to announce the addition to the EggBot family – the fully assembled Egg-Bot PRO! We have a few other odds and ends worth checking out, so have a look. There is  Pololu Gyro, a couple of e-textile batteries and a handy Raspberry Pi SAFE that we designed to fit the Pi V2 and B+ models.

Evil Mad Science EggBot Pro

Compact and easy to use with a variety of spherical and egg-shaped objects.
Pololu MinIMU-9 Gyro, Accelerometer, and Compass
You want to know where you are in space? The Pololu MinIMU-9 does it all – an L3G4200D 3-axis gyro and an LSM303DLM 3-axis accelerometer and 3-axis magnetometer onto a tiny 0.9″ × 0.6″ board.
3.7V 110mAh LiPoly battery for E-Textiles

What makes this battery special for E-textiles? Built-in current limiting for safety.
Lithium Ion (LiPoly) Battery – 110mAh 3.7V
Lithium polymer battery, but darn small!
Raspberry Pi S.A.F.E. (for B+ and V2)

The Raspberry Pi S.A.F.E. is upgraded to accommodate the Pi V2 and B+ models.

MakeFashion Tech Gala Photos

March 31, 2015

Posted By Yana

The MakeFashion Gala was a glowing show of glowing lights: new photos for your attention at our Flickr stream.

Photo courtesyGeorge Dimitrov Photography

Among all the other wonderful things we’ve seen and photographed, just wanted to mention that while there have been many uses of our string LEDs before, but nothing quite as intense - Olga Sem, Kat Leto and Marina Ortman did an amazing job of incorporating them into the outfits.

Look at this density! Part of the Joker outfit, photo courtesy Kat Leto.


Solarbotics at MakeFashion 2015

March 26, 2015

Posted By Yana

The Wearable Tech Gala MakeFashion 2015 at the Telus Spark Science Centre is fast approaching, but there is still some time to get your tickets. It’s been 3 years and the event is getting bigger and better, and we are looking forward to seeing the new creations, some of which are coming together with the help of our RnD team. So! Solarbotics is going to attend: on Saturday March 28 2015, come enjoy the parade of ephemeral creatures of light, hot glue, tulle, code and PCBs. And of course say hi to the tall guy in a black hat and the rest of us. By the way, sneak peek preview videos for this year’s show are available if you are interested, and here are some last year’s stunning tech dresses on Solarbotics Flickr.


Friday New Product: More Grove Yet Again

March 20, 2015

Posted By Yana

We have seemingly endless supply of Grove-compatible items from SeeedStudio. So here are some more:

Grove – RGB Backlight LCD

Have your Grove experiment display more information in more ways than just 2 lines of 16 characters of text. Have it change the background lighting of the LCD for additional feedback.
Grove – 2-Coil Latching Relay
The Grove latching relays are interesting because they take a pulse to toggle their state, which it maintains even after a power cycle.
Grove – Serial MP3 Player

Simple MP3 playback in a Grove interface. Plug it in, feed the audio signal to an amplifier, and you’re listening to music.
Grove – Speaker
Amplified speaker output for the Grove prototyping system.
Grove – Barometer Sensor

Measure barometric pressure and report it back as a pressure, atmospheres, or altitude, plus get the temperature from the same sensor.
Grove – Circular LED

Grove-compatible circular 24 LED array.

Ringo – the great-grandson to the Photopopper Kickstarter

March 19, 2015

Posted By Dave

We were pleased to see the Kickstarter for Ringo, the Photopopper-ish but much smarter version of our own ~17 year old design robot kit. The video showcases some pretty cool behaviors, and is easily one of those projects where we think “Jee, why didn’t we do that?”

Not only that, it’s nice to see another company with similar workflow (Altium / Solidworks / Quad pick and place). Feels very “in sync” with us.

We’re onboard with the Kickstarter (only 48 hours left!). Give it a look!

Friday New Product: Raspberry Pi v2, PCBGrip Kits

February 27, 2015

Posted By Yana

For Fridays, it’s either all or nothing – so today is an all day, with all kinds of exciting new things:

Raspberry Pi Version 2 1GB

Much like the B+, but with additional horsepower and memory under the hood.
Raspberry Pi Camera Board Module
The Raspberry Pi has the Camera Serial Interface, which this camera uses to great effect with high-speed and high resolution.
Raspberry Pi Camera Case – Black

The Raspberry Pi Camera Case is cheap insurance for your RaspiCam applications.
Hakko FX-901 – Cordless Soldering Iron
Soldering irons are great when mains power is nearby. For those times when you need to crawl under a car dash, the Hakko battery-powered version suits the need better.
Actobotics Standard Gripper Kit A – Channel Mount

Sometimes you need to pinch (or grip) something remotely, and this Actobotics unit the solid and inexpensive mechanical part to your solution.
PCBGrip Kit 750 – Master

For the most flexibility in assembling electronics, the PCBGrip Master Kit has a full complement of options.
PCBGrip Kit 150 – Standard

For a truly useful tool when assembling electronics, the PCBGrip Standard Kit has pretty much all you’ll need.
PCBGrip Kit 50 – Minimalist

For the most flexibility in assembling electronics, the PCBGrip Master Kit has a full complement of options





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