I have quite an interest in technology. But I have absolutely no knowledge of the electronic components that actually power the kinds of technology that I have an interest in. Electronics really is a completely new area way beyond my usual comfort zone.  So it was exciting to see some really techy stuff, the sort of stuff that usually hides its modesty inside pretty plastic cases. It was great. Everything had its guts out.

I’ve only visited TAP once before, for the first ever Southend Raspberry Pi Jam, and I find it incredible just how passionate and lively Southend’s tech community is. They’re a fantastic group of people who welcome everybody in, regardless of what your skill is or how skilled you are. The best thing about such a diverse range of people getting together like this is that you know everybody will always leave with something new.OpenElectronics Day in Southend

A little about Open Electronics

Open Electronics Day was put together by SoSLUG and Chelmsford Makerspace, with the aim to celebrate all things Open Source and Electronic and introduce open source electronics to those who are new to it using a range of interactive workshops, exhibits and lectures that ran throughout the day.

Generally we have come to think of Open Source as being free software, but this is not the case. Open Source can refer to any project that involves collaborative development, such as hardware which allows people to copy, modify and redistribute freely. The Open Source movement has created an entire culture around people helping each other so that the community can evolve together.

Examples of Open Source hardware include the Raspberry Pi and the Arduino, which is why they are so popular at events like this.

OpenElectronics Day in Southend

LEDs. LEDs EVERYWHERE.

Andrew from SoSLUG had created an amazing retro Snake game with LEDs that had me hooked for quite a while. The controls to rotate clockwise or counter-clockwise were drawn onto a scrap bit of card with conductive paint. All you had to do was tap between them to control the movement of the snake, reminiscent of the Snake arcade game. Or if you’re a little younger, you’d probably have felt a bit of old Nokia nostalgia playing it. The goal of the game is to control the snake to “eat the apple”, represented by the green LED. The head of the snake was a purple LED, and with each apple the snake eats, its red body grows by an additional LED. Game Over is when your snake accidentally eats itself (by going headfirst into it’s own body). Trickier than it sounds…

OpenElectronics LED cubePictured above is another one of Andrew’s creations: a small LED cube that you can program to light up at whatever pattern or speed you want. He also had a motorbike simulator, complete with electronic whirring sound, accelerator, brakes and gear changer.

Pinnochion Raspberry Pi Tinder

The Pinnochion Light Show

The Pinnochion is a Raspberry Pi powered AI chatbot art installation. Now with dancing lights.

It was created by LH Trevail, who herself has only been learning Python for a couple of months, but has managed to create amazing light shows with her Raspberry Pi using PiGlow. The PiGlow uses LEDs to create patterns. Each LED is numbered and then each colour can be added to its own array so that different colours can be controlled with ease, to create awesome looking light shows in Python.

You could make it so that individual LEDs blink or a combination of anything from a gentle pulse to a headache inducing strobe!

OpenElectronics Day in Southend

Si Ye had a presentation about Tooth Data Power, where she used sonic output to present different data produced during tooth brushing. Examining the possibility of human body within the automatic process, and the relationship between human force and machine power, using an Arduino.

Where it all began…OpenElectronics Day in Southend

Robin Knight took us through a journey of the world’s first purpose-built radio factory at New Street Works in Chelmsford, the history of broadcasting, basic circuitry and where breadboards came from! Did you know breadboards are named so because they used to actually be boards on which you cut bread? I certainly didn’t!

I’ve always shied away from electronics. The idea of soldering is something that kind of intimidates me somewhat. In fact my last attempt at soldering anything resulted in me burning myself twice, and that was only to solder back on a loose ethernet port back onto my motherboard. Suffice it to say, I have avoided soldering ever since. So imagine my excitement when I found out that you could actually get solderless breadboards! Definitely something to try out in future.

Ed Bye‘s thoughts on the Open Electronics Day, from the perspective of a Clinical Technologist:

Thought I’d let you know how much I enjoyed my two visits to SoSLUG. Last Monday I met some really amazing people doing incredible things with their projects and got a good demo of Scratch. Saturday, was I thought brilliant, seeing some more projects, talking with various people and of course the talks/presentations that I thoroughly enjoyed.

I was concerned that any talk/presentation I made would not be along the lines of SoSLUG and would be of little interest to your members. Having now experienced these I think I could at your next event provide something interesting if you wished. This could be a short 15 mins or so presentation on connecting up some basic inputs and outputs to the Rpi and how can we can make use of simple analogue sensors that respond to light, heat etc work on the Pi that only has digital inputs. I could also do a longer session about some aspects of my day job, this could include how we use things like microprocessors in the medical field to provide controlled electric shocks for various reasons for beneficial efforts or I can talk about the general subject of medical electronics devoid of any computer stuff.

My visits and talking with others have re-inspired me to dust off my Rpi and Arduino and start some projects.

Talking to everyone last Saturday, it’s clear that the event certainly generated enthusiasm to dust off our own personal projects that, for whatever reason, we have forgotten or discarded.

We also could have made a banana keyboard. But somebody ate the banana. Oh well!

So who’s looking forward to the next Southend Raspberry Jam this month?

Southend Raspberry Pi Jam Essex

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