My last project for this class shifted many times as I realized the limits of my capabilities and, quite honestly, left me with a trail of newly minted skills instead of a clearly defined project. This blog post is the tale of that trail of wandering…

I started off with the intention of continuing my explorations in tangible computing with Guodu, but we eventually scrapped this plan. Instead, I decided I would try to learn the skills necessary to add ‘location awareness’ to a project I’d worked on in a another class. To do this, I would need to learn the below at a bare minimum:

  • Soldering and making basic circuits [learning resource]
  • some level of Arduino programming
  • RFID Tag hardware and software [learning resource] incld. reading and writing to and from RFID Tags
  • wireless communication between computers and Arduino
  • How to control physical devices (fans, lights, etc.) with an Arduino [learning resource]

Before I had the Adafruit RFID Shield, I decided to explore another RFID reader. The Phidget 1023 RFID tag reader (borrowed from IDeaTe), but after extensive work found I could only control it via a USB Host device. I spent a night exploring a Raspberry Pi approach wherein I would be able to script control of the Phidget reader via processing on the Pi. I learned how to flash a Pi with a Processing image but driver issues with the Phidget ultimately doomed this approach.

I then moved back to an Arduino approach which required learning Physical Computing basics, including how to Solder, communicate with the Arduino board via serial in the terminal (‘screen tty’), understand baud rates, pwm, digital vs. analogue in/out and more. The true highlight of my Arduino adventure was triggering a physical lamp via a digital RFID trigger:

All that said, at one point, I realized the original goal of extending my previous project the way I intended was impossible with the time given. At that point, I completely shifted gears… This new direction was based on a few inspirations:

  1. Golan’s BlinkyTapes
  2.‘s Physical Computing Trailer
  3. Noodl’s External Hardware and MQTT Guide

My next goal was to control physical hardware through some type of digital control. To achieve this, I used BlinkiTape’s Processing library to render MQTT messages sent through from Noodl’s slider modules. See the video below:


In the end, despite not pulling together a singular cohesive project, I learned a great deal about Arduino, hardware programming, soldering, and other tools for communication between hardware and software systems.

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