‘Twas the night before Thotcon…

Pics on FlickrHere are some pictures from the space the night before Thotcon.  Quite a few of the boards had been poorly soldered during manufacturing, and we had to do hot-air rework on them to get them to work.  Rudy was the hot-air magic man, but there were a bunch of people working to process all the badges.

Badges unveiled

A project that’s been going on at W88 for the past four or five months went public yesterday. We’ve been designing, prototyping and programming a PC board to be used as a conference badge at Thotcon 0x4, Chicago’s hacking conference. Yesterday around seven hundred badges were passed out to conference attendees, each badge having an Atmel processor, LED array, and 2.4 GHz transceiver. The badges were able to process location checkins from beacons throughout the room, display messages from the organizers, and report their own id to the network. Since the board includes the Atmel ATMega128RFA1 processor and an Arduino compatible form factor, the badges can be reused for many Arduino projects.
This was a big project for us, requiring a lot of late nights and a lot of learning. For the team, It’s the first W88 production board, the first experience with 2.4GHz networking, first double sided prototype, first time using a QFN processor package (with luck, also the last), first reflow rework experience – though we thought it could be done, there were many challenges. Not only did we get it done on time within planned cost, we had a lot of fun doing it.


Exploring the parts bin

Workshop88 has been the recipient of lots of donated electronic parts. An effort of an hour a week or so over the last several months to sort through them is starting to show some results, so some random jottings on what’s back in the lab seem useful.
An awful lot of resistors are back there. If anyone needs virtually any value of 1/8th watt thru hole resistor you can probably find it, along with a pretty full set of surface mount resistors. There are also some larger wattage resistors, though they’re not as sorted out.
The thru hole or breadboard LED supply is also well stocked. Many colors and several sizes are back there.
One useful looking find last night was a half dozen PIC processors, PIC16C745. These have built in low speed USB, so they could be used in any project that needs a USB port to control or monitor something else. While not the latest part, at least they’re from this millennium.
This is just the tip of the iceberg on what’s available in the electronics bins for members. While most of what’s there is far from leading edge, for breadboarding purposes it’s ideal. One project that Jim and I have discussed is to have a simple PCB manufacture setup right in the room, so that an idea could go from concept to populated board in a couple of hours.