Twitter to LCD – with scrolling text

I’ve been having some fun with a Sparkfun Serial-enabled LCD screen (LCD-09393, $24.95). This little package will write out whatever you send along a serial data line. So this means you can add an LCD to a project with only three wires:  +V, GND, and RX (serial receive). In the real world, I’m hoping to use these LCDs in some lab instruments that we’ll be building in the spring semester. In particular, I’m looking at an arduino-based frequency counter. I also want to explore an arduino-based PID controller for various lab projects (temp. control, etc.).

My first test, however, was just getting the LCD to work. And then, I wanted to make it show my Twitter status. I’ve been using twitter (DrDawes) to post my office status and give students updates as to where I am or when I may be around again. This has been helpful since my research lab is in another building and I tend to be available but it may not look like it since I’m not in the physics building. This way if I want to step over to the lab, I can simply send an update, and save people the trouble of tracking me down. The rub is that not everyone has twitter, and sometimes people just come to my office anyway. That said, my goal is to post a 16×2 LCD screen on my door so that my availability status (formerly written on a whiteboard, or post-it) can be more 21st century.

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Build a Laser Tripwire

Courtesy of fatllama@Flickr

I gave my final in Electronics on Tuesday (Dec. 15), and it went so well,  I can’t stop thinking about it. The format was something I haven’t tried before: 1.5 hours of written test (individual) and 1 hour of group problem solving. The problem they had to solve was to construct a laser tripwire alarm.

There are seven students in the class, so putting them all in one big group is feasible, but I was worried about students not participating or being pushed out of the project by other students. It turns out that I had nothing to worry about, they delegated and divided perfectly, coming back together to get over some hurdles and then breaking apart again to complete their roles. They passed with 12 minutes to spare, and even left it set up as a demo at their project showcase party. My only hope is that future classes work together as well as this group did.

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Sustainable Electronics

photo credits:

photo credits: ladyada @flickr

This fall Physics 364 (Electronics) will have a project component. Pacific has chosen Sustainability as a campus-wide theme for this academic year, and with this in mind, I will encourage the class to consider projects that explore the application of technology (electronics, physical computing, etc.) to improving sustainability. This can be challenging as technology is often viewed as a culprit in the current global crisis. One major challenge for the project, is to transcend this view and demonstrate ways technology can help us in a global sense.

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