This mechanical clock tells time using steel balls

There’s certainly no shortage of DIY clocks in the Arduino community; however, Eric Nguyen has come up with a rather unique way of showing hours and minutes: steel balls arranged as seven-segment displays.

For each time change, the face rotates down and a tray of arranged balls is lifted up to meet it via a servo motor assembly. Inside, a series of 28 servos capture and release the balls using magnet and linkage systems, plus another for the colon.

The device is powered by a Nano along with an RTC module for accurate timekeeping, and two PCA9685 driver boards control the motors directly.

As illustrated in the videos below, it’s an incredible build from a mechanical standpoint. Making it even more impressive, this is actually Nguyen’s first Arduino project!

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Linkdump: August 2020

Microchip synapses 29 – Between the now and the infinite by LEONARDO ULIAN

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Connect a Commodore with thermal printer

Connect a thermal printer to vintage Commodore computers using the IEC bus @ smdprutser.nl

Since a couple of months I have fascination for vintage computers like Commodore or Nintendo. I’m in the process restoring and pimping a Commodore SX64 and realized I did’t have a printer for it. After all it is an executive machine and how do I otherwise print my quotations and invoices? The solution was in a thermal printer I had lying around for years without a real purpose.

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How teachers train in Computing with our free online courses

Since 2017 we’ve been training Computing educators in England and around the world through our suite of free online courses on FutureLearn. Thanks to support from Google and the National Centre for Computing Education (NCCE), all of these courses are free for anyone to take, whether you are a teacher or not!

An illustration of a bootcamp for computing teachers

We’re excited that Computer Science educators at all stages in their computing journey have embraced our courses — from teachers just moving into the field to experienced educators looking for a refresher so that they can better support their colleagues.

Hear from two teachers about their experience of training with our courses and how they are benefitting!

Moving from Languages to IT to Computing

Rebecca Connell started out as a Modern Foreign Languages teacher, but now she is Head of Computing at The Cowplain School, a 11–16 secondary school in Hampshire.

Computing teacher Rebecca Connell
Computing teacher Rebecca finds our courses “really useful in building confidence and taking [her] skills further”.

Although she had plenty of experience with Microsoft Office and was happy teaching IT, at first she was daunted by the technical nature of Computing:

“The biggest challenge for me has been the move away from an IT to a Computing curriculum. To say this has been a steep learning curve is an understatement!”

However, Rebecca has worked with our courses to improve her coding knowledge, especially in Python:

“Initially, I undertook some one-day programming courses in Python. Recently, I have found the Raspberry Pi courses to be really useful in building confidence and taking my skills further. So far, I have completed Programming 101 — great for revision and teaching ideas — and am now into Programming 102.”

GCSE Computing is more than just programming, and our courses are helping Rebecca develop the rest of her Computing knowledge too:

“I am now taking some online Raspberry Pi courses on computer systems and networks to firm up my knowledge — my greatest fear is saying something that’s not strictly accurate! These courses have some good ideas to help explain complex concepts to students.”

She also highly rates the new free Teach Computing Curriculum resources we have developed for the NCCE:

“I really like the new resources and supporting materials from Raspberry Pi — these have really helped me to look again at our curriculum. They are easy to follow and include everything you need to take students forward, including lesson plans.”

And Rebecca’s not the only one in her department who is benefitting from our courses and resources:

“Our department is supported by an excellent PE teacher who delivers lessons in Years 7, 8, and 9. She has enjoyed completing some of the Raspberry Pi courses to help her to deliver the new curriculum and is also enjoying her learning journey.”

Refreshing and sharing your knowledge

Julie Price, a CAS Master Teacher and NCCE Computer Science Champion, has been “engaging with the NCCE’s Computer Science Accelerator programme, [to] be in a better position to appreciate and help to resolve any issues raised by fellow participants.”

Computing teacher Julie Price
Computer science teacher Julie Price says she is “becoming addicted” to our online courses!

“I have encountered new learning for myself and also expressions of very familiar content which I have found to be seriously impressive and, in some cases, just amazing. I must say that I am becoming addicted to the Raspberry Pi Foundation’s online courses!”

She’s been appreciating the open nature of the courses, as we make all of the materials free to use under the Open Government Licence:

“Already I have made very good use of a wide range of the videos, animations, images, and ideas from the Foundation’s courses.”

Julie particularly recommends the Programming Pedagogy in Secondary Schools: Inspiring Computing Teaching course, describing it as “a ‘must’ for anyone wishing to strengthen their key stage 3 programming curriculum.”

Join in and train with us

Rebecca and Julie are just 2 of more than 140,000 active participants we have had on our online courses so far!

With 29 courses to choose from (and more on the way!), from Introduction to Web Development to Robotics with Raspberry Pi, we have something for everyone — whether you’re a complete beginner or an experienced computer science teacher. All of our courses are free to take, so find one that inspires you, and let us support you on your computing journey, along with Google and the NCCE.

If you’re a teacher in England, you are eligible for free course certification from FutureLearn via the NCCE.

The post How teachers train in Computing with our free online courses appeared first on Raspberry Pi.

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Congratulations Carrie Anne Philbin, MBE

We are delighted to share the news that Carrie Anne Philbin, Raspberry Pi’s Director of Educator Support, has been awarded an MBE for her services to education in the Queen’s Birthday Honours 2020.

Carrie Anne Philbin MBE
Carrie Anne Philbin, newly minted MBE

Carrie Anne was one of the first employees of the Raspberry Pi Foundation and has helped shape our educational programmes over the past six years. Before joining the Foundation, Carrie Anne was a computing teacher, YouTuber, and author.

She’s also a tireless champion for diversity and inclusion in computing; she co-founded a grassroots movement of computing teachers dedicated to diversity and inclusion, and she has mentored young girls and students from disadvantaged backgrounds. She is a fantastic role model and source of inspiration to her colleagues, educators, and young people. 

From history student to computing teacher and YouTuber

As a young girl, Carrie Anne enjoyed arts and crafts and when her dad bought the family a Commodore 64, she loved the graphics she could make on it. She says, “I vividly remember typing in the BASIC commands to create a train that moved on the screen with my dad.” Being able to express her creativity through digital patterns sparked her interest in technology.

After studying history at university, Carrie Anne followed her passion for technology and became an ICT technician at a secondary school, where she also ran several extra-curricular computing clubs for the students. Her school encouraged and supported her to apply for the Graduate Teacher Programme, and she qualified within two years.

Carrie Anne admits that her first experience in a new school as a newly qualified teacher was “pretty terrifying”, and she says her passion for the subject and her sense of humour are what got her through. The students she taught in her classroom still inspire her today.

Showing that computing is for everyone

As well as co-founding CAS #include, a diversity working group for computing teachers, Carrie Anne started the successful YouTube channel Geek Gurl Diaries. Through video interviews with women working in tech and hands-on computer science tutorials, Carrie Anne demonstrates that computing is fun and that it’s great to be a girl who likes computers.

Carrie Anne Philbin MBE sitting at a disk with physical computing equipment

On the back of her own YouTube channel’s success, Carrie Anne was invited to host the Computer Science video series on Crash Course, the extremely popular educational YouTube channel created by Hank and John Green. There, her 40+ videos have received over 2 million views so far.

Discovering the Raspberry Pi Foundation

Carrie Anne says that the Raspberry Pi computer brought her to the Raspberry Pi Foundation, and that she stayed “because of the community and the Foundation’s mission“. She came across the Raspberry Pi while searching for new ways to engage her students in computing, and joined a long waiting list to get her hands on the single-board computer. After her Raspberry Pi finally arrived, she carried it in her handbag to community meetups to learn how other people were using it in education.

Carrie Anne Philbin
Carrie Anne with her book Adventures in Raspberry Pi

Since joining the Foundation, Carrie Anne has helped to build an incredible team, many of them also former computing teachers. Together they have trained thousands of educators and produced excellent resources that are used by teachers and learners around the world. Most recently, the team created the Teach Computing Curriculum of over 500 hours of free teaching resources for primary and secondary teachers; free online video lessons for students learning at home during the pandemic (in partnership with Oak National Academy); and Isaac Computer Science, a free online learning platform for A level teachers and students.

On what she wants to empower young people to do

Carrie Anne says, “We’re living in an ever-changing world that is facing many challenges right now: climate change, democracy and human rights, oh and a global pandemic. These are issues that young people care about. I’ve witnessed this year after year at our international Coolest Projects technology showcase event for young people, where passionate young creators present the tech solutions they are already building to address today’s and tomorrow’s problems. I believe that equipped with a deeper understanding of technology, young people can change the world for the better, in ways we’ve not even imagined.” 

Carrie Anne has already achieved a huge amount in her career, and we honestly believe that she is only just getting started. On behalf of all your colleagues at the Foundation and all the educators and young people whose lives you’ve changed, congratulations Carrie Anne! 

The post Congratulations Carrie Anne Philbin, MBE appeared first on Raspberry Pi.

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Join East Coast ReprapFest Virtually This Weekend

If you’re a 3D Printing nut, you absolutely can not miss the East Coast RepRap Festival (ERRF) going on this upcoming weekend. If you’ve never seen one, these gatherings are where 3d printing enthusiasts of all kinds gather to show off their creations and swap tips and tricks. It is […]

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The post Join East Coast ReprapFest Virtually This Weekend appeared first on Make: DIY Projects and Ideas for Makers.

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App note: Paralleling linear regulators made easy

Various configuration of linear regulator for parallel operation discussed in this technical article from Analog Devices. Link here

Linear regulators provide a simple, low noise solution for dc-dc regulation. However, at higher VIN-VOUT differentials the low efficiency and high power dissipation of linear regulators limits the amount of output current that can realistically be delivered. Connecting multiple linear regulators in parallel spreads the load (and the heat) over several ICs, increasing the useful range of output currents a solution can deliver. However, connecting linear regulators in parallel is not always straightforward.

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Doing Experimental Science at Home

With distance learning happening in many schools, what can you do to teach or learn about science? As you might expect, at Make: we believe that the best way to learn these subjects is through experiential, hands-on learning. In other words, “learning by doing.” If you want to learn science, […]

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The post Doing Experimental Science at Home appeared first on Make: DIY Projects and Ideas for Makers.

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The Smart Home Isn’t Very

Silicon Labs held its first-ever Works With conference last week to push forward the Internet of things, which, thankfully, has been acronymed to IoT. Twenty years after “visionary technologist” Kevin Ashton coined the term Internet of things consumers exactly haven’t lined up to jump on board.

For the residential market, before it was Internet of things, the term was home automation, which wasn’t very catchy, either. The idea that a home would be automated — making its own decisions about what went on inside — spooked people. It still does. A lot of people don’t like the idea of HAL 9000 in the hallway.

Sci-fi writers love to riff on the hacked smart home, depicting lights going on and off, room temperatures plunging and soaring to uncomfortable levels, alarms sounding at piercing decibel levels and doors sliding shut with occupants trapped inside. The rogue hacked home may be fiction on Mr. Robot, but it’s all too frightening a scenario for the average Josephine.

smart home
An intercom system from the 1960s.

The term “smart home” is a little friendlier. The National Association of Home Builders is credited with coining the moniker in 1984, and forward-thinking builders who wanted to differentiate their designs looked for ways to offer it. Under the smart home technology section on the NAHB website, written in 2017, the trade association announces “The Internet of Things (IoT) is here.”

But as much as NAHB is a proponent of the smart home, it’s also realistic about the potential pitfalls and risks. It lays them out with a list of blunt caveats on its website. Quality of build is one of them: “Some of these devices are poorly designed and made,” it says, and there’s little “independent product assessment of anything, including useful life.” Potential failures could exist for a long time, it says, “with results that range from annoying to catastrophic.” Ouch.

Standards are an issue, too — or, more accurately, lack of them. “To the extent that there are some standards, they are not necessarily consistent and the law is not well developed,” NAHB says. Another warning: There’s no consensus on standards governing design, manufacture or performance of smart home devices. Of the regulations that do exist, they’ve been enacted by different agencies, “leaving a hodge-podge of rules with no consistent regulatory or legal direction. And there are very few cases outlining liability and how judges and juries may treat liability questions.”

Other warnings surround software updates and a lack of commitment by manufacturers or developers to keep products up to date: “We often don’t know how long the company plans to support a product with software security upgrades or what a consumer must do to install the upgrades.” Privacy and security, the top concern of consumers, rounds out the list.

If I were building a home, I would be cautious about installing a smart home system for all of those reasons. Not that I don’t believe in what it can do because I’ve seen a lot of very cool smart home wizardry over the years. I’ve also seen too many latests and greatests sent to the recycle bin. I’d worry about being in constant upgrade mode. A previous home of mine had a defunct intercom system, leaving each room with nonworking skeleton of 1960s technology.

As for standards and protocols, I don’t like to be locked in. I like choice. I also don’t want to choose the wrong one. What if I had gone with Lowe’s Iris smart home platform a few years ago? It shut down in March of last year, and I’d have been SOL like all those that bought into the platform. The Lowe’s website says, “You’re on your own” in the FAQ on whether there’s a migration tool to transfer to another platform: “You will be responsible for resetting and re-pairing any devices to the platform of your choosing.” That sounds fun.

Participants at the Works With conference last week seemed to get it … finally … maybe.. Though billions of devices and sensors are said to have been linked in the IoT, it still hasn’t gone mainstream. Executives from heavy hitters including Amazon, Google and Comcast talked about incompatibility as a smart home stopper at retail and on e-commerce sites. People are confused about what works with which and are afraid of making a mistake or don’t want to bother with complicated setup and operation, execs acknowledged. They’re also really, really concerned about privacy and security.

Though billions of devices are connected in the IoT, Jamie Siminoff, CEO of Amazon’s Ring, envisions “hundreds of billions,” he said during the conference. That’s mainstream adoption, and builders and multi-dwelling units are key reaching those numbers.

Silicon Labs CEO Tyson Tuttle talks about the Works With conference in our September 11, 2020, podcast.

Amazon and Google recognize that. Amazon recently announced a program integrating the Alexa voice engine into residential properties, making it easier for property managers to work with smart home devices. Alexa for Residential promises to remove consumer and property manager pain points by allowing residents to walk in to a “ready-to-use, Alexa-powered smart apartment, with no account or device setup required.” In addition to typical Alexa features, they’ll be able to get property-specific info, such as the schedule for recycling.

Property managers can create custom Alexa skills, allowing residents to manage rent, maintenance requests and amenity reservations. They can set an Alexa-enabled device in vacant units to answer common questions, enable self-guided tours, or “demo smart home features available in each unit.” When a resident moves out, the manager can reset the Alexa device remotely.

Google, meanwhile, is talking up Connected Home over IP (CHIP), a Zigbee-led effort launched in late 2019 to develop a smart home standard, a “unified solution” for the industry. Now at 145 members, the group plans to deliver a draft specification by year-end 2020. Grant Erickson, a Google principal engineer, called CHIP a “critical movement to break through the fragmentation that’s holding the market back” with interoperable standards “people can rely on” and that will instill “builder confidence.”

In Google’s vision of the future IoT, based on ambient computing, “We won’t talk about connected,” said Erickson. At home, “we’re not going to talk any more about smart devices or connected devices,” he said. “It is just going to be the de facto ways things are,” and devices will “orchestrate themselves.”

Bring it on.

Living with TechMore Living With Tech:

The post The Smart Home Isn’t Very appeared first on EETimes.

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App note: Advantages and limitations of the chopper-stabilized architecture of zero-drift precision op amps

App note from ON Semiconductors on the do’s and don’ts when using zero-drift precision op amps. Link here (PDF)

Zero?drift precision op amps are specialized op amps designed for applications that require high output accuracy due to small differential voltages. Not only do they feature low input offset voltage, but they also have high CMRR, high PSRR, high open loop gain, and low drift over temperature and time. These features make them ideal for applications such as low?side current sensing and sensor interface, particularly with very small differential signals.

Precision op amps are able to achieve “zero?drift” offset voltage, maintaining low input offset voltage over temperature variation and time, through a number of techniques. One of the ways that an amplifier can achieve this is by using a design technique that periodically measures the input offset voltage and corrects the offset at the output. This type of architecture is referred to as chopper?stabilized. Like all engineering solutions, zero?drift op amps also have their limitations. One of the less obvious is a result of the fact that the internal circuit of the chopper?stabilized amplifier contains a clocked system.

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