During that time, I did some engineering, and a little thinking. Abstract: In contemporary Western society, electronic devices are becoming so prevalent that many people find themselves surrounded by technologies they find frustrating or annoying. The electronics industry has little incentive to address this complaint; I designed two counter-technologies to help people defend their personal space from unwanted electronic intrusion. The first is a pair of glasses that darken whenever a television is in view. By building functional prototypes that reflect equal consideration of technical and social issues, I identify three attributes of Noir products: Personal empowerment, participation in a critical discourse, and subversion.
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We sent off a list of questions, just like every week, and [Ladyada] offered to do a video response. How awesome is that? Not only did she answer our questions, but she talked at length for several of them. Perhaps we should step back for a minute though.
Check out the video after the break. I am one of the judges for the Hackaday Prize. First up, where did the name Ladyada come from? Good question, Hackaday. It comes from Lady Ada Lovelace, who was the first programmer and also loved to gamble on horse racing. Next question. We imagine studying engineering at MIT to be as close to an educational playground as you can get. Another good question. That was my thesis project.
I basically did a thesis about design noir, and personal space, and technologies that help us reclaim personal space. And I really, really wanted to just build a cellphone jammer. You can see them over there on that side. And I made it so it would fit into a cigarette pack. And this was a project that I personally wanted. I just really wanted a cellphone jammer. And I got a degree out of it. So I think that that was a pretty good hack. Adafruit Industries has made a real splash as far as publishing educational content.
First of all, thank you. Adafruit Industries has a lot of tutorials. We have all them right now in the Adafruit Learning System. It used to be in a wiki, which totally sucked.
And then we designed our own content management system that was designed, basically, for me and the people that I hire to write tutorials. And we have like tutorials. We might even be up to tutorials. So we need another bit to store all those tutorials. And they range from every kind of project, from how to blink an LED, to how to make a cellphone jammer— all these ranges of projects from beginner, to intermediate, to advanced.
And many of them use Adafruit products. And the way we do it is I basically stock the store with the stuff that I want to build projects with— all kinds of sensors, and amplifiers, and DEV boards, and LEDs, and blinkies, and whatever.
And then we do projects that help demonstrate what those components can do. And we published them on the learning system so our customers have good documentation on how to get started.
I think of that as the quick-start guide. So I think of it as giving them a leg up on the kind of maker and hacker projects that people want to build. So yeah, I think of Adafruit as basically a tutorial company. And we have this gift shop, which is all the cool electronic components that you can use to build all the tutorials. Next up. The Hackaday Prize has a judging preference for Open Design. Obviously, Adafruit shares this virtue, as your products are all open.
Can you tell us why you think there are more benefits to being open than not? Yeah, I am really a big proponent of open-source hardware. Also a big proponent of open-source software. I used to do more computer science in software and coding beforehand. Then I moved into hardware, because my wrist started hurting. And now I just have solder teams everywhere.
And open-source hardware is really cool. Because it allows people to share their designs, and firmware, and hardware, and schematic layout with a really big community. And I think that the Adafruit community is so awesome. And I spent a lot of time engineering stuff. We get pull requests on our GitHub repos like four or five times a day. All you have to do is open source something that you made. OK, next up— making the transition from using DEV boards and break-out boards to engineering and populating a single board project is a huge leap.
What advice can you give for people interested in moving their skills up a level? Most makers start with getting off-the-shelf modules, break-out boards, and DEV boards like an Arduino or Arduino Shields. And they cobble together their project. And they get it working. Well, I always do suggest that people start with break-out boards. And not just like, oh hey, you buy it from Adafruit.
You can get break-out boards from all over the place with a range of different sensors, and outputs, and inputs, and displays, and everything. It just really helps. Because oftentimes, it comes with tutorials or example code. And you can breadboard it and get the layout, at least, of your project right.
Or does that sensor even really measure what you think you want to measure? So getting a break-out is just a good way to prototype your design. And then if the company that you bought your stuff from uses open-source hardware, like Adafruit and others, you can often download the files for those break-out boards, like [? And then just copy and paste those designs into your own circuit-board layout using whatever layout software that you use. Or trace it out into your own software. And by having those files available, it makes it very easy to grab all the pieces that you need to make the custom design you want.
So I think just start with something basic— maybe 20 components— and try spinning up your board. OK, next up. Why is local manufacturing important to you? Where are your boards fabricated? And do you have any plans to produce them on site in the future? I have been acquiring much equipment.
Last year around this time, we took a delivery of advanced high-speed flex mounters. We had a pick-and-place beforehand. But it was like a pocket pick-and-place— a little mini one, a little apartment-sized one. This one is much bigger, as you can see me here measuring how big it is with my calipers. Comes on a freight truck. And we put big googly eyes on him. What else you going to put them on?
And it looks cute, I guess. And these are the feeders that come in it. And components that you buy on cut tape or reel get loaded into the feeder. And then it gets automatically placed by the machine. It places like 30, components per hour. This is a little bit sped up. But if does place components very fast and very, very accurately. And what this means is that I can manufacture more stuff, with finer pitch components, and much higher yields.
All this means I can do more stuff, more parts at a lower cost. This is an SM, which even though is one digit less than the 42, is actually the upgrade. Yeah, whatever, Samsung. Get with it. But this machine— same size, but has 10 nozzles to pick up parts instead of 6. And this will be in line. In our fabrication line there will be a stenciler.
Judge Spotlight: Limor “Ladyada” Fried
Limor Fried got the idea when a friend with whom she was eating dinner broke off their conversation to answer her cellphone. Fried got mad. She built a gadget. She calls it the Wave Bubble because it creates a cellphone-free bubble of silence 4 meters in diameter.
Limor Fried is an engineer best known for her work at Adafruit Industries , the company she founded in Adafruit's goals are simple: create the best place online for learning electronics and make the best designed products for makers of all ages and skill levels. The company sells all kinds of DIY kits, from phone chargers and learning toys to power monitoring systems and art robots. Limor has emerged as a leader of the open-source hardware movement and is a goddess LadyAda, as they call her among makers. Limor talked to us about Adafruit's workshop in New York City, her current projects, and her best productivity tricks. Want to know more?