Archive for the ‘travels’ Category

Mexico reporting: Don Ingeniero and his Anti-shield

Friday, February 10th, 2012

I spent the day in Mexico City buying components for my forthcoming Euroaxacan workshop in electronics and software for craftsmen. I usually get here fairly cheap wheels for my robots, nice soundspeakers for building music instruments, wire -lots of wire-, great responsive buttons and some other stuff. I try to avoid LEDs, since they are more expensive than in Europe … those and the Arduino boards I bring from home. I usually get them at Electrokit, which is very close to my studio in Malmo.



(c) 2012 D. Cuartielles, Don Ingeniero showing off his Anti-Shield

The street where to find the electronics in Mexico is called Republica del Salvador. In about 100 meters you can find more or less everything you need: motors, potentiometers, wire, USB cables, breadboards, Atmega8L … but also, since two years ago there is Electronica Estudio, our only distributor in the city. I like passing by to visit to Don Ingeniero (Mr. Engineer) or how I like to call him. We usually speak for a while about the future of the platform, I get to see his designs and we plan for forthcoming events (beware, I will be making something during the Easter week at Electronica Estudio).

This time, Don Ingeniero flashed me with one of his biggest sales. He likes to call it the anti-escudo (Spanish for: anti-shield). It is a shield with 8 relays and 3 pin connectors for servo motors. He of course realized that a lot of people just want to hack their home appliances, so his local factory is making a lot of those anti-shields. The reason behind the name? That he decided to put the board upside down. Don thought I wouldn’t like it … the fact is that I loved it, yet another reason to show ToDo’s great design on the boards. You can see it is Arduino even from the back.

Next I will leave for Oaxaca to run a workshop at the Talleres Comunitarios de Zegache until February 22nd, 2012. If you are around the area and want to hang out, just drop me a line at d.cuartielles AT arduino DOT cc, or @dcuartielles on twitter.

Happenings in Toronto

Monday, October 31st, 2011

Just got back from Toronto, where I attended events at Toronto Digifest and TIFF Nexus.  I was very impressed with all the interesting work happening there. I gave a presentation at DigiFest on Arduino, Physical Computing and Mass Participation (PDF, 25.9MB). At TIFF Nexus I was a commentator on the Peripherals Initiative along with Steve Daniels, John Bouchard, and Emilie McGinley.
On Thursday  Kate Hartman took me to visit her Social Body lab at OCAD University. After that, we went to visit Lawrence at Creatron, a local retailer of electronics parts for hobbyists.  I am envious of the electronics hackers in Toronto because of that store!  Lawrence carries all the stuff I and my students buy online all the time: microcontrollers, modules from online retailers like Adafruit and Spark Fun and individual components like resistors, LEDs, and much more.  He told me he works directly with his friends and colleagues in Hong Kong to import parts directly, so as to cut out the middleman and keep prices low. I tried to talk him into opening a store in New York City as well. We need you in NYC, Lawrence!
The Digifest talk was a great experience, thanks to organizers Luigi Ferrara, Nick Crampton, Samantha Fraser and the rest of the Digifest TO team. Thanks also to Maria Grazia Mattei and Giulia Capodieci of Meet the Media Guru for inviting and hosting me as well.Thanks to all the folks in the audience who asked really great questions as well.
On Friday Steve, John, and Ramona Pringle gave me a tour of Ryerson’s Digital Media facilities. Ryerson’s just finishing off the renovation of their Image Arts gallery, which looks like it’ll be a good space for showcasing student and faculty work. The building has a skin of LED panels, all of which are software-controllable, and John and his colleagues have been writing driver software for it.  I look forward to seeing images from it when it’s lit up, and seeing what students do with it when they get their hands on it. We also took a tour of Ryerson’s Digital Media Zone business incubator, and had a great chat with Jason Nolan about the work EDGElab is doing in assistive design. He showed me an Arduino-based keyboard emulator designed by Vlad Cazan that was built to help a young girl with 1P36 deletion syndrome to communicate.

Keyboard emulator by Vlad Cazan and EDGELab

The TIFF Nexus peripherals event featured five hardware and software game hacks developed by teams who signed up for the event. Sadly, I only got to play two of them before I had to leave.  Button Masher (again featuring Vlad  and Alex Bethke of Golden Gear Games) is made up of two panels of hexagons of large light-up buttons, a sort of 21st century wack-a-mole, but with a variety of different games you can play on it, from snake trap to an Othello-like board game. Analog Defender, by Alexander Martin and Patrick Dinnen is a space game in the style of Space Invaders, but with a control panel made of great chunky industrial control knobs and buttons. The interface is pretty complicated but unlabled, and the developers encouraged players to label the controls with post-it notes as a form of social labeling. I loved the way you end up collaborating with people who played before you as a result.
It was a great trip, and it was wonderful to see so many folks using Arduino in really creative ways in Toronto.

Analog Defender


Arduino Nano 2 arbor solar tracker vid4

Wednesday, September 15th, 2010


Arduino Nano controlled 2 axis solar tracker / light seeker and battery charger. Hobby scale for the moment. The tracking fidelity is excellent, but there is still a mechanical resonance problem.

via [Microcontroller]


Arduino found in Mexico CitySe encontró un Arduino en México DF

Sunday, June 6th, 2010

I was looking for some motors for the courses I run with kids here in Mexico City. There is a street downtown where it is possible to find a couple of shops selling components, from resistors to pushbuttons with embedded 12V lamps. I was in the need of a couple of servo motors, as well as some DC ones with gearboxes to prototype the robots I am building for a forthcoming workshop later in July.

I found more or less everything I wanted, I was lacking some processors. I like to use ATmega8 processors, since the things I am designing are not in the need of a lot of intelligence, just moving motors back and forth, read some LDRs and eventually get commands over an old remote control. While searching for them, I was reminded about the sad truth, here in Mexico Atmel is making a poor job introducing its technology and it is more or less impossible to get a microprocessor at fairly big distributors like e.g. AG Electronica. The only thing I could find was the ATmega8L (at the mentioned AG), while I could get everything else I needed at other places (5V regulators, battery connectors, 28-pin DIP sockets, MOS-FETs…)


Arduino seen in Mexico

2010, D. Cuartielles, Arduino seen in Mexico

When I thought everything was lost, I found a place called Electrónica Estudio, where Eng. Wilfrido González happens to both run a consultancy business, a shop, and a workshop space. This shop, located at Rep. del Salvador, 20, #504, happens to import a lot of gear from Sparkfun, Pololu, and others. Believe it or not, inside one of the displays, Wilfrido is selling Arduino boards packed in small plastic bags. Dude, this was quite and experience! Seeing Arduino as very normal products at a completely unexpected location in the middle of one of the busiest streets in Mexico City is indeed a great experience as a designer.

Anyway, from now on, if you need to buy Arduino boards, accelerometers, gears, motors, MP3 players, you can go visit Wilfrido, I am sure he will help you out. You can check his website here, please note that, at the time of writing this post, he hadn’t introduced Arduino on his website, yet.


Iba buscando unos motores para los cursos que estoy impartiendo para niños/as aquí en México DF. Hay una calle en el centro dónde encontrar un par de tiendas que venden componentes, de resistencias a botones con lámparas de 12V embebidas. Necesitaba un par de servo motores, así como unos motores de continua con engranajes para prototipar los robots que estoy creando para un taller en el FARO de Oriente más adelante, durante el mes de Julio.

Encontré, más o menos, todo lo que necesitaba, si bien me faltaban los microcontroladores. Me gusta usar procesadores ATmega8, ya que lo que estoy diseñando no necesita de mucha inteligencia, sólo mover un par de motores, leer unas LDRs y, posiblemente, recibir comandos vía un mando de control remoto reciclado. Mientras los buscaba, me asaltó el hecho de que acá en México Atmel no está haciendo un gran trabajo introduciendo su tecnología, por lo que es casí imposible encontrar sus micros en distribuidores de tamaño mediano-grande como, por ejemplo, AG Electrónica. Lo único que pude encontrar fue el ATmega8L (en AG), además compré el resto de componentes que necesitaba en otros sitios (reguladores de 5V, conectores de batería, conectores DIP de 28 pines, MOSFETs…)

Arduino seen in Mexico
2010, D. Cuartielles, Arduino visto en Mexico

Cuando empezaba a pensar que todo estaba perdido, encontré una tienda llamada Electrónica Estudio, dónde el Ingeniero Wilfrido González lleva su consultoría, su tienda, y tu espacio para talleres. Esta tienda, se encuentra localizada en Rep. del Salvador, 20, #504, e importa materiales de Sparkfun, Pololu y otros. Lo creas o no, dentro de uno de los mostradores de cristal, Wilfrido vende placas Arduino embaladas en pequeñas bolsas de plástico. Ver Arduinos cómo si de cualquier producto se tratase en un lugar inesperado como este en una de las calles más transitadas del DF es una gran experiencia como diseñador.

En cualquier caso, de ahora en adelante, si necesitas placas, acelerómetros, engranajes, motores, reproductores MP3, puedes ir a visitar a Wilfrido. Estoy seguro de que te echará una mano. Puedes visitar aquí su página web, ten encuenta que al tiempo de escribir este artículo, él aún no había anunciado ahí las placas Arduino.

Something’s going on in Mexico

Sunday, August 30th, 2009

I spent the last 10 days traveling in Mexico. I went to Tijuana, Queretaro and Mexico DF. There is quite a lot of movement around Arduino in academia, the arts, and even pre-university education. This is just a summary of a very intense week.

In Tijuana I hosted a lecture at CECUT, the local Art Center dedicated to New Media (among others). They would convoke people coming from engineering schools, and art practitioners. The girls at Protolab invited me to run an intense workshop in low-level sound production. Their model for local education and economic sustainability is remarkable, they are partly funded by the local public university, the rest of their budget comes from selling education. Finally I was invited to speak for staff and students at the National Polytechnical Institute (IPN). They run an interesting MSc. and post-graduate studies in embedded systems.

The Protolab dudes
(CC) 2009 Protolab’s team, by David Cuartielles

In Queretaro I was invited to visit the design department at Tecnologico de Monterrey. Their campus specializes in design, architecture, engineering, business and arts. This -private- university counts with 95.000 students all over the country and their Milemium program for families with low income will reach 100.000 more by 2015. Mexico is with no doubt a country with a big interest in alternative educational methods, since their public university system cannot absorb even 30% of the applicants.

Course at CECUT
(C) 2009 CECUT, by Eva Gomez

In Mexico DF I held a mini workshop at CENART (Centro Nacional de las Artes), the equivalent to Tijuana’s CECUT but in a much bigger scale. Also, the CCEMX (Spanish Culture Center) invited me through the mediation of IKUSNET to a round table about open source and its possibilities for developing businesses in the country. There were speakers from the UAM (Metropolitan Autonomous University), OpenOffice, AMESOL, FLISOL … IKUSNET is a cooperative working with Open Source software from Spain that is specializing in migration to open source.

Here I should thank CCEMX’ director (Jesus), and CCEMX’ program responsible (Eva) for putting this agenda together and supporting it economically.

Arduino in Space

Tuesday, July 21st, 2009

Jim McGuire of the Stensat Group sent this report on what might be the most exteme environment that an Arduino’s been deployed in yet:

“In addition to the primary ISS construction mission, STS-127 is carrying two 19-inch spherical satellites scheduled for deployment on Mission Day 16. The two spheres, Castor and Pollux [], are part of the Atmospheric Neutral Density Experiment (ANDE) that studies atmospheric perturbations in the LEO environment. Castor [] contains an ARM processor, while Pollux is running an Atmel ATMega CPU. Pollux [] also contains student payloads developed with Arduino on Atmel AVRs. Both satellites transmit telemetry using the FX.25 FEC format [] developed by the Stensat guys []. Many components are commercial-grade, purchased from Digikey. This is the second ANDE mission, following the successful deployment of MAA and FCal [] on STS-116 (both also flying commercial components.)”

Thanks Jim, for the report!

Bife Arduinico

Tuesday, December 2nd, 2008

In Argentina I got told to ask for the famous “Bife de Chorizo”, a juicy steak served more or less everywhere. I spent three weeks working with Buenos Aires’ Ministry of Education in promoting the lab-in-a-box project and teaching secondary school educators in the use of open source technologies. We developed interesting examples using a combination of Arduino and Processing.

picture courtesy of the Arduino interest group in BsAs

The reaction of the workshop participants to the experience was great, they formed a new technologies interest group that will meet periodically and made some public presentations of the possibilities in teaching using Arduino, as they show in their blog.

The main problem is still importing Arduino boards to Argentina, the import tax is very high for a country which money is worth 25% of the Euro … however if the government is paying, money is not a big deal, and we are talking about 400 schools only in the area of Buenos Aires interested in the use of Arduino. The issue is that the components making an Arduino board what it is are also hard to find there (or non-existing). We need one or more Argentinian distributors as soon as possible!

Other relevant links I could gather during this trip are related to open source software/contents:

- one of the open source/free software associations in Argentina

- La Tribu is a radio channel in Buenos Aires that is very concerned about the use of open source and that provides endless hours of copyleft music, both online and on the waves. Also they celebtrated a festival while I was there

- the Argentinian military turning to Linux, finally someone taking care of homeland security understands that the penguin offers better level of security than the others