A badge even H. G. Wells and Jules Verne would want to wear.
With Maker Faire season upon us, we’re bound to see a ‘faire’ share of steampunk projects over the next couple of months — from hat-mounted clocks to wooden 3D printers to slick wristwatches. Given all of the buzz around wearable computing as of late, Maker Rob Reilly decided to do something a little different by creating a pseudo-Victorian name badge.
“I chose a name badge because I attend and speak at quite a few tech conferences and events. Breaking the conversational ice with 8,000 strangers can be a bit daunting. A one-off ‘badge’ might grab people’s curiosity and show off some practical wearable computing vibes at the same time. Also, almost everybody likes steampunk,” Reilly writes.
As fate would have it, the Maker received a 1.8-inch color LCD screen for Christmas, capable of displaying bitmaps at a resolution of 160 x 128 pixels and being easily programmed using a Linux notebook through the Arduino IDE. Driven by an Arduino Pro Mini (ATmega328) soldered to an LCD breakout board, the badge itself features a digital temperature sensor, a battery pack, an integrated micro-SD card, and a handmade brass frame to hold it all together. The Pro Mini and display board are both suspended within the badge’s frame, while some 22-gauge copper wire from a CAT 5 cable is tasked with connecting the more discrete components, like the temperature sensor and resistors.
“The programmable/microcontroller approach lends itself to exploring ‘networked’ wearable computing in upcoming version 2.0 and beyond versions,” the Maker says.
In terms of programming, Reilly notes that it was relatively straightforward through some good ol’ Arduino code. Beyond that, he used examples from the Adafruit_GFX and Adafruit_ST7735 libraries, then added lines that cycled through a couple of bitmaps, such as a “Dr Torq” image and a text readout of the ambient temperature.
As impressive as version 1.0 may be, the Maker already has some ideas for future iterations. A few notable improvements to beef up its steampunk aesthetics and hackability include swapping out its AAA batteries, replacing fake with real leather, and using 10-pin female headers on the MCU side to connect the 10-pin male headers on the LCD breakout board. Reilly is also looking to migrate from the Pro Mini to an Arduino Yún (ATmega32U4), which would enable him to wirelssly connect the badge with his smartphone.
Want to make one of your own? Head over to the project’s page here.
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