Author Archives: frodehalvorsen

About frodehalvorsen

General Manager of Trondheim Makers, Norway Linkedin:

Hacking bus stops Maker style

To promote this year’s Trondheim Maker Faire, HK reklamebyrå, Norwegian Creations and Trondheim Makers “hacked” two bus stops in the heart of the city. Rather than go with old-fashioned poster signage, the group of Makers wanted to do something a bit more special. With only one week of preparation and a very limited budget, we had to use what we had in our drawers.


I’m not sure if the city of Trondheim, ATB (the bus company) or Clear Channel knew what they allowed us to do, but each of them said “yes” without any other reservations other than, of course, that we had to return the bus stops to a state normality upon completion.

Aasmund doing some accurate measurements for Øyvind.

Aasmund doing some accurate measurements for Øyvind.

As with any Maker project, there were problems to overcome. The first challenge we experienced was how to get stable AC electricity. The outlets in the poster boxes are on the same system as the street light; as a result, there’s only electricity when it’s dark outside. This was certainly a bad thing if you want to have it up and running during daytime, or even evenings because of the long Norwegian summer days. So, we actually got the keys to the boxes that contain all the network and electricity for the real-time timetable system used by the bus company.

Preparing the plywood and electronics at the Fix Makerspace in Trondheim.

Preparing the plywood and electronics at the Fix Makerspace in Trondheim.

The first bus stop we started working on was the one with a retro game. Our first plan was let people play Super Mario Bros, but we soon realized that it would be difficult for the player to control the game, as we wanted to use a MaKey MaKey and aluminum foil tape on the glass for game controls. We did not find a easy way to combine directional buttons with the A and B buttons, since one hand had to be in contact with ground all the time. Given the limited time, we elected to use another game, where you just needed one button a time: Pac Man.

Just some cobblestone and cables...

Just some cobblestone and cables…

In short, the incredibly innovated Pac Man bus stop consisted of a pre-cut sheet of plywood with an old computer screen, a Raspberry Pi with the retro game installed, as well as a MaKey MaKey controlled by aluminum foil tape on the glass front of the poster box. We did not give the players the opportunity to leave the game.

camera.vflip = True

camera.vflip = True

The other bus stop, we decided to transform into a photo booth using a Raspberry Pi, a PiCam and a MaKey MaKey, which we didn’t have. Without any place to get a MaKey Makey in Trondheim, and an inadequate amount of time to order online, we turned an Atmel Xplained Mini into a MaKey MaKey-ish controller.

The Xplained Mini that saved the day!

The Xplained Mini that saved the day!

Our first plan was to upload all the pictures from the bus stop photo booth directly onto our webpage; however, since the bus stop was located downtown and was open to the public, we needed some kind of moderation. The pictures were sent from the Raspberry Pi to an email address.

All the codes for the photo booth bus stop could be downloaded from Maker Faire Trondheim’s website.

All in all, this was a fun thing to do — both for us who were working with the project and for all those who played Pac Man and took selfies at the bus stop. As we imagined, there were even some commuters who chose to continue playing instead of hopping aboard the bus!

The robotic troika of Atmel summer interns in Trondheim

Troika: A Russian word for a group of three, and also a pretty good Norwegian chocolate bar.

It’s a safe assumption that most of us have had some sort of experience with summer jobs throughout our years as students. It’s also quite likely that some of us remember these jobs as full of sweat and manual work at a construction site, on a farm or in some kind of warehouse; however, not all summer jobs have to be this way. Today, I received a piece of mail from some of the summer interns at Atmel Trondheim, and from the sounds of it, they have some pretty cool things going on!

The Line Follower

A line follower is a machine equipped with some sort of light-sensitive sensors that follows a line — either a black line on a white surface or vica versa.


“This project utilizes two Light Dependent Resistors (LDRs) to detect the amount of reflected light from two Light Emitting Diodes (LEDs). The chassis is made of cardboard and the whole robot is made without any soldering. The idea behind this robot was to introduce some intelligence to a robot in an easy and inexpensive way,” explains Magne Normann, one of the summer interns at Atmel.

The Avoidance Robot

This is an obstacle avoidance-type robot based around the Atmel Abot. All that’s required to build this kind of robot is a platform, two motors/servos, some wires and a distance sensor. However, this particular project has got an additional servo. The ultrasonic sensor is mounted on a servo in front of the robot, and as the servo rotates, the sensor measures the distances in its envorionment and uses this information to choose a path between any obstacles.


The Atmel Tank

Have you ever seen one of those USB rocket launchers and wondered if they’re hackable? Well, they are.

“We got our hands on a USB missile launcher, disassembled it, did a reversed engineering and modified it. Then we added Bluetooth connectivity, put it on an Atmel Abot and made an app for it. The app does have both one and two-player modes; one player controls both the vehicle and the turret, and two-player mode where one player controls the car, while another controls the turret,” Magne shares.  


“Up until now the only way to interface with an USB rocket launcher had been through the complicated USB protocol. Unfortunately not many microcontrollers support this feature. We therefore decided to hack the rocket launcher down to the old school way, so we could control it with simple GPIOs. We opened the launcher up and discovered the unused footprint for a microcontroller. Apparently, initial design was based on using a microcontroller, but somewhere along the way someone decided to go with a die instead. This left the microcontroller pads unused and available for us to use. All we had to do was probe the signals for each command, disconnect the die from the circuit paths and solder our own wires to the microcontroller pads. This way we could use the existing H-bridges and switches without any additional hardware required.”

Magne notes that the tank is currently bringing havoc to the Atmel department located at Tiller, Norway. Interested in seeing it for yourself? The tank will be on display, along with several other Atmel-based projects, at Maker Faire Trondheim scheduled for August 29-30th. Maker Faire attendees will also have the opportunity to compete for the title of Maker Faire’s “Best Tank Commander.”




Robots for the people

As a child of the ’80s, I don’t think there was anything cooler than Transformers, MASK and few of the other TV series featuring some kind of robots. My problem, and I guess I wasn’t the only one, back then was access to robot kits. Yes, we had some building kits — of both plastic and metal with cogwheels, axles and rubber bands — but it didn’t quite get our creations to behave the way we hoped or imagined.

We at Trondheim Makers, an organization in Trondheim, Norway who works with the local Maker scene and Maker Faire Trondheim in August, have a little project that we are set to release — the super cheap and simple foam board Robot Kit.


Simply stated, it is a cheap, easy-to-build robot and easy-to-hack kit based on a four-legged, two-servo walking robot found in many variations on the Internet.


Given that our goal is to devise a simple and easy-to-build robot, there is no need for CNC machines, 3D printer or other soon-to-be household machines. Since the body is made out of foam board, it can simply be cut out with a carpet knife. The legs are made out of two pieces of steel wire, with a little drop of glue at the ends to provide better traction.

One micro servo for each pair of legs provides not the most elegant or gracious walking, but it certainly has some sort of interesting walking characteristics. An Atmel Xplained Mini Board with a super simple code controls all of this. We have installed the Arduino bootloader onto the boards, so it is even easier for those who would like to try out their own codes. A rangefinder enables the robot to move backward and make turns when approaching an obstacle — or a photo resistor so it starts walking when the lights are turned on (and totally freaks out your fiancée) — are easily added to both the board and code.


A 9V battery, through a 5V regulator, powers the robot since the servos are not that happy about 3.3V. Subsequently, there is both 3.3V through the onboard regulator on the Xplained and 5v through the external regulator.

Our other goal was to offer an affordable kit. With a total cost of +/- $20, it comes in at around the same price as a burger meal at a typical fast food restaurant here in Norway.


The R&D time spent on this project is neglectable. The robot, which works out-of-the-box when put together, walks forward and doesn’t stop or turn. We hope that as soon as we begin to give these kits away, people will start experimenting — try out other codes, bend the legs in different angles, add sensors and so forth.

By doing this, we hope to inspire and show children of all ages (including big boys and girls with daytime jobs), how simple it is to build a fun, homemade toy that you could experiment, hack and modify, all while hopefully learning a thing or two along the way.



Mosquito Mania with Trondheim Makers

How did a young student with almost no programming experience and little hardware knowledge win Game of the year and Best Technical Achievement at the Norwegian Game Awards? Perhaps most importantly, how did the title claim victory without a traditional “playscreen?”

Quite simply, Mosquito Mania isn`t really a video game in the classic sense and can probably best be defined as an audio game.


Mosquito Mania started out as a student project at Music Technology at NTNU (Norwegian University of Science and Technology), with students asked to determine ”how to best use sound in terms of interaction with people.”

Although most of the class chose a musical approach, Sigurd Gran-Jansen adopted a different tact. Essentially, Mosquito Mania is a game where the player is surrounded by invisible mosquito swarms whose buzz is outputted by 8 speakers. The mission? To take out as many mosquitos as you can in 60 seconds, only armed with sensors that are attached to a plastic rifle.

”My programming skills where extremely limited when I started the project, but I had a teacher who was into Arduino, and he really supported me,” Sigurd Gran-Jansen explained. “Sometimes he even sat down and helped me after working hours, and his drive was really inspirational for me to achieve this.”

The hardware setup on the gun side consists of a magnometer and an accelerometer attached to an Atmel-based Arduino board. The signal is subsequently transferred to a computer (via XBee) which in turn executes all calculations on the sound spatialization while running game algorithms. C is used to program the microcontroller, with Java, cSound, JS and MAX/MSP chosen for the software side of the project.

“I spent about 2.5 months on the project and the last two weeks I worked from 8 in the morning until 2 a night. The last four days before the Game Awards, I slept at the university, so I didn’t have to waste time traveling between my apartment and the university,” Sigurd Gran-Jansen added. “I had so much lack of sleep that I started to hallucinate. It is not cool when you see a Lion attacking a Zebra in the office at 9 p.m. Stuff like that shouldn’t happen before 1 a.m., and there should definitely be a Seal involved.”

But as probably most of us have experienced, not everything goes as planned.

“The first time I ever tested the system with actually surround sound, was the nigh before it was going to be presented and evaluated by the professors. Nothing worked,” he said. “There was no sound and the sensors went haywire! I spent the whole night, and the following day troubleshooting and do some last minute hacks, and 5 minutes before it was my turn to present the game, it worked! ‘Luck favors the prepared’ some says, and that night I felt that saying suited me.”

Clearly, one can come a long way with a great amount of creativity, the will to learn, an inspirational teacher and some easy to understand hardware.

Will you be in Trondheim August 29 – 30? Be sure to visit us at Maker Faire Trondheim and see how many mosquitos you can take down in 60 seconds!

Greetings from Trondheim (home of AVR)

Trondheim, home of AVR architecture, is checking into the Maker Movement! This summer there is a lot going on; a few Makerspaces are popping up, a new coworking space and in August Trondheim hosts its first Maker Faire. Although Trondheim hosted a mini Maker Faire at the Pstereo festival last year, we are going for the real deal in 2014 with a featured Maker Faire.

Image Credit: Wikipedia

Trondheim is now in company with cities like Tokyo, Senzchen, Kansas, Paris and a few other cities around the world. There is one primary difference between Trondheim and most of the other cities – population. With only 180,000 people living in the city, there is no doubt that Trondheim is the smallest city among the featured faires. Although Trondheim is the smallest city, it is home to a compact and vital community of Makers, hackers and techheads. With almost 40,000 students in the city, a significant number of tech businesses, a well-established creative community and a long cultural history, it all adds up to be a great place for innovation and Making.

In fact, as you are reading this article, there is a group of people transforming an old 1500 square feet basement into a Makerspace. Ragnar Ranøyen Homb, one of the initiators behind this Makerspace and Norwegian Creations, a maker community, describes Trondheim the following way:

“Trondheim is a rather small city if we look at population. So when we combine the population with all the Maker Movement initiatives going on, we get a rather high concentration of awesome stuff!

“The resurgence of this new culture is, among other things, an important catalyst for ‘the open source generation.’ One of this generation’s strongest characteristics is the high amount of knowledge originating from looking into the designs of different open source projects. And it’s not only the hardware creators that take part of this. As we can see in Trondheim now, a new breed of entrepreneurs is also emerging.”


Hackheim, an established hacker space, is currently moving from its old location into new and improved facilities this summer. At NTNU university, a group of students are turning a number of current workshops into what they describe as an “open arena for innovation.”

Alf Egil Bogen, co-inventor of the AVR-microcontroller, did see a need for a stronger culture and community working for innovation and entrepreneurship in Trondheim. In September 2013 Trondheim Makers was established. The organization is working with the schools and initiatives that already exist, in addition to their own events and projects; Maker Faire Trondheim is the first big event held by Trondheim Makers.

So there are definitely some things going around in the tech capital of Norway right now. If you are interested in reading more  about the Maker Movement in Trondheim, please check the links listed below. Some of them are currently only in Norwegian, but as projects receive more and more attention outside Norway, new dual language websites are going live at a rapid pace: