The Journey Towards A Magical Solution

Our previous post highlighted a multitude of problems makers are facing today. Considerable amount of time and money is spent in developing relevant skills, then making the project, juggling through complicated circuits and finally searching timelessly for the smallest of imperfections and improving on them. This accentuated the need for a one-stop solution to cater to all such hassles, which we’ve categorized into different phases such as learning, building and debugging. Being makers ourselves, we encountered similar problems and started searching for that magical solution. Unfortunately, we ended up disappointing ourselves as no such thing was in existence except some solutions to individual plights.

How a disappointment challenged us for something great!

“So what! If you need it and nobody has it, build it!” We took the challenge of making that one-stop solution ourselves. But how did we get here? Where did it start from? Rewind couple of years, while working for a student robotics competition, we built a testing board to help us debug our beloved robots whenever they went mad! But that was tough, testing which actuator was malfunctioning or if it was the battery or some other component needed different circuits altogether. It was cumbersome. Iterations followed and all the different circuits for testing a variety of commonly used components were integrated together into a single testing and debugging tool. A LabVIEW interface for the same was later developed during a Virtual Instrumentation course. The debugging tool was capable of testing performance of PMDC motors, servo motors, steppers, pneumatic systems, batteries etc. We kept it to ourselves for several years and were using it with negligible improvements.

So what! If you need it and nobody has it, build it!

Fast forward to 2015, we decided to make it available to makers around the country. But prolonged usage without any significant improvement started raising concerns. Will this always stay just a testing & debugging tool? This way, we could only have catered to people like us, who were building robots for some reason. What about those who haven’t started making quite yet but are eager to learn? What about those who want to teach robotics? What about those who are making projects? Can the efforts they put in to realize their idea be reduced, amplifying their focus on the idea itself, rather than on the inconvenience of connecting wires all the time? Can it be made simple enough to enable building projects just by plugging in the hardware? Can advanced features be included to allow things as complex as data acquisition? What more can our makers do with it? Oh! The curious human mind, it never stops asking for more.

Team Robocon IITK.mp4.00_02_14_04.Still002edited
debugging a robot isn’t the most fascinating thing around!

Keeping all the makers in mind- from students to teachers, from hobbyists to researchers, from beginners to professionals, we started working towards making the magical solution! Being the most commonly used and easy to learn platform, we chose Arduino to base it on. An all-in-one device to perform a wide range of functions was evolving. A platform to which one could connect multiple sensors & actuators and can learn how they work or can build projects using them. A device which can act as an ammeter, a voltmeter, an oscilloscope or a function generator and can help people analyze and debug their projects or make experimental setups with. An IoT gadget which can be a Wi-Fi router, a Bluetooth or XBee based wireless transceiver and could save and send sensing data. An instrument to which devices requiring different power outputs can be connected, be it a 3.3V IMU, a 5V proximity sensor, a 7.4V servo or a 12V PMDC motor. And yeah, it should be compact, lightweight, portable, affordable, should work across multiple OS & development platforms and blah blah! Once it has all these, it shouldn’t blow itself up if someone does mistakenly overpowers the device or connects reverse terminals etc. Phew! We had tough targets to achieve.

An all-in-one platform to perform a wide range of making functions was evolving.

Remember McFly from Back to The Future? He once said “if you put your mind to it, you can achieve anything”. We were confident and too stubborn to go easy on our goals. The target was defined and we set sail. All these features were gradually integrated into a single product. After endless iterations and improvements, evive was born as an open-source embedded platform for maker around the world to help bring their ideas to reality.

evolution
the evivelution!

evive was loaded with tons of useful features for a variety of needs. It had a plug & play interface to directly connect and control hardware; a hardware interaction module equipped with switches, potentiometers and a joystick to control evive and the hardware connected to it; a power module to allow it to be powered by any DC supply between 5V & 30V and supports a variety of power outputs from evive; a communication module to connect evive with other devices; a data acquisition and logging module to sense, plot and store relevant data and a lot more. The list of features was endless. We’ll cover them in our next blog, stay tuned!

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Makers Are Awesome, But They Await A Revolution!

Have you ever tried making a robot and spent endless hours searching for the right component & testing its feasibility? Did you ever get stuck with a code or a circuit which you thought was correct but unfortunately it didn’t work? Have you ever tried searching for an economical way of testing your project’s response and ended up wasting valuable resources on expensive oscilloscopes, function generators or data acquisition systems? Do you often get frustrated with complex wiring and find it burdensome to debug your project? Have you ever felt that it takes ridiculously large amount of time and money to buy numerous components and build complex circuits to help your student make a project or help your child take her first step towards making for improving her STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) skills? 

evive stuck learn build debug

These problems become a daily headache for makers around the world; makers such as students, teachers, hobbyists, engineers, entrepreneurs, innovators, researchers and professionals. A maker’s life is challenging, but the challenges they face make them crucial to innovation and technology development. Let us look at some statistics to speculate scale of the problem. There are around 135 million adult makers in United States alone, excluding children and teens interested in STEM and tinkering. The maker movement pumps in roughly $29 billion in the US economy every year. That’s huge! As per Make: and Intel’s maker market study, 70% of the makers are involved in developing hardware projects, and 53% are using a micro-controller. They are well connected and are supportive of each other. 86% of those who obtain money from investors, crowdfunding, fellow makers or somewhere else pledge money to other makers. ASME (American Society of Mechanical Engineers) believes that robotics is the second most popular field for offering opportunities to engineers.

The maker movement pumps in roughly $29 billion in the US economy every year.

So what are all these makers using? Arduino has lead this revolution and ended up transforming the maker community to a more innovative and productive one. It offers a wide variety of options and add-ons which can possibly solve every problem a maker has. But what comes after Arduino? Though Arduino is a very crucial part of any project, the makers need more! More simplification, more flexibility and more integration. An informed choice of hardware, carefully planned circuits, flawless mechanical design and tremendous efforts in analysis and debugging are needed to build any project. And prior to all that, an evolved skill set is necessary. On the path of makers, the journey to success is never an easy one.

evive arduino community

As makers ourselves, we have spent plenty of time in developing the relevant skills, in learning how different things work and in figuring out which of these can help us turn our idea into reality, let alone building the project. Even after all our sincere efforts, things don’t usually work the way they should. Now we would be investing time in figuring out why they didn’t work and then re-iterate everything over a very long time. It’s difficult, demanding and frustrating at the same time. We definitely needed a one stop solution to help us in this process by making it easier and interesting, transforming the cumbersome process of making to a fun-filled learning experience, a device to harness and enhance all the potential Arduino has to offer. Something magical for the maker magicians!

We need something magical for the maker magicians!

What if there existed another way, a way to learn quickly and effortlessly. What if you no more have to face these problems which you’ve been facing since time immemorial. What if there were affordable alternatives available for analyzing and debugging. What if there was one product which could act as a learning and teaching tool, a perfect research platform and an easy to use professional debugging equipment. What if you had everything in one small portable open-source device. Wouldn’t it make your life easier?

What if there were affordable alternatives for analyzing, debugging and learning?

Let these questions sink in for a while. Phew! It’s tough, you, me and every other maker around the world awaits a solution. Turns out there is one, all you need to do is wait for our next post!