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.
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.
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!