8 August 2011
DEARBORN, Mich.–To chat with Eric Barch is to peer into the near future. He’s an engineering student at Kettering University who’s been bitten with the hacker/make bug. He’s emblematic of a new generation of engineers in or just out of school who were inspired to get into the profession because they get to make things.
But his latest cool project is emblematic of something else: The rapid rise of open-source hardware. The consequences for what this can enable are enormous. They’re enormous for the larger world of electronics design, and they’re significant for the future flow of young students into engineering.
“We wanted to build a control system for robots that anybody could build on their own system,” he told us at Maker Faire Detroit 2011.
Key to the design was an open-source app for Android devices he wrote and posted on Google code.
He transmits control signals from his HTC phone to a WiFi module on the robot and then onto the Arduino board.
On The Tech Junkies blog, he wrote:
“I knew that I wanted to be able to control my robots from an Android phone, PC, or any other WiFi enabled device. I also knew that I wanted the system to be small and simplistic, but also powerful and extensible. The reason I went with an Arduino (Ethernet Pro) or a Netduino Plus for the controller was the low cost, ease of programming, and the embedded ethernet port.”
His schematic is pictured nearby. His electronics bill of materials for his custom device? A little more than $500.
At Maker Faire Detroit, we talked with Barch, who described his inspiration, his design trade-offs and the larger hacker-space movement: