Three Possible Ways to Get ESI (ELEN30013) Bonus Marks!

Are you currently doing ESI and wondering what you can do to secure the mysterious X marks? Or probably you are finished with the subject but feel that it is too much of a shame to break apart what you have built out of all those chaotic Wednesday and Friday nights (after-hours lab are crazy packed). Here are some things you can do to make a finer product of our steam-punk styled end-of semester project.

 

1. Adding Image to Your Display

Undeniably, an addition of flashy colourful images to your display might be one of the most straightforward ways to catch your demonstrators’ eyeballs. I know there’s no SD card slot on Arduino Uno, but worries not, LCD Image Converter (https://sourceforge.net/projects/lcd-image-converter/)  allows you to convert your chosen icons into bitmaps and store it in your Arduino’s Flash Memory as a string of hexadecimal numbers.

Once the conversion is done, Arduino has the supporting library, such as <TFT.h>, that allows you to draw bitmaps, e.g. TFTscreen.drawBitmap(x,y,IconFileName, size_x, size_y, color). Websites like www.flaticon.com provides you with free vector icons, and are good sources for your icons of choice.

Figure 1: It's best to make a library for all the icons you wish to use

 

2. Going Wireless

May I introduce you the ESP8266, a low-cost Wi-Fi microchip with full TCP/IP stack and microcontroller capability. You can buy it from ebay for less than $10, and it enables 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi communication over your wireless network for your arduino project. What makes it even more accessible is that it supports Arduino IDE. The module I have been using is the ESP-01, which serves as a standalone processor and it uses serial to communicate with the Uno. There are other variants that come as Arduino shield. Now with a few extra bucks, you can send the recorded temperature over internet and plot it on your website.

Tips:

Your Arduino Uno can be used as a USB-to-serial converter, simply pull down the Reset pin to ground. Remember that the serial connection in this case goes: TX → TX, RX → RX.

Before flashing the ESP, pull the Reset to HIGH for a few seconds, then pull it back to LOW, this sets the chip to flash mode.

When serial-communicating with the Uno, the connection goes RX → TX, TX → RX.

 

                                      

Figure 2: Pins Allocations                                                                     Figure 3: ESP-01

 

3. Adding More Functions

This third suggestion is more like an extension to the project, although you are guaranteed to obtain those X marks if you managed to pull off some extra functionalities. Think about what you are interested in, what can be useful in your daily life, how you can make use of the finished project and tailor it to your personal taste. My go at it is a weather station that measures the indoor temperature and displays the online outdoor forecast (obtained via ESP8266, of course!).  Website like www.wundergound.com offers a robust set of data via API services, and it’s free! Basically, let you imagination run wild and you will realise there is so much you can do with electronics!

 

Figure 4: Wunderground allows you to retrieve current weather data from all over the world, and you can simply string copy it and serial send to your Arduino.

 


Written by Bill (Yijie) Tao (MUEEC Committee 2017/2018)

E-mail: bill.tao@mueec.com

 


References:

https://sourceforge.net/projects/lcd-image-converter/

http://www.instructables.com/id/Converting-Images-to-Flash-Memory-Iconsimages-for-/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ESP8266#/media/File:ESP-01.jpg

https://github.com/initialstate/wunderground-sensehat/wiki/Part-1.-How-to-Use-the-Wunderground-API

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