BronyCon 2018 Recap

So, a quick recap on BronyCon this past weekend.

DigiBadge sales went great! Cases went great! Arduineigns went great!

Art cards, not so much, and the lightboxes I made just didn’t sell.

Lightboxes? Oh, right! Lightboxes!

They’re EL Wire in a shadowbox, using art from Sophie Scruggs. They look awesome! But I think I completely whiffed on the price point. I have a few ideas on how to approach that, but that’s for the future.

For the Art Cards, I think that they’re a harder sell with the increased price of the DigiBadge and the fact that the case is also available. I’ve got ideas for future versions using future versions of the badge, but that’s, well, for the future.

The DigiBadge itself sold well, as did the case. It helps that I rigged up a display piece – I’m going to have to make a nicer one eventually, but I have some time before I have to have it ready for a convention.

And, of course, the Arduineighs were a hit. Helps that they’re fairly inexpensive and look cool so even non-tech people find them interesting.

For the future, I’m definitely going to be working on some new things. I’m going to be re-assessing the pricing on the lightboxes, and throwing a few more ideas at Sophie for designs to do. I’m also going to be working on a larger version of the DigiBadge, now that I’ve got the Mini working nicely and up to good standards. I’m considering running a kickstarter for that larger version as well, since I simply can’t afford another mistake like what happened last time. More testing! More communication! I’ve learned a lot, and will be applying it fully to the new version.

As always, you can catch me on Twitter, Discord, and/or Facebook.

East Coast Rep Rap Festival, 2018

Well, this was an unplanned convention for me, but it was pretty cool anyway.

Two days ago, Amie DD made a post on twitter about being in Baltimore for ERRF2018. I make a bad crab joke, and don’t really think much about it, expecting it to be a big convention in Baltimore.

Yesterday morning, I actually look into the convention. It’s the inaugural East Coast Rep Rap Festival (You can visit their website here), and it’s being held at the community college that’s between where I live and my day job. And I somehow had off on my day job today. So I bought a ticket and headed down.

The convention was quite small – It fit into a sports arena, and only took up most of the space, but what I saw was great. There were a great many people there, from cosplay prop printers to big manufacturers and everything in between.

Some highlights:

  • Amie DD (Website) (Twitter) As mentioned above, she’s the whole reason I even found this convention. She does a lot of nerdery – Cosplay, LEGO, 3D printing, IoT, software development… I’d have to dedicate an entire article to capture everything.
  • GreyBeard3D (Website) (Twitter) This guy is doing an amazing thing – Acquiring as many filaments as he can and printing the same print with them, and documenting the results. Seriously, take a look at his website. It’s a great resource to see how specific filaments actually work and look, and he gives what settings he used too. Not just temperature, but retraction, speed, etc. An amazing resource, and it really needs to be out there more.
  • 3D Gloop! (Website) (Twitter) These guys have a really neat product. Not only does it glue things together, it does so extremely well. They had a demo piece that was holding two 25-pound weights up, no problem. Of special note is that they’re currently running a Kickstarter – And after talking to one of them for a while, I can tell they have their stuff together and as long as they get the money, they’ll have everything well in hand. They have contracts for production, have done some test runs, have labeling and packaging down, know how to ship it, so literally all that they need is the funding. And it’s not even that much.
  • Central Pennsylvania Open Source Conference (Website) (Twitter) The name is a good description. They’re a conference for Open Source things, and this year it’s on December 1st in Lancaster, PA. They’re looking for speakers, and they have a program to help out first time conference speakers, so if you’ve ever been interested in doing that, here’s your chance. They also had a nice “Open Source” activity in the shape of a Star Wars puzzle, where people could just walk up and put pieces together.
  • E-Nable (Website) These folks are some of the best people. They’re taking 3D printing and making prosthetics with them. From Captain America arms for kids to simple hands for adults, they’ve done everything. The change they can enact with a simple device – At a fraction of the cost of traditional ones – is amazing.
  • GekoTek Build Surfaces (Website) GekoTek has a different type of build surface than most, and I honestly couldn’t tell you precisely what it is (That’s why I linked their website). But the chat I had, and the examples they showed me, were really impressive. It’s super smooth, and quite grippy – One of the examples was a single layer of PETG – and they have two types. One for unheated build plates, and one for heated. What’s really cool about the one for heated build plates is that it’s adhesion is terrible at room temperature. So once the print is done and the bed cools down, it pops right off. Their claim is 100 prints or 6 months of use, but realistically it’s going to be more. The rep I was talking to said they got something like 200 prints out of one. They seem to work really well, and they have good adhesion but also a good release. Sometimes having good adhesion can be a bad thing if you can’t get the print off the bed.

I’m sure I’m missing tons of things. Prusia was there. BuildTak was there. OSHPark was there. There was a super tiny 3D printer there. It was great.

However.

It wasn’t perfect. For a first year convention, it was Amazing but there are, of course, improvements.

First and foremost, there wasn’t much to keep me there for more than a few hours – Let alone come back for a second day. There was a single stage for talks, so if a talk wasn’t interesting, there was just a floor to walk. And while there were plenty of people, it’s not something you can just walk for the whole day. There was also an issue with the space – Being a sports arena, when the announcing system was made, it drowned out everything.

My thoughts, as an attendee, are pretty simple – There was extra room in the exhibitor hall. A bunch of it. Instead of having dead space, a smaller exhibitor area would be good, and using the extra spaces for another stage or two for talks would be great. Maybe even a few talks or panels where things are a little more interactive and fun. There was a 3D printed derby there, which was cool – Perhaps move it to the second day, and have some designers on hand to help kids design a derby car, and then have the printers right there to print it for the next day.

I will close out with a positive, though. I went to a 3D printing expo in New York City a few years ago, and it was a well put together and fancy one. I preferred this one, since it was less stuffy salesmen trying to sell you their stuff and more of a community thing of people doing cool stuff and wanting to show it off. So long as it comes back next year, so will I.

Post-Nightmare Nights Wrap-Up

Nightmare Nights has come to an end, both for this year and for good. While it’s sad to see it go, and I only vended for two years, I’ve had some wonderful memories made in my short time here.

Last year was great, selling DigiBadges and being nerdy with people.

This year was also great, mostly because disaster was, for the most part, averted thanks to the power of wonderful people.

Having disaster strike due to a typo is…. annoying to say the least, especially when that disaster is a few thousand dollars worth of disaster. Compounding this is the fact that it was the second con in a row that things went wrong with.

That’s really annoying.

However, this convention went so much better than BronyCon. How? Well, for one, I actually had things to sell – more than a handful of Arduineigh boards.

Sophie Scruggs (Visit her website. Buy her stuff!) sent me a ton of prints that she had for me to sell, and MintShard (Who hangs out in Discord) sent me a bunch of Arduineigh boards and kits to sell. While, of course, they got their own share in the sales of their own products, between the two of them I was almost able to break even. While I won’t go into finances and exacts, it’s less money than I would have spent had I visited this con non-vending. That is, of course, conveniently leaving out the not-insignificant cost of the DigiBadge Mini mishap, but those will be saleable elsewhere once they’re fixed.

Speaking of which: The DigiBadge Minis can be fixed! But wait, there’s more!

I discussed the issues with the PCB house, and the solution is fantastic but time consuming. What’s going to happen is I will acquire the 328P microcontrollers (Instead of the 328 ones that are on there now), which I will then burn the proper fuses and bootloaders onto. Then I will package those, the problematic DigiBadge Minis, and the screens for the DigiBadge Minis, and ship them back to the PCB House. They will take care of replacing the microcontrollers, along with placing the screens onto the devices, and then send them back to me. It is time consuming, but it’ll be easier and quicker than trying to replace 250 microcontrollers myself. Additionally, I’ll be spared the frustration of putting the screens on myself.

And in further news, I’m discussing options with MintShard for licensing the Arduineighs. What does this mean? With Phoenixborn in charge of production, I can leverage the fact that I’m already having things produced that use some of the same components and save on purchase cost, while also making it easier for me to acquire whatever stock I may need. For MintShard, it means that he has more time to spend on other projects while I send him money for making/selling his stuff. We’re already working on a Neat Design for something new, but that’s Top Secret and we’ve only talked about some conceptual ideas for it as of yet.

The idea has also been brought up for Sophie to sell DigiBadges at conventions she goes to that Phoenixborn is not at, but again – That’s super early and I’m not going to give details that are likely to change and/or are irrelevant and not needed for you to know.

There have been stumbling blocks, but the future looks quite bright! I look forward to seeing what happens, and I hope to have many more bright things to share with you all.

If you want to chat with me, you can find me on Twitter, Facebook, and Discord. Just give it a few hours, though, because it’s 1AM and I’m going to sleep.

That’s right! We DO live!

What, did you think we died?

No, we’re harder to kill than that. I’ve just been busy and haven’t updated the website in far too long. I’ll give you the short version, and then the long version. So, here we go with the short version.

I’ve largely been waiting on the Minis to assemble and ship, and they’re mostly there. I have slacked a little on the code end of things, so I need to get by butt in gear and write working code for the Minis. I did sort of break my prototype by frying the SPI flash, but I’ll be able to do everything else before the other Minis get here. Outside of that, I’ve begun fiddling with Adafruit’s Circuit Python and M0 boards. It’s definitely made me want to design the larger DigiBadge around an M0 microcontroller. While CircuitPython doesn’t do graphics well yet, the M0 runs Arduino just fine. And CP will get there eventually, and putting it on boards will only make it faster. I’m also working on some prototype Feather Wings – A Hall Effect Sensor Array and a 10440 LiPo Battery. Beyond that, I’m going to Nightmare Nights next week, and I’ll have STUFF.

Now, for the long versions.

The DigiBadge Minis are in production and should be done soon! Unless Bad Things happen, I’ll have them before the convention, although I’ll have to spend a decent amount of time soldering the screens on, programming them, and packaging them. As mentioned above, I still have to finish the programming for them. That’ll take some time, but I can start kicking on that before they arrive. I also have some pictures of them!

Now, for CircuitPython and Adafruit. CircuitPython is Adafruit’s adaptation of MicroPython, itself a rebuilding of Python that works on microcontrollers powerful enough. MicroPython runs on a few MCs, but Adafruit has largely focused on the SAMD21 and ESP8266, as their boards use those two chips. CircuitPython is great, as it allows the microcontroller – plus the SPI Flash if it’s an Express board – appear as a thumb drive on the computer. You simply put the code files on the board and it executes them. It’s super great, especially because it allows you to pull your code off on any device, edit it, and run it immediately. As Python was my first programming language, I’m quite biased to it, and this mixes my love of Python with my love of microcontrollers. I’m likely to rebuild the larger DigiBadge as a M0 device and make it work with CircuitPython, even though CircuitPython doesn’t have a large amount of functionality as far as screens go. But one of the best ways to get things like that going is to put them out there, so that will definitely help.

Now, for my own projects! There’s a Hall Effect Array that I made, and then realized it was almost exactly the size of a Feather, so I turned it into a wing. I’m still waiting on some parts, but I already had the previous non-Wing version working. I took a short terrible phone video of the array in action, which you can see on the twitter:

As mentioned, it’s perfect size for a Feather:

I’ve already re-designed it as a feather, which you can see here:

Left to right: ESP8266 Feather, Hall Array Wing, 10440 LiPo Wing, M0 Express Feather, M0 Adalogger Feather

I haven’t yet assembled it though. That comes later. But what’s the other green Feather Wing? Well, it’s a super simple one that I still managed to mess up: It’s a wing designed to fit a 10440 LiPo Battery. It’s enough to power a Feather-sized project and fit compactly inside it. It’ll even stack mostly nicely, but I’d recommend long male headers for the board above it. How did I screw it up, though? Simple: I forgot a power switch. Oops. Anyway, have a video and some pictures:

What else was there? Oh, right! Nightmare Nights! And I’ll have things! What things? Well, first and foremost, unless Bad Things happen, I’ll have the DigiBadge Minis. Many minis! I won’t be bringing my whole stock – I only have packaging for 100 of them. It was originally for the V3, so the boxes may be a little large, but it should work fine.

Additionally, I’ll have a bunch of Arduineigh boards, a handful of component kits for the Arduineigh boards, and a bunch of prints by Sophie Scruggs! I will also have art cards with art by Sophie and by LeekFish.

If you’re wondering where I’ll be, it’s super easy to find me. Walk in the door, take a few steps and turn right. I’ll be there, right next to the My Dreamy Star booth. Give them some love, because they’re going to be dealing with my terrible puns the whole convention.

After the convention, I’ll be polishing up the store with more pictures, an actual front page, and the ability to, well, buy things. Important for a store.

And speaking of buying things, I’m going to end with a shoutout to Sophie’s Coloring Book and Art Showcase. You can buy it on her website:
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You can contact me via Facebook, Twitter, or Discord. I also recommend joining the Adafruit Discord, as there is a lively and super helpful community there as well.