Browsing Posts published on 23/09/2010

Last thoughts on the day.

Its getting a little late, so I shan’t be long in this, but these last few days really have been quite a big deal, both for me and for ‘The Project’, and I really feel that now in this ‘quiet time’, its maybe a chance to reflect on just what’s been achieved.

In just over a week, the project has moved forward in leaps and bounds.  Just ten days ago, I was still scratching my head trying to get it round the idea of ‘dummy loads’ and all other manner of problems.  Now, as I’m sat here, I simply turn behind me to see the bike with its generator attached, and attached to that is the ‘shiny new’ electronics board that will measure not only voltage, but current flowing into the battery as well.  And now, not only can I monitor these things, but I can control them as well! By simply changing just a few bytes of code, I can make it do whatever I want!  You want a gentle start?  No problem!  You want an Alpine mountain climb?  Easy!

…Dave came round this afternoon to see what I’d been up to, and aside from being pretty impressed that I’ve still ‘got the touch’ when it comes to building things, he’s anxious that I just ‘put the finishing touches’ to the circuit so that next week, he can start in earnest with the coding.

So tomorrow, I’m just going to put some strain-relief on the input and output cables, I’m going to change over the polarity of one of the plugs and sockets so nothing can be plugged in incorrectly, then build a little circuit and mount it on the board to smooth the power coming from the chopping FET’s in exactly the same way as a computer power supply works.  BIG diodes, BIG coil and a BIG smoothing capacitor.  Easy stuff that will take no more than an hour or so.

THEN I/we have to design the ‘user interface’.

Now this will be the really, really fun bit.

Of course, I haven’t forgotten the ‘JBM’ and ‘JCBM’ buttons.  What? You forgot?  Pah!

‘JBM’ = ‘Jon’s Biscuit Meter’

‘JCBM’ = ‘Jon’s Chocolate Biscuit Meter’

If you recall, press either of these two buttons, and you have to put so many Joules into the battery by pedalling faster for a given period of time.  Obviously the ‘JCBM’ requires quite a bit more work for the lamp to light to say you can have one!

Other features will be two buttons -one for ‘Less!’ and one for ‘More!’ to decrease and increase the loading on the back wheel.  Of course, if you press the ‘More!’ button, for each turn of the pedals you put more into the batteries, so your calorie count will go up accordingly.

Another idea er, ‘borrowed’ from gymnasiums up and down the land is that of a ‘hill profile’ so you will be able to see on the display in front of you when you are coming up to a ‘steep hill’ or a ‘gentle pedal’.  A timer, perhaps?  A ‘Watt Meter’ (…or ‘Calories Meter’…)?  A distance travelled/mileometer? Aah, the choices!

A good way down the line will be when each bike ‘remembers’ each rider because they’ll have an ‘iButton’ attached to their keyring.  The user will simply start pedalling to turn the bike ‘on’, then touch the iButton into a little round receptical -like they have on some bar tills, and it’ll know who they are.  Eventually, each bike will be linked in with the central ‘mother’ unit, and this will have stored each user’s ‘profile’ and their history.

I mentioned this almost as a ‘throw away’ when I gave a few minutes talk at the excellent ‘Grow Sheffield’ AGM a few months ago (…see the new ‘Links’ section at the top of the page for their address…), and there were several ‘health professionals’ in the audience who have dealings with the public and the growing national problem of overweight and even obesity.

Well, their eyes lit up at this, and there were quite a few questions afterwards as to how this would be achieved, and exactly what it would involve.

Obviously, an awful lot more work needs to be done yet, but I can only see the outcome as being a win:win situation:-

People want to come regularly to use our bikes, under cover(!) and in the fresh air to lose a few pounds, then great!  We’ll keep the energy they ‘burn off’ to power our lights and heat our water!  Who knows, they may even want to stay afterwards to pull some weeds or do some watering!

Anyway, that little scenario is quite a few months off yet, so lest we get carried into ‘Fantasy Land’, when I’ve got the circuitboard neatened up and ‘bullet-proof’, Dave will be writing some pretty ‘basic’ code just to get us up and running. That’ll be when we can let our imaginations out to play.

So, Dear Reader:  Is there anything you’d like to see on the bikes?

Sensible answers please to nick(AT)leafsheffield(dot)org(dot)uk!

-That was just to try and stop ‘web robots’ from getting my e-mail address.

Last Saturday we had a lovely creative day at LEAF. I arrived late in the day as usual, and to my delight Jo had organised a fantastic painting activity for the children, and I was very impressed with the larger-than-life self portraits they had painted.

Jo putting the finishing touches to Lisa's fantastic colourful self portrait

Jo putting the finishing touches to Lisa's fantastic colourful self portrait

Jo and Matt were busy constructing a shed out of cardboard, and were constantly interrupted by children trying to climb in and out of the shed whilst it was still under construction! You just can’t beat a cardboard box!

Matt and Jo working on the fantastic cardboard shed

Matt and Jo working on the fantastic cardboard shed, a hit with the children of all ages!

I got stuck in and started to make some large cardboard garden forks and spades –  all of these things are going to be part of LEAF’s creative contribution to Allotment Soup at Rivelin allotments this weekend. We will also be taking some of our fantastic scarecrows so hope to see you there!

Heeley City Farm

Just a quick post to share a few photos I took at the Heeley City Farm Fair last Sunday. It was great to have a look around the site, and everything growing looked very green and healthy.

Lovely veg bedsFruit trees & Polytunnel
However my favourite thing was the hairy, bristley, snuffly and rather smelly pig who was absolutely in his element with a snout full of mud!Pig enjoying snortling in the mud!

Independence Day.

Just a few minutes ago, here at ‘Wardian Towers’, we achieved just this.  Total Independence.



Last night after that feverish Blog entry, I carried on and added the ‘7805’ voltage regulator I mentioned.

Double click on the photo to the left and you’ll see it sat on the top left of the board.  Yes, its got a heatsink on, but that was only out of force of habit.  Measurements show that its taking much less than 10 milliamps when running, so it really wasn’t needed.

Once again, I got on the bike, but this time there was none of the ‘fearfulness’ of last night’s adventures.  I knew it would fire up!

And fire up it did, just the same as last night.  First the top-most green LED next to that big, cute electrolytic capacitor below the heatsink, then with a slight increase in speed, the lower green one, just above the other new electrolytic that’s above the empty 40 pin socket.  We were charging!

If you look at this photo, as well as that new heatsink for the regulator and the smoothing electrolytics, you’ll hopefully notice the lack of any wires going to the programming board on the right.  It’s not plugged into the board on the right in any way.  No power and no programming lines.

Okay, it means I have to take the PIC out every time I want to program it, but this is no big bother.

…So now the board is fully ‘capped-up’ with those two electrolytics and a much smaller ‘de-coupler’ to take out any little nasty ‘spikes’ that may appear, and I feel much better, much safer because of this.  It means the circuit is nigh-on ‘bomb-proof’ -at least electrically.  If its to be ‘bomb-proof’ mechanically, then I’d put it in a box, but as I need to be able to get to the PIC to be able to program it, thats not really an issue yet.

So, the circuit is now fully independent of the mains, and I have the laptop to program it with, so now I can use it wherever I like!

Anyway, a quick shower, then off for the morning’s session at LEAF.

Will there be massive praise when I arrive?  Will they have the red carpets out?

I sincerely hope not!  Though I imagine the line; “So why haven’t you brought it to show us??!!” may well be uttered at some point.

No worries.  I’m sure the kettle will be on!

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