Wireless Simon

I really wanted to make Simon wireless. The breadboard and cord was a hassle and I didn’t want it to be permanent, so it constantly fell out. As a quick fix I tried using a Bluetooth Shield, however, the pin used to reset the Bluetooth was shared by one of the NXT motors. Depending on the position of the wheel the shield could either communicate or not.

With the quick route unsuccessful, I decided to go ahead and build the wireless Esplora controller describe by Mike Barela on his blog. It look a lot of pieces but has worked great. I set it up with series 1 xBees which were surprisingly easy to get working. My daughter also upgraded his paneling to cardboard because the paper was too flimsy and coming off (he needs a new hat).

SimonSide

Simon now has the Uno, the NXT shield and wireless shield with an xBee on it. The breadboard and Gameport connection is gone. So is the buzzer for now.

ControllerTop

The only deviation from the Esplora Controller on the blog is how it is mounted. I had a partial 3D printed case for the Esplora so I mounted the Esplora inside of it. I then put some balsa wood on the back mounted with double sided mounting tape and screwed all the components to that.

ControllerBack

The programming part is simple. It just sends the character ‘u’, ‘d’, ‘l’, or ‘r’ depending on how the joystick is pressed and moves in that direction as well as displays it on the screen.

ControllerFront

I have a lot planned for the controller now. Besides sending the joystick position there are 4 buttons (and the joystick button) that can be sent. I want to use the linear potentiometer to move a servo attached to the range sensor. There is also the mic which I think my daughter might like yelling at to make things happen.

With the TFT panel I want to be able to display all the sensors coming off of Simon. So the range sensor, color, mics, switches, whatever we put on her. I would also like to get some LEDs on Simon.

The Esplora is a fun product for learning, but fairly useless to for connecting things. Using it as a wireless controller with a TFT panel turns it into an extremely interesting product. It is a discontinued product, but you can still get the Arduino Esplora Board on Amazon.

 

Global Entrepreneurship Week in Review

This last week was Global Entrepreneurship Week in Albuquerque and, like last year, there was a huge number of events to participate in.

Some of the big news from the week:

  • The launch of SINC, Social Impact through the Nonprofit Community, (@SINC_NM), Albuquerque’s first incubator for non-profits.
  • Expansion of ABQid (@goABQid) into Santa Fe with the SFid.
  • Village Capital: This is Albuquerque – YouTube Video promoting Albuquerque. I had no idea we are credited with the creation of the Sopapilla’s in North America! Really we are done here, not sure why we are trying to invent more things we can never top that…
  • 2015 State of the City Address – Transcript, lots of talking points and great information here.

There were a bunch of competitions throughout the week, here are all the winners I could dig up:

InnovateHER (11/13/15)

The SBA and Microsoft offer a prize competition for products and and services that impact and empower the lives of women and families.

  1. As Girls Grow ($2000)
  2. Teeniors ($1000)
  3. Etkie ($500)

STC.UNM Elevator Pitch Competition (11/13/15)

UNM Students pitch their technology and business ideas in 90 seconds to a live audience. There were five winners each getting $2500.

  1. Gregory Allen and Danielle Fox – Trade Square
  2. Jacob Collison – evaporation technology
  3. Rebekah Hartenberger – Personal Attack Warning System
  4. Zeke Chavez – Crowd Tank
  5. Alexandra Luna – FoodEze

Startup Weekend Albuquerque (11/13/15 – 11/15/15)

54 hour event to form a team, share an idea, and create a pitch for a new company.

  1. Fix Medical Debt
  2. Dovetail Workshop
  3. edAbility Farm

Albuquerque Mayor’s Prize (11/17/15)

A prize for groups helping to support the creation and growth of new companies in the city. $200,000 worth of prizes.

  1. Global Ties ABQ
  2. WESST
  3. Technology Ventures Corporation

Scrappy Startup Challenge (11/17/15)

A 3 minute pitch contest in Santa Fe. Winners can get badges to SWSX, legal consulting, marketing consulting, free rent at Fat Pipe and mentoring.

  1. Pressure Analysis Company
  2. Buckle Down Systems
  3. Wyrdos

Village Capital Water 2015 (11/18/15)

A Washington DC based business accelerator that did a 4 month program here in Albuquerque to help bring ideas and products to market to solve water issues. Two $50K prizes were awarded.

  1. Emrgy (Georgia)
  2. Aquees (Maryland)

I probably missed some, but an exciting week. Check out Eric Renz-Whitmore’s recorded periscope interviews from GEW ABQ.

 

Meet Simon

I have been spending a lot of time working with microcontrollers and circuits. One of my majors goals is to build an awesome, complex robot with my daughter. She has all kinds of ideas for how it should act (and so do I). We have been talking about it since watching Battle Bots, which was renewed for a second season! Here is our first prototype, Simon.

SimonR1

Simon is built with an Arduino Uno and the Lego Mindstorm NXT kit. Her chassis is based on this build. The Arduino connects to the NXT sensors and motors using a Bricktronics Shield. The first version had the GamePad connected through a breadboard and a button sensor on the front that prevented Simon from moving if she was touching something.

SimonTop

I attached a maker board to the top to wire in the Game Pad better. Only the X/Y analog controls are wired up. We also removed the button and connected the ultra sonic sensor instead. On the maker board we also put a buzzer. Now if something is too close to the front of Simon, Simon complains through the buzzer. My daughter like to bug and instead of driving Simon she prefers to get into Simon’s face and make her yell.

SimonSide

Finally, Simon also got dressed up. We placed panels on her, a hat, there are earrings (colored paperclips) and a necklace my daughter made.

The next step for Simon is to attach her to a wireless control using an Esplora.

If you want to meet Simon, we will be the Barnes & Noble Mini Maker Faire at Coronado, for the Sunday night Meet the Maker event.

 

Another Demo Day…

…another date with my lovely wife. Wednesday, was Creative Startups demo day for their 2015 accelerator class. It was held at the Factory on 5th, an appropriate place for creative company demos and my wife’s home away from home at the Albuquerque Aerialist Collective.

As an aside my wife started a blog about returning to aerial acrobatics after pregnancy, check it out.

Albuquerque Business First has a nice write up of the introduction by Roxanne Blair and Gary Oppedahl.

The most impressive part was likely the report on the first Creative Startups class:

There were nine companies who gave quick 2 minute pitches about their company and they all had demos setup just past the free beer by Santa Fe Brewing!

The nine companies:

  • 12 FPS – A marketing company around more subtle advertising. I love the inspiration for their company name and logo.
  • Beyond Buckskin – A company selling curated fashion and jewelry designed by Native Americans.
  • FAR Botanicals – Natural body care products promoting truth in advertising.
  • Inmerssion – Virtual worlds and artificial intelligent art displays and games.
  • Mezel Mods – A Rio Rancho company making custom pinball accessories for the $100 million and growing pinball industry.
  • The Art of Revolution – Creating more engaging and meaningful campaigns for non-profit advertising.
  • The Right Margin – A unique web app designed for writers, by writers to make the book creation process better.
  • Ver Con Las Manos – Creating beautiful 3D works of art from famous pictures to help provide art for the visual impaired.
  • Walls Of Benin – African inspired PJs and clothing that provides benefits back to the African continent.

Eric Renz-Whitmore did several Periscope interviews with the companies you can view here:

Inmerssion – The Right Margin  FAR Botanicals

 

October Link Roundup

Here is just a bunch of links to great things in Albuquerque I thought I would share.

A lot of exciting things happening in Albuquerque, things just never calm down here come fall.

 

A Week of Tech and Startup Pitches

On Tuesday I had the opportunity to take my lovely wife on our first date since the birth of our son. We went to the Tech Cocktail pitch contest by Tech.co. This was the first of two pitch events as part of the Umbrella Week/Tech Fiesta ABQ. There were 11 local startups who were setup around Stereo Bar talking about their company. They then each had 1 minute to pitch their business.

The pitches came from SunPortSociabile, Punctuality, Peptineo, sheSpire, innoBright, Pi-Fi, Wyrdos, ExploreMedia, SWSD Global, and Time Trader’s Club.

You can watch all the pitches at Newscastic. It was a great event and a lot of fun to be able to actually talk with the people pitching before hand and meet them personally. The winner for the best pitch was SunPort and the reader’s choice winner (which I believe was an online poll before the event) went to Punctuality. They both get to go to Las Vegas and compete for big prizes in a startup competition at the Tech.co Celebrate 2015 conference. The competition is October 5th so keep an eye out for the winner then.

On Thursday there was the sold out Pitch Fiesta 4.0 at the Standard Diner. I was unable to attend (it sold out quick), but many of the same companies presented. EquiSeq placed 1st, Punctuality got 2nd, Buckle Down Systems got 3rd and U-Trade won both the Judge’s Choice and People’s Choice award. Other presenters were: Tour De Rue by Games of Heart, Quizus by Hermes Development, Wyrdos, Time Trader’s Club, sheSpire, Custom Cult Snowboards, and Aquaponic Solutions.

PC ProPad 4 Arduino Code and Connections

This is a followup to my previous post about the PC ProPad 4. I finally got a chance to figure out the full functionality. I wired it up only using the active connections and created a simple sketch to get more specific output from the connections.  I tried to design it so it would work for any GamePort connection.

PC ProPad4 wiring
PC ProPad4 Wiring.
Blue is wired from the X & Y to the analog pins
Green is wired from the buttons to the digital pins
Red is 5v
White is ground

Next a wrote a much more complex sketch specifically for the PC ProPad 4. It allows me to configure interrupts, buttons, speeds, etc. I also wrote it with the intention of controlling a mouse. The Uno only has two interrupts and can’t connect as a mouse, so that part is untested. This sketch and the PC ProPad 4 should ideally be hooked up to a Leonardo or Due. This will allow you to use interrupts for all the buttons and connect it as a keyboard/mouse to the computer.

I will try it on the Netduino, which I believe supports interrupts on all the pins. It seems sending 3v should be fine, I just have to make sure I actually change it to the 3v line so keep the Netduino safe.

The first question I had what was the semi-auto, auto and speed buttons do? When a button is set to semi-auto then holding down the button will continue to fire the bottom (change from high to low). When the button is set to auto, it will fire the button constantly without it being pressed. Once I figured that out I remembered all the Doom 2 games I played with direct modem connections and setting my fire button to auto and having lots of fun.

The second question was what do the speed buttons do? I thought the speed button was some how associated with the analog direction pad, but this is not the case. The two speed settings set how fast the button is pressed when using auto and semi-auto settings. On Speed 1 the button is pressed about every ~30ms. On speed 2 it is pressed as fast as it can. The buttons need to be debounced and you can’t tell the difference between a bounce and the button firing automatically on speed 2, so it really just runs as fast as you are willing to debounce the button.

The next step is to see how this runs on the Netduino, then I’m going to try and create my own PCB board for a GamePort shield.

ABQid Demo Day

Last Friday was the ABQid Demo Day and it was a packed house at the Epicenter. I rarely get to see these type of activities, but my wife let me use some of my paternity leave to check it out.

The energy and excitement of these events blows me away every time. The presenters, sponsors and audience create an atmosphere that makes it real easy to believe a lot of great things are happening and going to be happening in Albuquerque.

This event allowed the 10 companies from the second ABQid accelerator class to pitch their company in 6 minutes. They all did a great job on their pitches and I feel lucky to have gotten to watch this.

The Pitches

Equiseq (Paul Szauter) – I can’t remember where I first heard about Paul Szauter, but I have been interested in his technology since he first introduced it as ElectroSeq with the goal of $100 full DNA sequencing. I love biotech and DNA research, so I was particularly interested in his company. As much as I want to see $100 DNA sequencing, I think he made a great pivot into Equiseq to put his technology into a completely new field with horse breeding.

He did a great pitch to start off the demo day and if I had remembered to vote, I would have voted his the best. It may be my bias towards biotech, but I think he has the most potential of making a big impact with his company.

Equiseq, @Equisec1

Bounce Chat (Gordon Schaeffer) – Like biotech I am also a big fan of location based apps and augmented reality apps. Bounce Chat is a location based app where you can send out a message only to people who are within a set physical distance from you. I love the potential for this and one can easily picture it being a staple marketing item for events, conferences, parties, etc. My only problem with it is I can’t play with it. Like the similar startup Glif, it is IOS only so I can’t review it or promote it until it is on Android, but if you have an iPhone you can check out the app. They won the community vote.

BounceChat, @BounceChat

Close Threads, Trisha Terhar – Close Threads brings the boutique clothing market online. The goal is to allow small shop, custom atmosphere and allow them to compete online. You can sign up for early access at their website.

Close Threads, @CloseThreads

As Girls Grow, Akamee Baca – As Girls Grow is creating a subscription product that combines STEM lessons, with physical toys that demonstrate the lesson, and online stories and community to support it. It seems like a great model to get girls interested in engineering or for home schooling parents to teach STEM concepts. This is getting to be a crowded field with more and more subscription based STEM ideas, I recently subscribed to Hacker Boxes for myself and kids. Maybe the focus on girls will be their niche.

It seems a bit over the top though. The stories and characters and digital component to it seems like a lot of work without a lot of value added unless it truly works as a hook to get girls interested and staying with the product.

As Girls Grow, @AsGirlsGrow

Explore Media, Elan Coehlo – Their pitch was primarily about ARVRUS a 3D video player website that can be branded by companies. It seems that this was and idea they made or refined at the accelerator and what they are looking for as the massive growth part. From the pitch (and their website) they are doing a lot of virtual reality stuff without a specific focus (until now?). I was left with more questions about the company than excitement for the company based on the pitch and unfortunately I wasn’t able to stick around to talk to them or see their VR headsets. There is a VR Cafe event as part of Tech Fiesta this year. It is September 14, at Stereo Bar and looks like a fun event.

Explore Media, @ExploreMedia360, ARVRUS

iTherapyDocs, Lisa Brow – They are looking to provide software to for companies billing to Medicaid that ensure the proper documentation and paperwork are submitted so companies get properly paid and not accused for fraud. Seems like a hard problem navigating the laws and requirements. It was a great pitch, even if it isn’t exactly an exciting problem to solve.

iTherapyDocs, @iTherapyDocs

OAC Gallery, Sarah Biondi – A simple concept: buy art online. There is a lot of potential with deals with interior decorators and designers. I wonder if production companies and home stagers would find it useful also. If they can get a reputation with the type of companies that need high quality, matching artwork quickly, then they could build strong reputation. It is already up and running, check it out.

OAC Gallery, @OACGallery

Pressure Analysis Company, Michelle Urban – This is an exciting company, basically they have a cap worn on the head to detect impact, record it, and produce analytics on athletes. I haven’t heard of them before, but they have quickly become one of my favorite startups and one I hope to watch. It is easy to picture a world in 5 or 10 years where football, from the NFL to high school, require independent monitoring of player head impacts. You could also picture a world where a college athlete could provide all their analytics for every impact they had to NFL scouts and those that don’t were considered riskier draft picks. There are lots of scenarios where there is a need for tens of thousands of cranium impact monitors and the accompanied data storage and analysis.

The thing I love the most how much of a product of UNM this is. The tech was created and licensed by UNM to a UNM alumni creating the company and testing being done with the UNM Lobos and Duke City Gladiators. This is just a great example of all the pieces, so far, coming together to build a company with a lot of potential.

Pressure Analysis Company, @ePACtech

sheSPIRE, Renay Moya – I was not terribly excited about this startup. It seemed like personal mentorship wasn’t something that could scale to be a large profitable company. However, Renay gave the most passionate and personal presentation of all the pitches. She did an amazing job and I can now see the growth potential where sheSPIRE is a combination of eHarmony + LinkedIn for connecting those in need of a mentor with a personalized mentorship. Explained that way it is easy to see how it can position itself for rapid growth.

sheSPIRE, @sheSpire

Teeniors, Trish Lopez – Teeniors was the second most personal speech and a great example of how this company creation process in Albuquerque can work. I mentioned earlier this year that Teeniors won the Startup Women’s Weekend. From there they kept the idea alive and were accepted into the ABQid program and now they have come out with it with a company that has clients and is growing. Teeniors connects teenage mentors with seniors that need personal help with technology or computers. I am not sure how this scales as a company, there does not seem to have any potential for high growth. That said, I think Teeniors could be one of the most important companies for changing Albuquerque for the better. It is certainly the one I want to see succeed the most.

Trish told the stories of the seniors and teenagers who had been paired together and it is amazing to picture how life changing and how meaningful to the teenagers and to the seniors something a company like this can be. It feels such an amazing emotional niche. Teens who want to be respected, helpful, useful, appreciated and valued. Seniors, who need help with technology and a personal connection or time with people. I am really excited to see if they can connect teens and seniors on a much larger scale.

Teeniors, @Teeniors


So far I haven’t found any videos of Demo Day, but there were lots of people filming so I am hoping to start to appear soon.

The next chance to watch pitches in Albuquerque is at Pitch Fiesta 4.0 on September 17th,

Startup Profile: SunPort

I have been keeping notes on many of the startups in Albuquerque so that I can eventually write up nice articles about them. I thought with SunPort launching their Kickstarter now would be a great time to try to write one up. There is still time to participate in their Kickstarter.


SunPort

Previously Plug.Solar

Website: http://sunport.co/
Twitter: @SunPort
Facebook: plug.solar
Blog: http://sunport.co/blog/
YouTube: PlugSolar
CEO/Founder: Paul Droege

Description
SunPort is a unique solar company focusing on the demand side of solar instead of the supply side using phone apps and their flagship product the SunPort.

Most solar initiatives have focused on generating solar. Installing solar panels is expensive and time consuming. Many people who might want to support green energy and solar usage can’t afford solar panels, might rent and not put them up, might travel and move too often, or might like the idea of solar, but not enough to go through much effort to get it (probably the category I fall in).

SunPort buys the credits generated by solar panels, bundles them as SunJoules, and the allows the user to keep track of their power usage and offset it with the SunJoules. They have cell phone apps that let you do it with your Android or IOS device right now. Their main product is the SunPort. It is being kickstarted now and is a plug you can take anyways to always keep track of use SunJoules for.

Awards and Major Events

SunPort was in the 2014, inaugural class for ABQ ID.

They placed 3rd in the 2014 Tech Fiesta Pitch Contest, watch the pitch.

They went to CES in early 2015 and pitched to get on Shark Tank and were in the final running. I am assuming they didn’t make the cut because I haven’t heard anything, on the other hand they might not be able to talk about it if they did make it on the show.

They then went to SXSW and won the Fallon StarterKit Pitch Contest in March.

With the help of that win, they have launched their Kickstarter.

The Good and the Bad

I think SunPort is doing solar right. In an free market world without mandates and subsidies the way solar would compete is by people voluntarily paying more for it. We don’t live in that world, but it will still have the same effect. Their products give consumers an easy, fairly inexpensive way of showing their support, advertising them support, and actually affecting the market in a small way.

Even more than their product I love them as an Albuquerque company. There is probably only one startup that I would be more confident in staying in Albuquerque. They participate in events, support the community, and have expressed their dedication to staying here. Money, buyouts, investors, etc, can all change that, but based on the things I read I think staying in Albuquerque is a top priority for them.

Finally, their blog is one of my favorites. A primarily reason why I started this blog was that I would hear about events in the city (pitch contests, tech meetings, hack-a-thons), but never hear about the results or what happened. I decided that other people would be interested, so when I go to events I should write about them. The SunPort blog is one of the few I found that also does this. They write about the events they have gone to and participated in.

On the negative side, the SunJoules are incorporeal and so it needs to be really clear where they are coming from. A common complaint is that it feels like snake oil. I can take your PNM bill and then sell you solar credits as a green indulgence, but that isn’t actually doing anything except putting money in my pocket and clearing your conscious.

They have done a good job on explaining the mechanism, but I think they need find some way of being more transparent to the user so they can see when enough SunJoules get retired is backed by a solar credit.

Two things that add to the over all snake oilyness of it:

One, they aren’t clear on the revenue. I think if they describe how they plan to make money it is easy to believe they are selling a real product. I see they plan on licensing the technology later, but it isn’t 100% clear from what is public how they plan to create a profit, are they taking a cut of the SunJoules?  Are they passing them along at cost and hoping to make enough through licensing or profit on SunPort sales?

The second is the over the top marketing. I think people are programmed to see lots of expensive marketing as trying to distract the consumer. Lots of money on marketing and something that isn’t 100% clear or simple to explain and I think it turns people off as potentially scammy. A lot of people I have shown it to get turned off by the video immediately I think because of the over the top marketing at the expense of technical explanation. They have one of the highest production value Kickstarter projects I have ever seen, probably a result of the Fallon Pitch Contest win, but I don’t know if that is a good thing.

Summary

SunPort is one of my favorite Albuquerque Startups (top 3 for sure). I have loved the community involvements by the company and employees and think they have a good product that has a lot of room to grow. I view them as having the potential to be the first big success story for all the investment in the Albuquerque startup community and a company that will be inspiring and helping other startups in the area.

More

Video interviews: The Morning Brew, Computer World @ Techcrunch Distrupt

Paul Droege has several interesting audio interviews on their blog.

One of the better articles I have read about the SunPort.

If you have anything to add or correct, let me know in the comments.

Also I want to do more of these for more companies so if you have any suggestions or feedback for the format, content, etc. let me know.

ABQ Solar Startup Launching Product

I have been following Plug.Solar since they won the ABQ Scrappy Startup competition and then won a pitch contest in SXSW. One of the reasons I have been following them is I believe (or hope) they will be the first success story to come out of the cities focus on startups and all the hard work and capital that has gone into building the innovation central. Hopefully, the first of many.

They have now launched their SunPort product on Kickstarter and are halfway through the campaign and 1/3rd of the way from being funded. If you haven’t checked it out go do so and considering supporting them. This is the chance for them to take the next leap for their company.

They have been rebranding a lot so it can be hard to find some of the information on their site, but I think the ATM example on this page is the best explanation. Hopefully the link won’t go bad. They also have an app for your phone (ios, android) which will use SunJoules to offset charging your phone.

In the feature picture I am charging my phone with a solar panel while using their app and offsetting it with SunJoules. I guess if we continue the ATM analogy that is like going to an ATM and then lighting all the cash on fire?

Check out the SunPort and their app, leave reviews, and support a local startup with a great idea trying to make it!