Make: AVR Programming released this week

Make: AVR Programming

Way back in February/March of 2011, The Late Elliot Williams (TLEW)Δ taught a 6-session AVR Microcontroller Class that introduced hardware programming beyond Arduino to an eager roomful of wannabe bare-metal programmers.

Elliot‘s hard work on that course and it’s 2009 iteration formed the germ for the shiny new 472-page Make: AVR Programming Learning to Write Software for Hardware, released this week by Maker Media, Inc.:

Atmel’s AVR microcontrollers are the chips that power Arduino, and are the go-to chip for many hobbyist and hardware hacking projects. In this book you’ll set aside the layers of abstraction provided by the Arduino environment and learn how to program AVR microcontrollers directly. In doing so, you’ll get closer to the chip and you’ll be able to squeeze more power and features out of it.

We’re big fans of the Arduino but sometimes our projects demand smaller size, less power consumption, more control, faster processing, and/or MOAR CHIPS! (You can buy almost 10 of Atmel’s ATmega328 AVR chips for the average price of one Arduino.)

Photo of HacDC's 2011 AVR Class Project PCB Kit (assembled) ©2011 Elliot Williams

For the 2011 class, TLEW designed a(n awesome) custom PCB to illustrate major topics. [2011 AVR Kit wiki page.]

Δ Elliot is alive and well. However, he’s dead to us, mostly because after he left DC it was decreed that we would forevermore immaturely express our separation anxiety by referring to him only as “The Late Elliot Williams”.

HacDC Summer School 2013

Attendees at Summer School 2013 kickoff kit-buildHacDC Summer School 2013 is doing a whiplash, 4-workshop tour of physical computing using Arduino, Processing and Sparkfun’s Danger Shield. A group of curious attendees, many from non-technical backgrounds that range from law and philosophy to the arts, have learned to solder by assembling the Danger Shield (DS). The DS is an ideal learning project and fits in perfectly with the free series’ exploration of physical computing. It has a variety of input/output devices and is well suited for simulating the kind of sensing and control of the physical environment that makers need for their home brewed projects and media art.
Soldering during Summer School 2013 kickoff kit-build
The workshops have covered soldering, the basics of Arduino programming and interfacing, a crash course on programming in the astoundingly great environment of Processing, and next week’s closing workshop will tie it all together when they will use the DS via Arduino to manipulate live video capture.

This popular series was designed and developed by a handful of HacDC members and we hope to eventually offer it online. It will complement a curriculum on physical computing with a follow-up workshop series on microcontroller programming and a lead-in series on basic electronics. Join our MeetUp Group to stay informed about future sessions.

Feel free to visit HacDC if you want to learn about all aspects of DIY electronics and programming, or to work on your own projects. We have a range of equipment that can help you make stuff!

Awesome photos by doubly awesome HacDC member, MissionControl! (Licensed CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

CNC Mill training

tj-and-sharad_with-millRecently, HacDC member, TJ Johnson, generously reconditioned and bought new bits and a shiny vise for the TAIG CNC Mill HacDC has on extended loan from Vince Rossi & Adam Metallo of the Smithsonian Institution 3D Digitization laboratory. Over the coming weeks, TJ will be teaching a handful of single-session classes on using the mill.

tj-at-mill_and-cube-projectOn 1/26/13 a few of us crowded around TJ as he went through a presentation of slide-based and hands-on instruction covering care & maintenance, jargon, safety, and milling. The fun part of the class consisted of learning to use the software to fabricate a cube-shaped aluminum object with a complicated milled out shape within.

The classes of 2 or 3 students are designed to provide 1-on-1 instruction while maintaining safety. All remaining sessions are filled but TJ will schedule more sessions soon. Because of the small class size, these will likely not be announced via our MeetUp group so if you’re interested, join our discussion email list to find out when they’ll be held next.

HacDC mentioned in Shimon Schocken’s TEDtalk


During 2012, HacDC hosted a regular study group following Shocken & Nisan’s “The Elements of Computing Systems: Building a Modern Computer from First Principles.” In October, Shocken gave a TEDtalk about open learning in which he mentions HacDC (beginning at 7’52″).

The TEDtalk description for “The self-organizing computer course,” describes Shocken’s experiment in open learning:

“Shimon Schocken and Noam Nisan developed a curriculum for their students to build a computer, piece by piece. When they put the course online — giving away the tools, simulators, chip specifications and other building blocks — they were surprised that thousands jumped at the opportunity to learn, working independently as well as organizing their own classes in the first Massive Open Online Course (MOOC). A call to forget about grades and tap into the self-motivation to learn…”