Naturally, as the layout has been progressing over its 10 year (!) construction, other projects and ideas have taken over my interest from time to time. Not because I've gotten bored with the layout, but new techniques and gadgets have provided new ways and ideas of doing things. Take this one for example: Arduino
After many years of hearing about Arduino, I've been interested in what it can do. I've seen many example of how it's been used, such as wifi controlled robots, game controller triggered sound effects. I wanted to give a try at this Micro Controller. I finally buckled down and got the basic one, the Arduino Uno.
What was my first project? My tiki shelf. One of my many obsessions, my tiki mug collection was slowly growing and I wanted a cool display for them. Inspired by Trader Sam's at the Disneyland Hotel, I was able to program the board to change LED colors and sync with sound to have a rainstorm come in and a volcano to erupt every couple minutes. Whenever I come home late from a tiring work day, I just flick it on, mix a fruity drink and I feel like I'm at my favorite bar.
The key here was that I was able to get it to run automatically; no interaction at all-- which is a feature every Arduino example seemed to have, such as controllers and remotes. I had to teach myself all the coding to do all of it to do that.
In addition to learning Arduino, I acquired another board to play with: Mp3 Trigger.
This board from SparkFun solved a lot of my problems; being able to playback quality sound instantly without a CD player and without special chip programming. This is one of the easiest boards I've ever used, as it worked flawlessly with the Arduino and was able to playback the storm and volcano sounds perfectly.
That was my first breakthrough with "show programming". Up until now it was CD players that probably didn't hit the mark at all, and cam controlled animation and boring, not-so-dynamic lighting on projects.
I learned more and more about Arduino. I figured out how to make a jar of fireflies for my girlfriend for Christmas, using an Arduino Nano
And just recently, I was able to make thunder and lighting happen for my Dad's studio door entrance, which is Haunted Mansion inspired. I don't have any photos of that, but check YouTube in the future for a video demo of it. That project used another mp3 trigger board and an Arduino Uno with a relay shield.
This is all fine and dandy you're thinking, but what about Nature's Wonderland?
Well, this is where it gets interesting...
Like I said earlier, the layout gets put aside while I discover (and quite frankly, distracted) by new gizmos. After experimenting withe the Arduino boards, I've cooked up a few things of what they can do for the layout:
- Sound: This was a biggest challenge back in June of '11 when I was figuring out how to bring sound to the layout. I ended up hacking CD players that would switch between playing sound effects and the spiel. Those CD players are still sitting on my shelf collecting dust and will continue to do that ever since I discovered the Mp3 Trigger. With the Mp3 Trigger I can have sounds as long as I want, and I can switch to the spiel track quickly without the downfall of one of the CD players skipping or not triggering. And even better, editing is easier to change; should I need to remix something, I just re-upload the SD card, not burn a whole new disk!
- Block Control: Although this is something I won't implement, it is fun to think about. The system I have now is tried and true with my reed switches and latching relays. If I were to start this layout today, I would instate an Arduino controlled layout, with even more blocks, speed control, and dispatch intervals. So many possibilities!
- Lighting: After developing a flickering circuit for Rainbow Ridge, and then deciding that was overkill, I developed some code that would create a realistic candle flicker when I was programming my Tiki shelf. This way I don't need any cumbersome circuits and the system would be electrically efficient. This is very likely to happen!
- Animation: I haven't messed with it yet, but Arduinos are capable of controlling servo motors, which would be awesome for animation. Rather than the less-controllable cam method I've been using for a decade, I could program a routine to a figure that would have a less than predictable movement. How about the mountain sheep on Cascade Peak? The geysers could also use an upgrade....
- There's so many possibilities!
So that's that when it comes to what's been distracting me, but also what newfound knowledge could help the layout! The the next update will be about the new power units for the planned new trains, new Rainbow Ridge structures, and more! (hopefully...)