The latest Design Challenges include a requirement to blog on a regular basis.


Within the TM (Top Member's) Group we've had discussions about how some of the past participants have been a little relaxed in following those Terms and Conditions.

Part of the discussion was how some members had approached their own blogs.


When I read the T&C for the latest challenge  Upcycle It  It struck me that if participants didn't have a plan in place, then they may fall into the 'last minute' trap that we've seen before.


So this is an overview of how I approached previous Design Challenges and the associated Blogs.


(disclaimer : these are my own opinions and may not reflect the views of element14 or it''s sponsors)



Why Blog

There are several reasons why I think it is important to blog.



The sponsors are keen to see the product or service they have provided exposed to the public and members.

You can consider it targetted advertising if you like, but they are providing the goods free to the participants to use.

It could be that they are keen to hear what issues they experience and how easy it was to build that particular design.



We've discussed that Engineering is 90% planning and 10% implementation. Those are figures that are a gut feeling rather than actual statistics, but you get the idea.

In the real world where someone pays your wage, they (the boss) will be expecting progress updates.

They have paying customers who want to know the project they are paying for, and planning around, is going to be completed and delivered on time.

If nothing else, consider this as a learning exercise for later in life, or your next job.



element14 want to encourage people to the site to learn.

The answer someone finds here may encourage them to stay and maybe buy some of the products they sell.

There are numerous posts where someone buys an item through some other source and then asks for help and receives it, so they are not removing those posts despite the product coming from somewhere else.



In all the Design Challenges I've been involved with, the other participants have willingly shared and helped each other to achieve their goal.

You have to remember they were all competing for the same prizes but were helping each other as well.

So your blog may help others and others may help you .....



10 Blogs

The T&C state 10 blogs and while they have not specified they must be one per week, the paragraph above gives a good reason to regularily blog.


The winner of any Design Competition is not decided purely on the finished item, but the content comes into play.

So the message here is don't just throw together some random words and a picture just to fulfil the '10 blogs' requirement.




I've stated that a project is mostly design and the first part of that design is the concept.

You've already included enough information in your application so that you've been selected, so that concept can be the basis for your first blog.



For my challenges I always try to sit down and work out a blog per week, and what order they should be.

This forms the basis for a plan.

The plan can change, but unless you have a plan you can't change it.


At this point in time, you have no idea of when the kit or parts you need will arrive, so you need to be prepared to blog about other parts of the design.

For the Upcycling challenge you have to supply your own item that you're going to upcycle, so there is a blog (or two).



About this stage you've identified that you will need some parts, so get ordering NOW.!

I've seen some participants leave it until later, and then find they didn't arrive in time, or some other problem came up.



You also need to sort out your domestic life to allow the time to complete this challenge.

While unplanned events do occur, your holiday (or honeymoon) that you planned last year and will occur during this challenge means you have a bit more work to do.

It can be done just ask fvan



2 down 8 to go

There will be some software involved, and therefore there must be some data flow or interfacing with the mortals that use it.

A blog describing how the interaction will occur will be helpful to identify any stumbling blocks or parts that may have slipped during the application process.

Basically you are fleshing out the original stick figure you drew in your application.


You can talk about security, updates, connection to a display device and other parts of the software that you've selected to use in your design.



3 down 7 to go

By now you should have a very good design done.

There will be various aspects that can be broken down into 6 blogs.


This could be the parts you need to order, or how you modified this part to do what you wanted.

Have a good look at some of the previous Design Challenges to see some examples.



9 down 1 to go

You really need an overview.

This is not a regurgitation of the whole lot, but a quick idea of what your design does.

It's your chance to catch the judges eye, and show why your entry is better than the others.



But I failed

Well you only fail when you give up!


I've seen challenges where the product was not completed in time.

The design and blogs were all on track, but for unavoidable reasons the hardware was not complete within the timeframe.


You should continue and even provide an overview of where you're at and what needs to be done to complete it.


As long as you learn from the experience and identify where you could change xyz for future, it's not a failure, it's just not completed.




I've failed to complete a Design Challenge, but I did make every effort to try.

I wasn't planning to go to England for 5 weeks plus all the additional work when we got back to work.

I did take it with me (to England), and did some aspects, but once we got into the project there was no space in my head to keep going and I signalled element14 at that stage.


I still intend to do what I started, and hence I haven't undertaken a Design Challenge since.

Once I finish what I started, then I'll start applying to the ones that I believe I can undertake.




I cannot emphasis how good, clear, well focussed images make the difference in a blog.


In this day and age a good quality digital camera can be brought for less than $50.

Use the highest quality setting that the camera will allow, and pay attention to where it is focussing.


Many of my images are done using natural light and a reflector.

My favourite is a piece of white A4 paper that has been laminated. It allows me to bend and twist it to suit ... and it's cheap.


LED lighting is also cheap enough to use as a light source, but pick the cool white not those warm white lamps.



Practice now while you have the time and using your plan, think about what you want to take images of.

You may be able to take some ahead of time to use later.





Personally I'm not the biggest fan, but others like them.

One thing everyone will agree on is the volume.

If you can't hear what they are saying then it's next to useless.


Sort out what you're going to say, make it short and to the point and don't be afraid to edit it.

Most full length movies are only 90 mins, and there is no way a blog video should be that that long.



Just like the photos, be careful about what is in the background.

You may not invite strangers into your home, but the video has invited them in, so the picture of your family behind your head may need to be removed temporarily.





The inclusion of software or the listing is useful for someone following the blogs, and replicating your design, but it's also a requirement.

Having it residing on some other server in the cloud is fine, but it's better to have the copy here with element14 to go with the blog.



Don't just copy it and paste it as text. Scrolling down two pages puts people off.

Paste the text in, then highlight it and use the >> and then the C++ .


This should give you something that resembles the code below.


  Simple example for receiving 
#include <RCSwitch.h>  
RCSwitch mySwitch = RCSwitch();  
void setup() {  
  mySwitch.enableReceive(0);  // Receiver on inerrupt 0 => that is pin #2  
void loop() {  
if (mySwitch.available()) {  
int value = mySwitch.getReceivedValue();  
if (value == 0) {  
      Serial.print("Unknown encoding");  
    } else {  
      Serial.print("Received ");  
      Serial.print( mySwitch.getReceivedValue() );  
      Serial.print(" / ");  
      Serial.print( mySwitch.getReceivedBitlength() );  
      Serial.print("bit ");  
      Serial.print("Protocol: ");  
      Serial.println( mySwitch.getReceivedProtocol() );  







These provide very useful information, and they say a picture is worth 1000 words.

Feel free to include them BUT ensure the reader can actually read it.

Use a screen capture program, rather than photographing the screen.


For the capture of the Syntax Highlighting (above), I pressed the Print Screen button (yes it's windows) and then dropped it into Paint and selected the bit I wanted, then saved it as an image.


Be aware of IP addresses that you may not want published.

You can edit the image to protect yourself without it impacting on the reader.






So if you've made it to this point, then hopefully I've given you some ideas on how to improve your chances to redeem a prize.

If nothing else you've provided some good material to show to potential employers.