This month we'd like you to meet element14 Community's January Member of the Month: jancumps

element14:  First of all, congrats on being January’s Member of the Month

jancumps: Thank you!


element14:  How did you become involved in the element14 Community?

jancumps: It's the Ben Heck show that introduced me to the community.  I know Farnell from my orders at the local electronics shop in Aarschot, Belgium. When I go there to collect my purchase, they pull it out of the big Farnell/element14 box.


I got actively involved with the element14 community as a contributor when I participated in a RoadTest. I first applied for a fancy one where you were giving away an oscilloscope, and I was not selected. Later on I was one of the RoadTesters for a micro-controller kit, and I enjoyed that a lot.


I have been posting on forums and I published videos before. But while blogging for the road test I found out that the element14 forum was an easy way to post rich articles. I found a platform where I could combine videos with examples and text.

I participate in the community and talk about the electronics projects I'm doing like the blog I did about my repair of a 50's era cola dispenser. I got some useful hints and moral support from the community.

element14:  Speaking of Ben Heck, do you have a favorite episode?

jancumps: Yes, the glue gun story. When I see something that involves electronics and mechanics, it ticks all of the boxes. Those are my favorite episodes. I watch the videos for entertainment. The glue gun is the most entertaining one for me. It's fun to watch – and just geeky enough.


element14:  Tell me more about your experience with your first RoadTest ( Zero Geco Microcontroller)

jancumps: Ah, the first RoadTest. I didn't know what to expect and what to do. So I just relied on the inspiration of the moment. I am interested in low energy applications. I applied for the RoadTest because I wanted to dig into that subject.At the same time I didn't know how I was going to approach the test. So I just let the ideas flow, and wrote articles and recorded videos as I went along. I enjoyed writing – I almost couldn't stop.


element14:  I’ve also noticed some posts about the Hercules Dev Board, what drew you to blog about that board specifically?

jancumps: The TI Hercules range is my favorite micro-controller family. The automotive industry – and safety operation – is my favorite subjects. I purchased a Hercules LaunchPad from TI's store when they had a good deal going, and I investigated every single corner of the device. I am a fan boy and can't stop talking about this one.

element14:  How did you get involved in electronics?

jancumps: I have always been interested. It's a family thing. My father had an electronics lab as a teenager in his attic in the early 60's. As youngsters we used to tear apart what is left. In the late 70's, my brother got the Tandy 10-in-One kit as St. Nicolas present. Together we saved our pocket money for more than a year to buy the 100-in-One. In the 80's, I studied electronics and did a specialization on control theory – hydraulics, pneumatics and plc.
Then I went to Germany for army service (1986 - the cold war was about to end, but we didn't know that yet), and halfway the 90's I completed my graduate study in information systems while doing my first real job in parallel. That first job was in the automotive industry. I worked at a truck factory for almost 10 years.


element14:  What do you do professionally now?

jancumps: After graduating, I have been working for several software companies – first as consultant and developer. I'm active for close to 20 years in IT now, currently working as development manager for an American food and beverages company. I travel a lot for my job. I've worked the best part of two years in Moscow and another two in Hamburg.

I love software as much as I love hardware. If I’d have to make a choice, I wouldn't know what to choose. Because software is my job at this moment, I take care that I stay current with electronics in my free time. I don't want to lose the knowledge.


element14:  What has been your experience with the Holiday Lights Challenge?

jancumps: That was big fun. I was a bit reluctant to join in, because lights and LEDs are not my forte – neither is the IoT. I read the challenge but I didn't get inspiration for a design. I was challenged to join, and it's at those moments that you come up with the ideas – the first draft was made on the backside of a beer card in Brussels airport.


I proposed a design that was almost the opposite of the challenge. The exercise was about lights, and I downplayed that part on purpose. Instead, I came up with a mechanical design with only very few standard LEDs. In total my LEDs consumed only a few 100 mAs.  That included the Arduino on/off light .  tried to maximize the creative part. Instead of using electronics to toggle lights, I choose to use carton filters to hide the LEDs from the spectator's view. I used a stepper motor to put the carton filters in the right position.


I also wanted to do something really connected with the IoT part of the challenge. Instead of using the internet as a data transport layer, I used it as a way to connect to people. I teamed up with other participants to turn our devices into connected Christmas gizmos. Our entries only showed their full colors when we were all on-line. I thought that that would show the Christmas spirit of being aware of each other’s existence. Being that the internet is supposed to be a connecter of people, we would use it as that.


The RoadTest turned out to become a road show where we all had fun and pushed each other into the next design. I finished off with a bonus design: a tribute to Radio Shack. I made my gizmo shout out the name of all RoadTesters that were on-line. The digital voice was amplified by my 200-in-One kit. In hindsight, having an electronic voice shout out 'peteroakes' every half minute at night became a bit annoying though.


element14:  How have you connected with people on element14? Is there anyone you follow or converse with?

jancumps: I talk to several members that I know from road test and design challenge conversations. When I need info, I just reach out and try to get help. I find it easy to connect to community members. I've had great results and nice conversations.


I worked with Frederick behind the scenes to get a secret IoT service up-and-running for our Christmas challenge. We wanted it to be a surprise. In general I try to do all communications out in the open.


element14:  I have recently seen you produce some content around this vintage turntable; tell me more about that project?

jancumps: That idea came about when I saw the Enchanted Objects challenge. I have this vintage turntable at home that's collecting dust. It's not mine. The owner asked me to fix it, and it turned out that the repair costs were too high. But that owner hasn't picked it up for almost a year.


I am now taking the liberty to use modern tools to get the turntable running again. I will take care that my work is non-intrusive. The record player is so beautiful that I do not want to make permanent changes. Money-wise, it's not worth that much. But the design is classic. My main goal is to make it work again. I'm also going to try to make it an audio streamer.  Wouldn't it be nice if a 50's device can stream the records it is spinning via WIFI?


A third idea is to use one of those online song recognition services (I forgot the name, it's the one my kids are using constantly) so that the turntable is able to show what record it's currently playing on a display – or share that on the internet. I don't have the skills or components to do most of this. That's what attracts me to the idea. No point in doing a design contest in your comfort zone. I'm going to do this and blog about it, regardless of whether I'm selected for the challenge or not. The challenge was the spark for the idea, but I'm continuing whatever the outcome is. The only thing that can stop me is the owner showing op and taking the thing with him.


element14:  Any words of advice for other members?

jancumps: Yes! Post content! The single most thing I like on the community is content. So I hope that all of us keep sharing great posts.