This month we'd like you to meet element14 Community's Member of the Month for August: screamingtiger
element14: First of all, congrats on being names element14 Community’s Member of the Month for August.
screamingtiger: Thank you,I am surprised I was chosen but it is nice to know that people are enjoying my posts.
element14: What originally brought you to the Community?
screamingtiger: I watch the BenHeck show because I used to read his books. Because of that I bought a Raspberry Pi B+ and then I wanted the new Raspberry Pi 2. I noticed that there are ways to win them so I started applying,and the Sci Fi Your Pi was one of the events I applied to. From there my participation just took off.
element14: Tell me a little bit about how you got interested in electronics?
screamingtiger: I’ve been wanting to do PIC programming from a long time but back in the day it was investment and not too easy to get started. Then Arduino came out and I started making scale modifications to my RC aircraft using them. After that my interest peaked and now I am starting to enjoy the electronics hobby just as much as my RC hobby. The Sci Fi Your Pi project allowed me to combine the two and I am finding more ways to combine them as well. I already have a couple more projects for combining the two hobbies in the future.
element14: What do you do professionally?
screamingtiger: I started out as an actual programmer using C++ and C#. Later I got into .Net and did quite a bit of Web Development. Because of job market demands I am more of a data guy now. I do data analysis and create ETL using Informatica. I spent several years working for a major health insurance carrier doing analytics and creating metrics around provider (doctor and hospital) payments. These were used to help set rates that doctors are paid for services..Currently I am working more on ETL using a database called Teradata. So in short I am a combination of a data analyst and a developer.
element14: Walk me through your involvement in the Sci Fi Your Pi Design Challenge. Can you talk a little bit about why you applied and how you arrived at your final project submission?
screamingtiger: My initial motivation was to obtain a Rapsberry Pi 2. I decided that a drone would benefit greatly from massive computing power in such a small package. I felt that this challenge would help me get my feet wet and kickstart my formal entry into the electronics hobby.
I had several ideas, such as an image recognition program that would allow you to take a picture then return google results to try to identify what you took a picture of. However I found an app on my smart phone that does that so I decided not a good project candidate. Then I thought about the training sphere idea, but the problem with that was positioning. GPS does not work well inside. There is an option that uses high end cameras to determine position similar to how the Playstation Eye works but it needs multiple cameras and I decided cost would be an issue.
I had considered a metal detecting tank that would scour and area and mark any metal it finds and send out the GPS coordinates similar to how harvesters work in the Video game Dune.
So the next step was a drone that flew outside using GPS. I came up with some ideas and put them on paper. I love Terminator and wanted to build something that looks like it would be from that Genre. I considered and EF (Electric Ducted Fan) tri-copter that would look like a hunter-killer but I decided that may be too revolutionary for the scope of the project. So I went a standard quad layout and added in some AI with sensors to make it smarter.
element14: What was the most difficult part of the Design Challenge?
screamingtiger: The learning curve of using new systems and getting them to work together.
Before the challenge, I had little experience with embedded systems. Many concepts were new to me such as I2C and wiringPi. I originally wanted to stick with the Arduino since I knew that system well, but after I received the kit I wanted to use the ChipKit Pi. I found it a real challenge given the timeline to learn a new system from the ground up. I learned that some things I was trying to do had not been done before. There was quite a bit of exploratory learning involved as well as some work-arounds for known bugs. This learning curve set me back, and choosing to use the ChipKit Pi over the Arduino cost me 1 months time at least.
One other thing that made the challenge harder for me is tried to re-invent the wheel on too many fronts. I think I got too low level and bogged down in the details. This took away from the macroscopic scope of the project. Going forward I want to try to use more open source code and high level scripting languages speed up the development, and maybe use some a bit more prefabrication.
element14: I see that you have been selected as a finalist, what did you think when you saw your build immortalized as a poster?
screamingtiger: I mentioned I used to be into web development. I have worked with many great graphics artists. I have always been in awe of the creations they make and wish that I had that talent. These posters were made by someone with great skill and I was thoroughly impressed. I showed it to my family and they were quite excited as well.
element14: Walk me through your routine on the site, what spaces do you check? Who do you follow?
screamingtiger: Lately I always check the blog for Sci Fi Your Pi. Now I have been looking for open questions to help answer. I also like to check out Enrico Miglino’s posts to see what trouble he is causing. I also like to check out John Wiltrout to see what interesting thing he is doing.
I also like to look at my points to see who is liking or bookmarking my stuff. I find it a great motivator to write more. I’ll then check my notifications to see who responded to my posts and respond back to them as needed. I know its not a race, but being a numbers guy I enjoy tracking points.
element14: What advice would you give someone new to the element14 Community?
screamingtiger: Ask questions and award helpful and correct answers. Then start answering questions because a lot of the same questions appear that have already been answered.
Make blog posts about what you are doing, add pictures and video. It will attract attention and ignite conversation.
Look at the missions and start trying to complete them. Press the Like link a lot, and if you like something be sure to bookmark it. The site notifies authors of posts when something is liked or bookmarked and it provides positive feed back and motivation. Well it does for me anyways.
element14: Thanks for taking the time to answer some questions, any parting words?
screamingtiger: I hope to take part in future design challenges and I am so grateful this site is able to offer these opportunities. The top members here are in that group for a reason and it shows. They are knowledgeable and helpful. I can always count on at least one of them to answer my question.