Hacker-in-Residence: Experimental Dimmer

Brendan joins us from a high-end lighting studio in NYC to work on an experimental dimmer.

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Happy Monday! It’s time once again to welcome a new hacker to our ranks - everyone say hi to Brendan! Brendan is joining us from New York to work on an interesting new idea about exploring alternative uses for traditional lighting dimmers.

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Hey Brendan

Can you share your background, interests, and some favorite past projects? What and where is your current position/company?

I grew up in a small shoreline town in Connecticut, spending most of my childhood outdoors with neighborhood friends or exploring the woods. I did my undergrad in Industrial Design at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, NY. I spent the next five years working for a design build company, making custom, high-end furniture, followed by designing high-end products for an interior architecture firm. In 2010 I moved to Providence, RI, to pursue an MFA in Furniture Design from Rhode Island School of Design. In my first winter session I took a class called the Artist Machine, taught by Lucky Leone and Paul Badger (of Modern Device). That really changed things for me and my work. I’ve always been interested in open-source electronics, but never had an outlet to explore it until that point. It blended well with my design and fabrication background, and really took over my work.

Currently I work full time as a Senior Designer/Production Team at Lindsey Adelman Studio in NYC, where I get to design, prototype and build amazing, high-end lighting fixtures. We also explore other areas of object design, but lighting is our main focus. Lindsey is why I am here doing this residency; she helped make this happen.

When I’m not at LAS, I have my own studio that focuses on interactive electronics/lighting and small products. I think my favorite project has to be my Remote Control. It’s a small, wooden octagonal extrusion that controls how many outlets are on based on which facet the remote sits on. As you roll the remote along more outlets go on, so it acts like a dimmer. I am obsessed with dimmers.

How and why did you get involved in SparkFun’s Hacker-in-Residence program?

About a year ago my boss, Lindsey, gave each of us an extra week of vacation if we used it for a workshop. It could be anything we were interested in, not necessarily design, lighting, etc. Some people have gone to Iceland to learn neon. Another built a canoe in Vermont. I had a very difficult time trying to find a workshop in electronics that wasn’t a class once a week. That’s when I read about the Hacker-In-Residence program on the SparkFun website. I wasn’t sure if someone with my background would be a good fit or not, but I submitted my proposal and heard back fairly quickly. I’m not an engineer, and while my coding skills can get most of my ideas realized, I am looking forward to having the opportunity to talk to real experts.

Programs like the Hacker-In-Residence are important because it gives a platform for us to really push our ideas to reality. This is such a rare thing you guys do, and I’m really surprised that no other companies in the open-source game are doing it.

What is the project you’ll be working on at SparkFun, and how long will you be here? Why did you choose this project?

The project I will be working on is a continuation on my Dim(Some) line. I’ve been working with this idea of what a dimmer can do beside change the intensity of a light fixture. I will be at SparkFun for two weeks, and I hope to combine a lot of pieces from past projects to create a more cohesive and finalized idea. I am really interested in wireless remotes, and how an analog remote can control an electronic device through digital means. I chose this project because frankly I don’t think I could execute it on my own. It’s a lot bigger than anything I’ve done in the past, and more complex. I think it’s important to know when you need help, and knowing who to ask.

If you could have any super power, what would it be, and what is your favorite food?

I think I’d really enjoy being the Hulk, but only if I also got to have Bruce Banner’s brain. I also really enjoy lobster rolls - usually Maine style over Connecticut.


Comments 8 comments

  • Sparkfun - I’d love to see posts from Hackers-in-Residence at the end of their stay, too, to see what they were able to accomplish!

    • What @Meaghan said - we get to see introductions to the interesting folks brought in to Sparkfun as Hackers-in-Residence but never hear about what they end up doing. It would be great to see follow-ups on them.

      • We try to do everything we can to help our hackers complete their projects during the time they’re here, but fortunately all our hackers are very ambitious and passionate about their projects, and often times their work carries on after they leave. We do our best to keep tabs on their progress off-site, and try to give you guys updates as we receive them! For instance, our first hackers completed their tutorial for the tethered quadcopter, hacker Sophie Kravitz finished her tutorial for Hacking the MindWave Mobile, hacker Josh Datko helped us develop the CryptoCape for the BeagleBone Black, and Julian da Silva Gillig successfully integrated our RedBot and RedBoard platforms to the miniBloq programming environment - GitHub repository here. We’ll continue to give you updates on our hackers' projects as they complete them!

  • Start a home studio in your home; you have narrowed down the cause. Next you will need to set up your own studio, to determine whether any part of your home. If you need a huge space. The obvious choice in a garage or a room at very great.

  • I’ve had an idea in my head for some NeoPixels that uses a dimmer-type input to change the RGB value: one nob for each value. This way I can change the color rather simply without having to directly interact with the controller driving the lights. Probably already exists somewhere…. Unfortuantely an aquaponics project and a halloween costume are in line ahead of this project. :(

  • My dad used an AC lamp dimmers to heat up a piece of tungsten carbide wire (I think that’s what it was). He had the wire mounted over a “saw” looking thing with handles on each side. To make, you ask? Styrofoam wings for rc airplanes. We are talking 80’s here. He loved making all the parts himself. He’d buy 1 kit and keep copying the pieces over and over, never building the original kit.

  • Your background sounds quite interesting - it’s always good to get exposure for yourself out of your element and it’s true for us as well. Looking forward to see what a wood-butcher does to electrons! And just to get things started, what sort of ideas do you have for using light dimmers for something other than light dimming?

    • I am also a “wood-butcher” and enjoy building furniture. I used an arduino, stepper motor, buttons, etc from sparkfun to put digital set-works on a band sawmill, and I am currently working on an Arduino powered dry kiln to dry lumber. I would like to see some of Brendans work!

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