We really want to do a fun and amazing project here in Engineering and want to know your thoughts.
Just a quick reminder: Today is the last day to take advantage of the Data Dozen sale, so if you've got any data-based project plans, get in there while the getting's good!
Before I begin, I just want to make a quick call-to-action to those whom this concerns. I know this affects a lot of our customers, so I'm going to skirt my general rule of leaving politics out of electronics and bring this up. Right now the FAA is working on an interpretation of their rules regarding model aircraft. If it goes through as is, it could be pretty disastrous for those interested in model aircraft. I won't go too deep into it, because our friends at Hack A Day wrote up an excellent article detailing what's going on. The FAA has extended the comment period another 60 days to September 23rd. If you have any interest vested in this situation please make yourself heard.
On to the Enginursday. Yesterday the extended engineering department went to a coffeehouse/brewery (I was not amused) to discuss working on a larger project. This project would most likely not be a product, nor would it be a project highlighting our products, but rather a larger scale project that puts our talents to good use.
The first question to address is, "Why?" There are many reasons. If you're familiar with SparkFun, you know we try to incorporate smaller projects here and there that showcase what a product of ours does. While these are great, they come with huge constraints. Time is often a factor; we're given anywhere from days to a month to complete the project. It also has to have one of our products as the main attraction, and there is rarely complexity to the projects (sorry if I'm offending anyone here at SparkFun). We want something where we have a realistic timeframe to accomplish something great, something that the final product of the project is the star, not the parts used to make it.
So yesterday we sat down in the common room shared by a coffee shop and brewery and discussed what we could do. I cannot reiterate enough at this point that I mean no ill will towards anyone here at SparkFun with this post. But I left feeling our ideas were lack-luster, a feeling that we can do better. The general ideas were great, but the projects that might come from them were nothing special. Most were re-hashings of previously done projects. I chalk it up to how close these projects resemble our day-to-day work. It's tough finding the motivation to go home at night and do what you were just getting paid to do for the past eight hours. So to get over this, I think we need a fresh idea, possibly one that comes from outside the group. Something we can get excited and passionate about. A project we can take pride in accomplishing.
I want to hear ideas from you guys. What would you like to see us tackle? Here's a few broad topics we had discussed to give you an idea of where we want to go with this:
Any of the engineers who started out in our technical support department will tell you that we get a lot of calls from researchers and scientists looking for a more customized sensor or tool to take measurements and readings for their experiment. More often than not, we can tell them what they need to do within a few back and forth emails to create this tool, but do not have the extended time to create and maintain the tools for them. Our ideas included helping with environmental measurements and creating sensor arrays to help create more usable prosthetics.
Yet another common topic we see in tech support. Lots of our engineers like to think of themselves as more creative and artistic types and surround themselves with similar environments. Some of us even have pipe dreams of helping their favorite artists with an installation. Ideas bounced around included giant interactive pieces at landmarks (with city approval) or helping an artist realize a lofty piece.
What I once thought was shady (and frequent) drug deals happening in a bush in front of our building was actually people Geocaching. With all the excitement of a modern-day treasure hunt, we thought of ideas to make it more interesting. One of which I personally liked was a Geocache that's never in the same place for each visitor. Ideas outside of Geocaching were pitched as well, something that could go city to city.
This one takes some explaining as this is kind of what we do. But the idea was swung to come up with an Open Source environment for an existing solution that's out there. Maybe something like an open-source bike electronics environment, or home automation platform. Something that results in the base work of a usable, open solution to an existing (or not yet existing) set of hardware and software.
Again, these were just the first ideas. We want something that demonstrates more than just the hardware inside, rather something that shows how pertinent 3D printing, is or how E-textiles and wearable electronics are here and feasible.
Throw us your ideas in the comments. Remember, there's no judgement in brainstorming. Also tune in next week, when Enginursday returns with what I can only assume will be verbal abuse being hurled in my general direction.