Principles and Practices

Wednesday January 17, 2018


Today I landed in Shenzhen City, China. Incredible! It's a super young city with an industrial and trade focus being strategically placed on the border with Hong Kong.

Due to the Great Firewall of China, I was unable to tune into the classes so Wendy (my instructor) snuck me a message in a bottle to start thinking about my final project. It was opportune that I was in Shenzhen at the time since any useful parts I may need in the future I would be able to source at the Huaqiangbei Markets. Some items I found, others I found but didn't want to carry around a 1000 quantity of.

I visited the Shezhen Open Innovation Lab (an affiliated FabLab), Lab Zero and Troublemaker Labs while I was there. That was super cool, but an experience more appropriate for a blog post!

However if you're working on something cool I'd love to hear about it. Perhaps there's a place for you there to develop it. Let me know!

"My first visit to the incredible Huaquiangbei Markets in Shenzhen."
My initial concept for the project - A Mini Power Plant.

What's it all about?

Basically this week was an administrative week but also time for us to get enthused about what we would build by the end of the course.

The task that was asked of us was to plan and sketch a potential final project. Since I came late and didn't know much about the capacity of the lab I would be settled into, I didn't want to have a single project to set my heart on.

I joined FabAcademy to meet people and visit labs, however from a technical content point of view I had also wanted to solve a few recurring problems for me through technology. Other projects that were contenders for a final project included:

So Carl, what'd you end up picking?

Oh boy. In a rush, what I ended up deciding was the Mini Power Plant simply because it seems like the most innovative and most aligned with the skills I'd like to master.

The other projects I'll still likely explore during my time here, but in a simplified embodiment. The skills I'm looking forward to picking up in the coming semester are CNC machining, circuit board design and manufacture and GUI programming.

In my time at university I found that the best way to learn is to be motivated by application, so I am intent on having a final project that exercises the skills I would like to master. This device is aimed at a future technology that will allow people to use their electronic devices for longer duration, and opens up opportunities for devices to use high amounts of power without the worries of running out of battery. It's not quite 'infinite power', but it's a practically tenfold increase in energy capacity for the many people growing up in an electronic world.

What'd I learn from all this?

Mainly I was able to flesh out a few ideas I'd had stuffed away in my head. Unfortunately my only sketch was not a 'form' sketch but much more of a 'function' sketch. It will be great to see how that unfolds as the semester progresses! The image at the verrrryyy top of the page is actually the concept sketch I drew, with an assortment of components I already had with me to complete the project. Starting from the top left and moving clockwise: brushless motor, two bridge rectifiers, two 40mm cooling fans, a li-po output unit, a 5V-12V converter, li-po cells with charge controller, two more spare charge controllers in case of expected explosions, Arduino mini, RaspberryPi3.