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Fido Build Session at Hearty Roots Farm

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Cellphone with inserted SIM card and battery

On Sunday April 15, 2012 Loius Thiery and I travelled to the Hudson Valley to observe Benjamin Shute build a Fido for a greenhouse on his farm, Hearty Roots. Our end goal is to create a device design and documentation accessible enough for farmers to build Fido themselves. We all knew beforehand that we had not reached our goal yet but we saw value in a trial run to see what we might learn to help direct our design and documentation efforts. During the build we took feedback and photographed Ben's progress. The feedback resulted in Louis making many on the fly documentation changes. While we did not have enough time to complete the build (we ran into some bugs, more to come on that), Louis and I will continue to work with Ben and continue developing the Fido design.

I've attached the photos from our build day to this forum topic and I've also written up some questions for Ben and Loius to be answered in the comments below.

Farmer questions
  • What did you find most challenging about the build process?

  • What do you think other farmers will find challenging about the build process?

Developer questions
  • What is the biggest challenge you are currently facing with the current Fido design?

  • What do you think your next two steps will be developing the design for Fido?

Louis's picture

Awesome RJ - I like the questions!

What is the biggest challenge you are currently facing with the current Fido design?

Now that the code has been slimmed down to actually fit onto the Arduino, my biggest challenge is the cell phone. The Arduino and the cellphone talk at different voltages and I think that that is the origin of the current inconsistencies in behavior.

What do you think your next two steps will be developing the design for Fido?

Currently, a voltage divider brings the Arduino's 5V down to 3.3V. This does the trick but I think makes the device very fickle. I am going to try to do the same connection with a chip called a logic shifter instead and see if that resolves the issue. If it fails, then I'll know that there is a fundamental issue in the library I wrote for the cell phone and I will try tweaking that again
brshute's picture

Great photos RJ! (btw you were at HEARTY Roots Farm not Healthy Roots)

To answer the questions:

What did you find most challenging about the build process?

I was worried the the actual soldering of the circuit board would be challenging, and that I would mess something up. It turned out to be no problem and was actually fun. I found it difficult to completely understand the nuances of the circuitry and why I was soldering what things where-- but as long as there are clear diagrams, the farmer can choose whether or not to pursue understanding the theory, but still end up with a working tool.

What do you think other farmers will find challenging about the build process?

For farmers who are totally unfamiliar with circuitboards, soldering, computer code, etc. there might need to be some links to basic tutorials that can be consulted before jumping into the project. Or just more thorough explanation of some of the steps in the how-to-- like, most farmers probably will not understand what the purpose of "Downloading Arduino IDE and libraries" is without further explanation.

R.J. Steinert's picture

I totally know your farm is named Hearty Roots Farm yet I typed Healthy Roots :P

Louis's picture

@Ben: I've included some extra explanations in the preparation steps of our build process. Feel free to write any critiques here or edit/reword as you see fit. And let me know if you have more questions or ideas of things that could still need explaining (just make sure it's not already on the to-do list at the bottom of the page)

Also, I've running Fido with a logic shifter currently and the communication runs a lot more reliably now. I will be running Fido all week and will hopefully have a fairly stable program ready for this weekend!