Welcome Vic Aprea (@vicatcu) from Wicked Device!
- Vic offered listeners of The Amp Hour 20% off at the Wicked Device store. Get your Air Quality Egg today! Use coupon code, “theamphour”
- Vic’s first computer was a C64 and then he graduated onto the 486dx. Dave shared a story about fake cache memory from the 90s.
- While attending Cornell University, Vic was one of the first students of Bruce Land’s microcontroller class. Bruce is also very active on the Hackaday projects site.
- The microcontroller class site and the YouTube channel continue to be a great resource for beginners, students and hobbyists. You can watch the entire course online as well. Here’s the first video:
- After undergrad, Vic stayed on at Cornell and taught a course in computer architecture.
- Once the early 2000s slump started to subside, Vic joined Lockheed Martin in Owego NY. He was working on various systems that fed into the display for military helicopters. The site was previously IBM’s federal systems division.
- During this time, Vic started working with a local group that did enrichment activities like launching weather balloons with instrumentation on board. This lead to Vic getting his ham license (KC2QLW).
- The radio on board was a small FSK radio, similar to the one used on the Wicked Device Node. They also use the Amateur Packet Reporting System (APRS) using a Yaesu FT-60R.
- The balloon project required multiple ways to abort the mission. One was “cutting” the string using devices that contained black gun powder.
- Apparently there are 1000s of balloons per day. NOAA alone launches 70K per year (~180/day). These help inform weather forecasters about high altitude winds. Many balloons are never recovered.
- Chris was reminded of hint.fm, which shows awesome visualization of wind; however, this is likely done from networked ground stations, not balloons.
- Vic said that the balloons can experience odd weather patterns and strong shear wind forces. Chris wondered how this would have affected jetman. A new video came out from Dubai recently and it’s awesome:
- After working with balloons for a while, Vic met his current business partner Dirk Swart. They started Wicked Device, which is a product design and manufacturing company.
- They were tapped to design and distribute the Air Quality Egg (AQE), which had a successful Kickstarter back in 2013.
- The egg uses a reporting service called Xively, formerly Patchube (“patch-bay”).
- The sensors work with chemical reactions; this in turn changes the resistance of the sensor. They currently have CO2, NO2 and a few others.
- The choice of sensors was informed by the list from NAAQS
- On board the AQE v1 there was a RFM12B FSK radio and an ENC28J60.
- Since they were between low and high quantity, they decided to manufacture in house. They bought a used Mancorp Pick and Place machine, which seemed to go surprisingly well. Vic had to redesign the board to move away from through hole components.
- Doing sensor linearization and conversion proved difficult. Vic had to do fixed point math on the smaller processor to get the sensors behaving as expected. They also used sensors never meant for absolute measurements.
- For v2 of the AQE, they began develping the WiLDFiRE, which is now available. Since it has a wifi module, the remote code loading can be tricky. Vic wrote about the bootloader here.
- Each sensor has its own micro and individual firmware, which caused some of the headaches. They communicate using RS232 (serial) protocol without the level translators. The EggBus is over I2C. Vic had emailed after last week’s show where we talked about delivering firmware payloads to a variety of devices.
- The AQE v2 is available to purchase now. You can also see the planned upgrades for the future.
- If you’re interested in contributing to the Air Quality Egg project, email victor dot aprea at wickeddevice dot com.
Many thanks to Vic for stopping by and talking about the projects he has worked on. Remember you can get a discount using the coupon code “theamphour” over at wickeddevice.com