Our first internal Marino Hackathon was a great success. Tim and Simon prepared all the equipment, tutorials and software to facilitate the mission: create a physical device, centred on the Particle Photon microcontroller, to speak to the Zoho time tracking API.
The microcontroller is really cool, simple to set up and connects to Particle's Cloud API via WiFi. There are plenty I/O pins to support any little project you can imagine, as well as support for I2C and serial, making it compatible with most hobby electronics sensors and display units. Teams were provided with a pot of components including a 9 axis sensor, LCD screen, servos, potentiometers, buttons, LEDs.
Thanks to the friendly people in the DCU engineering department we could borrow two Sindoh 3D printers. It was pretty fun to use them.
We're proud of our teams, they really got into it and each one of them came up with something interesting.
It was quite a challenge to go from idea to a working prototype in 26 hours, learning about electronics, the software involved and trying to make things work and be presentable.
We hope you find the results as interesting as we do!
Our team decided to build a rotating cube to track time. Our cube had an LED on four of its sides, each of them corresponding to a project set up in Zoho. It potentially could have a multicolour light on one of the sides. The user turns the cube and a light comes on indicating the project’s timer has started. When rotating to a new light/project the timer is stopped and started again for the next project.
We began by mocking up the cube using cardboard just big enough to fit all the components.
We used Ruby to communicate with the Zoho API and an accelerometer to detect the top side of the cube. The cube was 3D printed with a lid to secure the bits tidily and slot our cardboard model inside.
We were very tight on time but did manage to get at least one light coming on consistently when rotated and tracking time!
The code needs some looking at to figure why the other lights only intermittently work, but with a little more time we have a fun functioning time tracker.
And we won - yay!!
We created a time tracker that used a Particle Photon, a potentiometer and button to track time. The user can select a task on a pre-set project using the potentiometer. Each task is mapped to a different range of the potentiometer and once a task is selected the button can be pressed and a timer started.
Once the button is pressed again the device will then send the time log to a NodeJS server which forwards it to the Zoho People API to track a user’s time.
The main challenge was figuring out what our MVP would be and managing our time. Once we had an idea of what we were working towards we thought it best to work iteratively so we would always have a project to show at the end.
By building iteratively we reduced risk, but at a small time cost. The event ran very smoothly and was a genuinely fun work event. It was a refreshing change and a new experience for some to be working directly with electronics. The beers at the end were also nice.
We attempted to make a handheld time tracker by using an LCD, buttons and a light sensor array. Users would be able to cycle through available projects via the first button, start/stop a timer via the second and finally submit their tracked time to their timesheets via the third button. Users would be able to track time for a particular job being worked on by positioning the slider above one of 5 light sensors.
The most difficult challenge for us was time management. Our design stage took up far more time and resources than we had planned, and we underestimated just how long it takes to 3D print. However, our beautiful prototype, finished 1 day after the Hackathon ended, far outranks the competition - even if it doesn’t work.
The event was a truly great experience, allowing us to collaborate in an unfamiliar environment with a different set of tools, all on a tight schedule. If only we had another day…