Tag Archives: Arduino

Team Project Reflection (Fast Forward)

Hi class – we enjoyed meeting and working with all of you throughout the semester! Below are our final remarks:


When working together toward our final project in BADM 395, our group benefited from the unique experiences and skill sets each of us had. Scott and Shayna are both ISIT and Marketing Majors, while Aubrey is majoring in ISIT and Accounting and also has a Technology and Management minor. Aubrey was able to bring her past experiences with using Arduino to the table, as our final project ended up revolving heavily around this area. Scott has had exposure to R and SQL coding, which was very beneficial in the creation of the code that was ultimately uploaded to our Arduino. Finally, Shayna has Business Plan Development experience and used soft-skills when crafting the different deliverables.

Our initial idea generation had us considering projects as diverse as 3D printed wheelchairs and musical instruments to a breathalyzer bracelet. We finally settled on this motion detector to count the number of people coming into and out of a building. The idea was that this would help restaurants, bars, shelters, and various businesses keep track of their traffic so that they would know things like when they reach capacity, how much inventory they might need for certain weeks and days, and how many workers they should have based on how busy they get at certain times.

In our needs analysis, we covered many “How Can We” statements about how to prevent overcrowding in certain businesses and buildings, how to count the number of people in a place without a full-time person to count, how to detect movement, and more. We also contacted a few businesses such as BrewLab and CU at Home homeless shelter, as well as a few on campus bars. We researched online and found that professional versions of our idea cost anywhere from $120 to almost $1000, which most of these small businesses can’t afford. We were confident that our version would be able to be made for far less, even including labor.

Our resources came mainly from the MakerLab and the Fablab. We received help from Brandon at the FabLab, who suggested that we use PIR (Passive Infrared) sensors instead of our initial idea of a laser and a sensor across from each other. We also got plenty of advice from Vishal as well as our classmates. Norman, especially, helped extensively with our coding process. In the end, we used a laptop with Arduino software, two PIR sensors, one Arduino, ten conducting wires (where six were in-to-out and four were out-to-out), one perfboard, and one USB-A to USB-B cable.

Our prototyping efforts went through many different iterations. We began with our people-counter, and were trying over and over again to get the code just right in order for our push-button version to work. This version was just supposed to “count up” when a button was pressed. Our prototype was very messy and filled with tape to keep things in place and to separate wires. We became frustrated when this wasn’t working and asked Norman for some help. He advised us to skip the push button step and go straight for motion detection, which we helped us develop a code for and attach the sensors to the Arduino and board. We first started with one simple PIR sensor and attached it to the Arduino to test if the code worked. When it did, we moved on to the two sensors connected to the Arduino through the Perf Board and had the code read “Motion Detected at Sensor 1” and “Motion Detected at Sensor 2” depending on which was triggered. We are pretty proud of how user-friendly our code is and how much cleaner we were able to make our final prototype appear.

To make our final product feasible to put into businesses, we felt that we would need to contain the wires and the Arduino in some sort of unobtrusive container. We found one in the MakerLab that had been left there and used this as our inspiration. We created a long, thin box with holes for the USB port as well as for the sensors. Our model, however, went through a lot of change in a small amount of time, and therefore become much smaller than we had originally thought. For this reason, the box that we found in the lab turned out to be a better fit for our needs, so we gave it a purpose and used it as our Arduino and Perf Board container with the idea that it could be attached to a wall for use in stores. Our final product took only $33 to complete, not including labor hours. We are proud of how affordable our model is, as it would be a great competitor in a market where the next cheapest product is over $100.

In summary, our design started as one thing and became something significantly different. Through speaking with possible end-users, we found that many places can simply use Google Analytics data to track how busy they are at different times. While some may still have use for a people counter (such as bars for capacity reasons and homeless shelters due to lack of cell phone GPS data for Google Analytics to track), we felt that moving forward with an area sensor would be the more practical choice. One business owner said that they would appreciate this both so that they could keep track of where people are in their store for security reasons but also as a measure for the effectiveness of displays or the desirability of certain products. Soldering on an attachment for an SD card to record data would have been our next step for this project.

We see sales potential for a product like this as a cheap alternative to existing products on the market. If we were to start this business, we would begin trying to sell to small businesses in the area and grow the business to other areas if this is successful. The ultimate goal would be to sell in the online space to directly compete with the other models available. While we were able to get a lot of good feedback from different businesses, we were never able to test this product in-store or track and store real-time data.


Instructables Link can be found here.

Presentation Slides can be found here.

We learned a lot from this project! We learned that tinkering and taking time to try, fail, and try again is very important. We also learned that the project you start on might not be the project you end with. Finally, we learned how beneficial classmates, teachers, and other makers can be when we actually ask for help. We have loved this class, this project, and can all say we learned a great deal since January.

Thank you for a great semester!

– Team Fast Forward

My Experience in BADM 395, Digital Making Seminar

Reflection on the Past Semester

Hi there! I’m tuning in one last time before ending this semester. Thank you for taking the time to read my posts and being interested in what I have been learning throughout this semester. I can honestly say that this course has taught me the most tangible skills out of any class I’ve ever taken at U of I.

At the beginning of this course, I simply expected to learn how to utilize 3D printers. My advisor told me that that course was all about 3D printing and its implications in business. I had no idea that I would be learning how to code, use laser cutters, use conductive threading, etc. I loved learning more than I had expected because it helped broaden my skill set to areas beyond just 3D printing. It really showed me how 3D printing goes hand in hand with so many other activities, and it can be used a supplement to creating rather than a standalone creation tool.

Additionally, I also expected to heavily focus on 3D printing wheelchairs at the beginning of this semester. I was intrigued by Arielle’s talk that she gave to our class on day 1. She noted that 3D printing in the realm of wheelchairs could use extra support, so I was set on filling that gap throughout the semester. I interviewed Arielle (see post here: https://publish.illinois.edu/digitalmaking2018/2018/02/14/3d-printing-wheelchairs-assistive-devices/), and I quickly realized that 3D printing a wheelchair on our smaller-scale printers was not necessarily feasible. My takeaway from chatting with Arielle is that there are many non-profit organizations that help individuals with disabilities that offer great opportunities to get involved. As for the making aspect, the devices being created must satisfy an individual’s need and be mechanically-feasible to make through 3D printing (wheelchairs are large with complex parts, which is not feasible). While my group did not choose this as our project for the semester, I am still very grateful to have gotten exposure to this area.

Overall, my expectations were met throughout the semester in that I was able to learn more about the implications of 3D printing, how companies are using this technology to improve lives, and also how to build something from the bottom up. My group’s work on the Arduino Motion Sensor showed me how to break down a seemingly-complex device. This break down allowed me to grasp a firm understanding of how electronics/prototypes work, and thus allowed me to fully comprehend the work I was doing.

As I mentioned, my work was different from what I expected in that I originally thought I would only be working with 3D printers over the semester. I am ecstatic with the fact that I was not only able to gain skills with 3D printing but also with coding/modeling/etc. I recommend this course to all of my younger peers because it allows students in the college of business to learn skills past what we are used to (e.g. Business plans that are solely written out and not necessarily executed with prototypes).

Pertaining to myself, I learned that I often become so excited to learn a new skill that I tend to get too far ahead of myself. For instance, when it came to 3D printing, I was so eager to print that I originally rushed through the Cura program to print my item faster. This was not good because it sometimes resulted in my file having incorrect settings, and thus an unsuccessful print. I also noticed this when I was working with the Arduino coding program. I began by quickly trying to write code and getting my prototype to work (which also failed upon first trying). These experiences taught me the importance to slowing down and grasping a firm understanding the basics before trying to reach an end goal. Each time I slowed down and took the time to understand how my work was impacting the final result, my success became much more apparent.


In Summary

Overall, this course taught me how to take an idea and bring it to reality. When first meeting with my group earlier this semester, we were throwing around crazy ideas of what we could create. Each of our ideas seemed very daunting at first as they were all in our minds and we did not have any materials/resources to create. Slowly but surely, our team took the creation process step-by-step. Laying out what needed to be done in steps helped keep us on track and progress forward each week. It was so rewarding when we finally saw successful results after we got our last wires plugged in and our last code typed out. That is when we knew we had successfully gone from the idea to reality.


Thank You

Thank you for sticking with me each week to watch how I’ve progressed through the course. I would also like to give a big thank you to our instructor, Vishal, who has invested so much time and energy into helping us learn. He is hands-down one of the most thoughtful, kind, and intelligent teachers I have ever had at UIUC! It has been a pleasure sharing my experiences with you, and I would love to stay connected! Add me on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/scottprovenzano/


Wishing you all the best!


-Scott Provenzano

Building & Testing (Week 12)

Hello, everyone!

This week, my group focused on building our working prototype and uploading our code to the Arduino board. We spent past weeks learning what the laser sensors were, how the Arduino worked, and really getting an idea of how the more complicated pieces in our people counter operate. However, when we started to put the first working model together, we found that we had missed learning about some of the little things! Is there a positive and negative end to the LEDs? Can we connect resistors to each other? Can we put the resistors directly on the Arduino or do we need to put them on the perf-board? Does it matter?!

We learned that it’s important not to overlook these little things, but we were able to figure them out as we went. We did not have a 470 ohm resistor (called for in our guide), so we connected 2 resitors of lessor values to get to that 470 ohms. Here is the website we used to learn how to determine how much resistance one resistor has. If you didn’t know, ohm resistors use colored bands to show the user what resistance they carry. You read the bands left to right – each color has a number attached to it. Below is a chart you can look at o determine what resistance your resistor might have.

Since our 7-digit display had not yet arrived,  we made our first working prototype with individual LEDs. A 7-digit display is just many LEDs put together in a particular oder. Organization of the lights aside, connecting a few LEDs to our perf board allowed us to get a similar effect.

We were able to upload our code to the Arduino and connect all the wires we needed to. We did not have a battery on hand, but we used the Arduino connector in conjunction with a 5V cell phone converter and plugged the counter into the wall socket. Regular sockets run at about 120V, so it was important to have the converter in order to not overload our creation.

We were able to hook up the counter to power and run the program – we made a few of the LEDs blink! We are currently using the push button, not the laser sensors, so every time I pushed the button, we’d have a light blink. It was gratifying to see all our wire connecting and learnings pay off.

Another thing my group discussed was memory. An Arduino can hold the memory of the program its running, but needs extra memory to hold anything else. If we want our counter to hold historical data, we have to add a chip or another board to our Arduino. This will require us to solder some wires, so we will look more into this next week. I found this forum online discussing Arduino memory that has been helpful to me. It might also be helpful to groups also using Arduinos.

Prototypes, Prototypes, Prototypes


This week we devoted all of our time to working on our prototypes. Now that my team has become familiar with Arduinos, Perfboards, Ohm resistors, and the wiring, we were able to begin getting everything connected. Unfortunately, our 7-Segment Display still has not come in, but we still began connecting our Arduino with the Perfboard.


Connecting the Wires

We followed along with some online tutorials on how to connect our wires (source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qc9Yw5kgTTM). This tutorial is in Hindi, so we were not able to understand exactly what the narrator is saying, but we were able to follow along with his visuals. First, we downloaded the code to our Arduino, then we connected the wires. In order to fully comprehend what we were building, we tried to really understand each wire and why it was connecting to its designated port. We utilized 7 LED lights to substitute for our 7-Segment Display for this week. This makes sense because each of the segments in the 7-Segment Display are essentially an individual LED light. Thus, we decided to utilize individual LED lights for now to see if we could get them to light up.

After connecting everything, we plugged the prototype into power and began pushing the push button. The result: WE GOT SOME OF THE LED’S TO LIGHT UP AS WE PUSHED THE BUTTON! We could not make much sense of these lights since they were not technically arranged in the manner of a 7-Segment Display, but we were really excited to see some results from our work. Check out our connected prototype below with an LED lit up:


As evident in the picture above, a challenge we had with our prototype was the exposure of the wires/Ohm resistors. We solved this potential issue by individually wrapping the exposed wires with an insulating tape. This helped us ensure that none of exposed wires would touch one another and thus cause issues. Check out our final prototype from today below:

Prototype with Insulating Tape


Ohm Resistors

A challenge that we faced was not having the exact Ohm resistors for our prototype. We needed 470 Ohm resistors, but we only had 170 and 280’s. Through some research, we found that we could simply connect the ohm resistors together and add their numbers to get closer to our ideal number. Thus, we connected one 170 to one 280 Ohm resistor to get a final resistor of 450 Ohms. We figured that the 450 Ohm resistor would suffice in place of the proposed 470 Ohm resistor. Additionally, here is a useful article for anyone who wants to know how to read the resistor color codes: http://www.resistorguide.com/resistor-color-code/.


Moving forward

We are really hoping that our 7-Segment Display comes in next week so we can be ready to begin the testing stage (keep your fingers crossed for us!). Thank you for taking the time to read my post.

-Scott Provenzano




Arduino, PIR Sensors and more! (Week 10)

Hello all!


This week, we had a guest speaker from Shapeways, a 3D printing service and marketplace company. She took us around the facility and showed us their printers and office space. You can print with anything from ceramic to precious metals! The link to the website is here. I will be attempting to design a necklace for my mom – I’ll post the results in the next blog!

Darwin's Silver Cladogram Tree 3d printed

Our Project

My group is making an Arduino/IR sensor that will count the number of people moving in and out of a building. Our idea is that this product will be a low-cost option for local restaurants, shops, and even places like homeless shelters to count how many customers are in their establishment at a time, as well as store that information and build up historical data that will be useful in predicting foot traffic and demand in the future.

This week, we took a full inventory of the parts Vishal and the FabLab have given us – we have almost everything we need! Believe it or not, our counter requires a lot of tiny senors, lasers, and other parts that are easy to lose (fingers crossed we can keep everything in one place). A large part of our meeting this week consisted of actually understanding what each of these parts do and where they will connect. I was able to teach my group members a few things I learned from my ECE course, but we still had a lot to look up! We are following a rough Instructables outline of the project which I’m infinitely grateful to have. Below are a few pictures of parts.


Above is a 7-segment display and a PIR sensor. The display will work just like that of a digital alarm clock – it will show the number of people present in the building at any time. The PIR sensor measures infrared radiation emitted from a field of view. This is what will “measure” how many people walk in and out. 


Above we have a light dependent resistor (LDR) and a voltage regulator. The LDR has a variable resistance that will change when different lighting falls over it. The voltage regulator will allow us to maintain the proper voltage level when the product is up and running. We will be using a 9-volt battery to run the counter, so we need to make sure the electricity running through it is monitored. 

This is the main part of our project – the Arduino! This is what will make all the parts work. Arduino is an open-source hardware (& accompanying software) company which makes this little, single-board microprocessor you see above. In simple terms, you can code commands in a special software, connect this board to your computer, download the commands you’ve written onto it, then take the board and put it on any project you like! I’ve used it before to makes LEDs flicker and blink in specific patterns.  For our project, we will command it to count every time the lighting (detected by the PIRs and LDRs) changes.

These are not all the components of our project – just a few of the most interesting. I am trying to get some of the coding some this weekend, so we will see if it works next week!

Designing our Project

Shapeways Guest Speaker

Hi All! We began class this week with a guest speaker from Shapeways joining us via webcam. She gave us an impromptu tour of the Shapeways facility (really neat to see all of their equipment!), and she spoke to us about the implications of Shapeways in the 3D printing industry. For those who do not know, Shapeways is a “New York-based 3D printing marketplace and service, startup company. Users design and upload 3D printable files, and Shapeways prints the objects for them or others” (shapeways.com).

After hearing our speaker talk, I was curious to learn more about the safety measures and policies that Shapeways has in place in regard to creating weapons. With gun policy currently being a heated topic in the USA, I figured this 3D printing company must have to make many choices pertaining to creating devices that could function as guns. Thus, I asked her to touch on the safety measures and policies in place. She let us know that ballistic manufacturing is regulated by the US government. However, Shapeways would technically be able to gain a license to be able to legally produce weapons for consumers. That being said, Shapeways has taken a stance to not produce weapons so they do not offer such a service to customers. I found this information alarming because it allowed me to understand that a 3D printing company has the potential to legally obtain a license to create weapons. These weapons could then be customized in such creative ways by the consumer in an effort to inflict the most harm upon other individuals. This worries me because it may someday result in new weapons that we have not even seen yet.


Readings & Project Design

On a lighter note, the assigned readings/videos for this week were spot on for what we did in class. They noted that the best first steps to take are to draw out your design, get prototypes as soon as possible, and get feedback from users (which are the exact steps that we plan to follow!). Check out the three pictures below to see some of our drawings and the different gadgets that we played around with. You’ll even notice that we got some lights to light-up on our Arduino!

Picture 1

Picture 2

Picture 3

We feel confident that we have all of the parts (except one) that we will need in order to create our Person-Counter device. The last remaining part we need is a 7-Segment LED Display that will show how many people are currently in the desired area (picture below). This piece will be crucial to our project because our device is meant to be free standing, meaning it will not need to be hooked up to an external computer once it has the code loaded onto it. Thus, it will need to have the 7-Segment LED Display to communicate to the user the data that it is gathering.

Picture 4

I became even more excited for our project today after tinkering around with the parts. Being able to physically touch the Arduino, perfboard, wires, etc. allowed me to grasp a much better understanding as to how this device will actually function (the circuitry became much more clear to me). One of my group members, Aubrey, noted that she has worked with Arduinos before and that she would be more than happy to help teach me what she knows about coding and how the devices work. This is extremely exciting to me because my mind is always wondering how electronics work at their core, so I believe this project experience will help me learn what I’ve been longing to know for so many years :).


Thank you!

Thank you for taking the time to read my post. See you next week!


-Scott Provenzano