I Am Iron Man

Well it started with Telefonica’s Arduino GMS Hack Night (had never even seen an Arduino in the flesh at this point), and the purchasing of a  Arduino Starter Kit soon after. Only a dozen pages into the official Arduino Projects Book, and I’d already veered off onto the first of my ‘Digital to Physical’ personal projects…

The Iron Man Ironman Arc Reactor.

  1. I’m doing an Ironman triathlon (Swim 3.8km, Bike 180km, Run 42.2km)
  2. I’m raising money for Marie Curie Cancer Care
  3. I just bought an Arduino….
  4. Iron Man 3 has just come out in the cinema.
  5. My son has an Arc Reactor toy

*not necessarily in that order.

After seeing various Arduino projects that made something ‘physical’ happen in return for a digital interaction, I hit on the idea (along with my son’s Arc Reactor toy) to tie a few things together. Please note: I didn’t create the Iron Man image that was a designer at work.


Surprisingly it came together quite quickly, as the project soon broke down into a number of steps:

1) Control the Arc Reactor.

This was originally done by wiring the battery posts from the reactor straight into a Digital Pin but, as the sounds only randomised whilst the toy is powered up constantly, this soon meant I had to learn soldering and wire the buttons and add a Optocoupler. Far more elegant.

2) Pass a command to Arduino via Serial.

This meant expanding into Processing and passing values back n forth via Serial. There are plenty of examples out there as well as Arduino’s own, and I don’t think that one in particular stood out. Google it ;)

3) Search Twitter. 

Er… How? Well, there I stumbled on RobotGrrl’s ‘Just a simple Processing and Twitter thingy majiggy’. This meant learning Processing and updating the code to work with Twitter Auth 1.1.

4) Too simple?

Okay, so the Arduino is talking to the Arc Reactor and Processing is talking to Twitter.

What I want to do is tell when someone sends me a donation.

Well, there is no API for VirginMoneyGiving.com (our internal nominated fundraiser), so I created a recipe in IFTT.com that when a ‘New Donation’ email was received to GMail, this prompted a New Tweet to myself, which Processing picked up.

5) Result?

Arc Reactor goes KaPOW!

6) Not enough?

Ok. Allow anyone to Tweet encouragement using a Hashtag. Arc Reactor goes KaPOW!

7) Needs more… learn something else new…

Let’s add an LCD, to tell me when a new tweet/donation has come in, and who sent it.

8) Close the loop.

…and them Tweet back to them thanking them for their support with various messages. The Tweet also included a link to a Vine video showing the Arc Reactor in action.

The project allowed me to test out a few different web services and as a proof-of-concept was a success.

If anything, it should provide a starting point for larger scale projects.

Frankly, I could probably write a book on the number of things I had to pick up to make this happen but all good fun, and a great way to learn some new skills!

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2 thoughts on “I Am Iron Man

  1. Pingback: Give a sweet, get a tweet! | @thathollywood

  2. Pingback: Physical Computing with Arduino. Middlesex University | @thathollywood

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