The inspiration comes from an idea of one of the teammates, who wanted to control his amateur radio antennas to point and follow satellites autonomously through their passes above the ground, downloading data from them. In order to start working on a scalable prototype that would finally become this idea, he thought of developing an automatised system to point at sky objects. After some talks with teammates during the HackUPC2016's team building activity, "Starduino" was born.
What it does
Starduino uses the open-source software Stellarium and the open-source prototyping platform Arduino in order to provide its users with a friendly graphical interface to navigate through the sky and select an astronomical object, while in the background, data gets sent to the Arduino board using Python and the selected object gets pointed by a red-light laser using servomotors and some other electronic items.
How we built it
First, we looked for open-source software to visualise the sky and get data from it. We chose Stellarium cause it's easy to use and has a great API and built-in scripting and plugin support. Then we looked into how to bridge Stellarium with the Arduino, and finally we decided that a script in Python would be the most appropriate solution to the problem. From then, it was a seemingly easy road, we just had to build the electronics and the servos, right? Then the bug nation attacked. We ran into multiple trigonometrical problems regarding sky coordinates which weren't easy to solve, but we finally overcame them giving birth to Starduino. Then we did some recycling at the hackathon's café to give some discarded goods a second chance in serving human beings as decoration for our little stargazer.
Challenges we ran into
The most remarkable challenge we ran into had to do with sky coordinates, as our servos only rotate 180 degrees, we had to come with a solution to cover the fully observable area of the sky.
We also had some disagreement with half of the team, who wanted to do something "more ambitious". We stood in our determination to build Starduino and that made us diverge our ways and divide the team into two independent subteams.
Accomplishments that we're proud of
Every now and then some hackmates came to see our little project and then they smiled in awe when we asked them "which star do you want?" and pointing the direction in which it was. That child-like smile is truly what we're more proud of.
We're also kinda proud of our stubbornness, defending this seemingly simple idea to the end.
What we learned
We've learned that, sometimes, the simple idea gets to be the biggest and funniest to build, and that not always more complex hardware involved means a greater product. We can do big things with small stuff.
What's next for Starduino
It'll serve as a protoype to Ramon's antenna idea and as an inspiration for us both.