Make: television Vending Machine

Update: “We have some good news (finally). Brian (my co-conspirator) has had some success on writing USB drive auto-detection software. He’s working on the copy-phase stuff next, and also integrating his work into the small computer we’ll stuff inside the box. I’ve succeeded at rewiring my failed circuit board to light up the buttons, and next I’ll connect the board to a pre-made controller board (the Teensy++) and program it to talk to the small computer. So we’re moving along. It’ll still be a squeeze, time-wise. Good thing that long Memorial Day weekend is coming up!”

A few weeks back Make: Online did a post about an awesome project featuring a simple “plug and grab” method for copying media called the Kopimi Station

Our friend Jared Boone at Sharebrained Technology offered up his skills along with the talented Dorkbot PDX to create a similar device for the Make: television booth at Maker Faire, one that will allow anyone to grab any episode of Make: television.

We’ve decided to have a single, wide selection panel with four USB pods below. While one person is waiting for their transfer, the next person can plug in and make their choices. If they don’t quite know what to do, the people waiting can help out. So there’s this interesting “institutional knowledge” aspect.

We’ve opted for push-buttons, which makes the machine look more atomic age. These are big, vending machine style lighted pushbuttons. As selections are made, the buttons will light or go dark.

I’m presently designing a custom circuit board that will scan the buttons and light them up appropriately. This board interfaces with my mini-ITX Linux computer, which dispenses the media.

So Jared and the team are over a month into the project and has made some considerable progress. As any good project goes, they’ve run into some hurdles.

I had a very frustrating evening yesterday, bringing up the controller circuit for the front panel. I fried both of the (spendy) Atmel chips I bought for testing. I talked today with some friends about what might be going wrong. We’re not sure, but I’m going to try a few things tonight, with some replacement parts I borrowed. I hope I don’t fry them too.

Then, we heard:

I think I have a workable plan B. It’s not pretty, but should work. Basically, I’m going to chop off the part of the board that doesn’t work, and wire up a pre-fabbed microcontroller (Arduino) board to serve in place of my failed design. Desperate times require desperate measures… In any case, I took pictures and have diagrams if you still want to offer up the situation to the MAKE audience.

Any makers out there have a similar experience? Weigh in with comments or questions below. We’ll be sure to document his progress.