Want a party to go off with a bang? Then you want a device that fires confetti, as David Crookes explains in the brand new issue of The MagPi, out now.
If you’re going to celebrate, then you should do so in style. So what better way than sending a stream of confetti flying through the air at a press of a button? That’s the premise behind the Confetti Bot, a small cannon that shoots small pieces of coloured paper (biodegradable, of course) skywards with a decent amount of power. With a Raspberry Pi 3 B+ at its heart, it’s a relatively inexpensive way to get a party started.
The device was created to mark the public launch of Viam, a software platform for smart machines. The company’s project manager, Fahmina Ahmed, wired a button and a motor together to pop confetti in celebration of the milestone.
Developer advocate Hazal Mestci then suggested taking the device further. “I thought we should make this project presentable and fully functional and provide a step-by-step tutorial for Viam users to follow,” Hazal says.What emerged was a device that uses Raspberry Pi 3 B+ and an L298N motor driver to turn a GPIO motor when the button is pressed to trigger the release of confetti. “I chose to use Raspberry Pi due to its versatility and ability to function as a compact and affordable computing platform,” Hazal says. “It provided the necessary computing power to control the button, motor and other hardware components involved, and its GPIO allowed me to program and control the actions of the Confetti Bot.”
The device is connected to a 12V battery to make it portable, and the components are placed within an enclosure designed with the assistance of senior robotics engineer Jeremy Hyde using the 3D CAD package SolidWorks. “Fitting all the components inside was the hardest part,” Hazal says. “I had to design multiple versions of the enclosure and test the prototype many times. I was also unaware that all confetti cannons are not the same size so, even between brands, sometimes the clasp wouldn’t hold the cannon strongly and the cannon would turn with the motor without popping anything. The cables to the battery are still hanging out, so hopefully a second version will enclose everything.”
The software was written in Python, making use of the Viam Python SDK. “Viam’s compatibility with a variety of hardware components allowed seamless integration,” Hazal explains. “I didn’t have to write backend code to activate the specific motor I was using, and I didn’t have to understand the nits and grits of computing boards to be able to get a reading from a pin.
“Thanks to the Python SDK, most of the boilerplate code was already dynamically created for me. In the Viam app, as you add your components to your config, the Code Sample tab automatically gives you working code to get your resources. So it initiated the board and the motor as I added them, and imported all relevant libraries for me.”
Although the Confetti Bot works well as it is, Hazal says it can certainly be improved, and she has one particular idea in mind: “I want to incorporate a camera and machine learning capabilities so that it can automatically release confetti when a person approaches my desk,” she says. “It will surprise them on a good day and scare them on a bad one.”
The MagPi #136 out NOW!
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