Today I reached a milestone! The first draft of all the code needed for Halloween is complete. So I figure this is the best time to talk about all the background controls and how they are making Halloween possible this year.
I mentioned in the introductory post that this year we are using something called a Netduino to run everything. In actuality, we are using the Netduino Plus. The main difference is its ability to connect to the internet. Once connected, it will have an IP address that we can access. Without getting too technical, this means we can send commands to it just like going to a web page, but instead of seeing a site come up, the controller send out electric signals to actuators or reads from sensors.
These web commands and signals out and in are handled by using a coding language known as C# to access a special framework. This framework then can logically turn sensor or web input into action. This action can be anything from just turning one of the outputs to sending serial commands to the computer. We actually will be using the serial commands to play music, but more on that later.
The next challenge from here is how to power all the props. This controller can only send out very small amounts of electricity, but the compressor solenoids and lighting require much more. That means we need a relay. A relay will take very small amounts of electricity and open or close various circuits. We can now plug in a light or other device into a socket, but the electricity will not flow until switched on in the relay by our controller. All these things happen very quickly and in some cases so quickly that you perceive them as simultaneous.
So now you know (if you read everything) how the mechanics of Halloween work. We use a lot of different actuators and ties them together with a processor that will switch them on and off with a web command. The next thing to talk about is turning those commands into an app on the phone! Stay tuned....