My first and probably last arduino project

.. or: Mellon Collie And The Infinite Sadness

First of all: It's not the fault of arduino that this is likely to be my last project. It's a personal, sad story I didn't know with whom to share. If this isn't interesting to you, don't read on.
No native speaker, language glitches possible.


I started my arduino project completely from scratch, not having built anything worth mentioning in the physicall world since 17 years. I'm a webworker and internet junkie but been suffering from back problems the last two years, and they got worse everyday. So, I said to myself, no more sitting 12h/day in front of the screen, just do your work and then get offline.
I'm not like the guys sometimes seen on TV, highly addicted to the web that they show withdrawal syndromes when they can't get online or play counterstrike. I just got bored. I'm a creative guy, but so far my creativity was limited to the digital world, I enjoy designing, digital painting, 3D, coding. So what to do now?
I read 3 complete novels in a week and tried to think about something like a hobby. Then I started to read about electronics, microcontrollers etc. and imediately got on fire.
As I found arduino, the project I wanted to build was already finished in my head: The outcome should be a biaxial, selfturning, self controlled and self-sufficient solarpanel, which would seek the sun all day charging batteries and sleep when it's dark, like a cold-blooded animal.

I got most parts from my dad, including three complete metal construction kits, and started building a prototype, then an improved version which could handle the weight of the panel (1.2kg) while beeing statically balanced so that 2 small RC servos could easily move it and didnt get overstrained. Wind and bad weather where issues, too.

They arduino part went rather quickly, thanks to the well made IDE, servo controll etc. Just a couple of wires and a initial, very simple searching algorithm. I planed to write 5-10 different search algorithms which should be chosen randomly, to give it a more animal-like behaviour. When building the final circuit I got stuck at a few points, but got nice and competent help from this forum.

almost done

I finished solerding the circuit 3 days ago except some ground connections. The construction itself already survived outside about 6 weeks of german late winter without having a single screw loose or losing functionality. Batteries where charging well.

punch in the face, accurate

Yesterday I went to a meeting of our landlord, a home building company. Redevelopment of the whole block should start in April, just a roadshow as I believed. Not many renters attended. What happend then still seems like a bad dream to me.
A block of 8 or so elderly renters started discussing every little detail of the redevelopment plan, got upset about losing 10cm (!!!) on the north balkony cause of the new thermal insulation. (In return everybody should get the south balkony at 4 times the size it was before, but I guess that doesnt count, as they wanted the north balkony to be bigger). I could already see, what's comming.
The north one, they claimed, would be more intimate and that why more used.
They company people explaint that it was very expensive to build a bigger balkony on the north side, due to constructional problems, they didnt understand. So the company offered after a long discussion (where some people of the elderly block turned to be experts, having worked in construction jobs for a 100 years and knowing all better) that the north balkony will become bigger, but for that the south balkony wouldn't be rebuild. Meaning, there would be no more balkony to the south.
As every renter is kind of a little shareholder in this company, there had to be a voting.
(Dont get me wrong, we are no rich people, we are living on the edge to the poverty line. It's just how this company works.)

Only two people beside myself voted for the south balkony.

30 minutes after the successful vote for the north balkony, the elderly started to think about, what they just voted for, started to see, that it wouldn't turn the way they imagined. Due to the properties of the building, the big north balkony will now be in front of some windows and neighbourghs will be able to shake hands. Before, it was "inside" of the building, that why being intimate. Now it will be far "outside", as indiscreet as the south one. It was to late, the vote was accepted and the meeting had to move on.

I guess it's a well known german characteristic. First vote, later start thinking, then complain about what you have done.

I dont know if I will finish the project, even so it will take about 30 minutes, I can throw it away right now, along with my rest of hope for humanity, democracy and an enjoyable future.

Here are some pics, bad quality, taken at night. Small panels are a temporary light sensor and would have been replaced with a fototransistor in a tube. Maybe I'll make a video of it working before I have to break it down in March.

I'll go offline now.

HAHAHAHAHAHA...I'm sorry I shouldn't laugh. Its just that kind of voting happens here as well, only here is happens with who is running the country.

Your project looks damn good, anyway you can get a mate to help you out with maybe getting it onto the roof or something?

Nice project, shame about the situation.

I'm not sure why you would let your situation (which doesn't sound great, I admit) would cause you to give up on the Arduino and/or other projects. I hope you weren't being serious...

I would think that in the northern hemisphere people would want a south-facing balcony becuase it would get more sun.

Still I hope this doesn't stop you tinkering with electronics, it's a great hobby.


Sound like a telescope project I got involved with many decades ago. I read and researched for a couple of years, finally selected a 8" reflector design and got to buying parts and such. Finally got it all working and took it out the first night to my only available southern viewing site in my backyard. Only then did I notice that there was a 100 megawatt 50 gazillion lumens street light that shined all over that viewing area. The scope worked fine, but my eyes were never able to really dilate to full open enough to really utilize the power of the scope. Oh well I did enjoy learning about telescopes and the project was a technical success, in not a practical success. I learned something from that lesson, not sure what it was but I learned something. :smiley:


Only then did I notice that there was a 100 megawatt 50 gazillion lumens street light that shined all over that viewing area.

That's funny.



Only then did I notice that there was a 100 megawatt 50 gazillion lumens street light that shined all over that viewing area.

That's funny.

Is now, back then, not so much. I did spend a couple of weeks trying to figure out if I could make the street lamp turn off. Like most street lights it had a sensor so it didn't waste power trying to compete with the sun, so I tried aiming flash lights, spot lights, etc to trick the light sensor, but to no success. This was before affordable lasers so maybe that would have worked? I really really really considered just shooting the damn thing out, but I guess my conscience got the better of that idea. Plus with my luck they would just repair it in record time.


@Inprogress: You completely got me right. Don't know where you are, but here it's the same political and always has been, that's what I ment by "well known german characteristic...". Thanks for encouridgement.

@mowcius: Thank you muchly!

@cr0sh: Don't know if there's a similar saying in english, in german we say "this is the drop that makes the barrel flow over" - right now there' s so much going wrong and this project was kind of my "emotionally safe harbour" - like a place you go in your head, leaving the problems outside. Seeing it getting destroyed by a bunch of old idiots, seeing, that what happens to the whole world now destroys my "safe harbour" in the same maner, got me into depression. Don't know where I'll go from here.

@Graynoma: yeah, I totally need the sun. But not them, they belong to the darkness.

@retrolefty: sorry to hear you had a similar experience. As I feel right now I would have kicked out the light, if I where in your situation.

Thanks to you all guys.

in german we say "this is the drop that makes the barrel flow over"

In English we say "the straw that broke the camel's back"

Very impressive piece of work though.

Have you thought about making a self-balancing robot? That looked like fun to me...maybe a bit complex, but still?

Will this balcony thing happen tomorrow? Or within a few months? You're not building for eternity, are you? Those plastic parts won't survive german weather very long anyway. The temperature range in the black plastic will be at least 100ºC during the year.

Finish your thing now, make a video for documentation (timelapse perhaps), publish the code, build some self-esteem. When the balcony goes, rip the monster apart and move along to the next big project. Don't let those old idiots who prefer a north-facing balcony ruin your talent. :slight_smile:

Not to mention you can take pictures, document, and build up a portfolio

Thanks guys, I see what you trying to do and I'm gladful for your encouragement.

I'll back down for a while until dust settles over this, maybe I'll be back with a different view on how to go on.

@M. Schmitt: it will begin in April, have to tear it down in March.

Cu l8er

@M. Schmitt: it will begin in April, have to tear it down in March.

That's quite a while away...

Hey...I assume the construction haven't started yet, which made me think, maybe do a stop motion photography project filming the construction of the balcony. I love those videos. I had a great idea motion concept for the stadium they built for the 2010 FIFA Cup here in Port Elizabeth, only problem was I thought about it 6 months before they completed the stadium.

Thought it will be cool if you start pointing the camera pointing in the direction of the northern goal post, then slowly (unbelievably slowly) rotate 360 degrees. The rotation will then capture the moment the project start and end with the completed stadium, in essence you will see the whole construction complete in one 360 degree rotation.

Now when they put up another stadium I will be sure to get involved and do that.

So this brings me to your dilema. See if you can get a nice pan pattern, maybe start at the bottom panning up, or have the camera move on a dolly type filming the construction directly from above and ending with w view of the completed balcony from say the side of the building.

OR OR OR, start at the top and move the camera slowly to the ground floor, pan and tilt and the move of the camera down the rails all controlled by the arduino. So you start watching the construction start directly from above (top floor) and end at the ground floor when its complete.

See, always remember, when life throws you a lemon, eat pizza!

Here guys, been finishing the circuit, luckily it's a sunny day today.

Still the first and very simple searching algorithm, searching x-axis, rotating back to the brightest spot, then the same for the y-axis.
Noises aren't from the solarseeker, it's almost completely silent


On youtube is a higher res.

CU guys.

That's very neat.


That's pretty impressive!
Don't give it up, there's tonnes of stuff you can do with skills like that :slight_smile:

Kudos for having your first and nearly-last Arduino project built from scratch on perfboard. :wink:

Why is poordude poor if he can build stuff like this? $)