Andrew Chalkley is the host of That Maker Show , Project Lead of @thingsSDK , and a Teacher @treehouse . Hosting the interview is Taron Foxworth , the Developer Evangelist at Losant.
Taron Foxworth:Before we dive into thingsSDK, could you give a little background about yourself?
Taron Foxworth:The self-taught jack of all trades! For the record, That Maker Show is awesome! The Introduction to 3D Printing episode is what got me hooked on 3D printing.What made you interested in becoming amaker?
Andrew Chalkley:I’ve learned so many programming languages over the years. It didn’t feel challenging to me anymore. The excitement of pushing pixels on a screen had lost it’s appeal.
So I wanted to stretch myself and get involved with hardware. I feel that I thrive the most at the edge of my current limits. And hardware was a that outlet.
Taron Foxworth:So, you turned to the physical world. NiceWhat hardware or framework did you startwith?
Andrew Chalkley:I started with an Arduino . The way I learn the best is to immerse myself in the language of the thing I’m trying to learn. I watched a ton of Adafruit videos and other maker videos online.
Then, I did a write up “ The Absolute Beginner’s Guide to Arduino ”. It still gets lots of traffic and people love it and it seems to resonate with the beginner ― because I was a beginner too:)
Taron Foxworth:Yes! I love that. Beginners should write too. It sounds like Arduino + Adafruit is a perfect hardware starter kit. This leads us now to thingsSDK.Can you tell us what thingsSDK is, and how you came up with theidea?
Andrew Chalkley:There are 3 fundamental problems when it comes with hardware and the internet of things.Firstly, the cost of these development boards are quite high ― especially if you want to connect an Arduino to the internet. Anywhere between $50 and $90 dollars. Secondly, the programming languages aren’t that user friendly. C and C++ have a lot of challenges to new hardware enthusiasts even if you’ve been programming in a more modern language. Thirdly, even if you could get a programming language on the device, there were no modern developer workflows for the professional developer. You had to use clunky IDEs.
The first problem ― cost. We wanted to be able open this up to as many people as possible. The ESP8266 is a cheap microcontroller module with wifi built in. Costs between $2 ― $4 for a development board!
The ESP8266 can run Lua and can have Arduino sketches flashed to it. Around this time last year Micropython was doing a Kickstarter to be ported to the boards. And Gordon Williams, of Espruino , started distributing his runtime binaries for the ESP8266. You can think of the Espruino as the Node of microcontrollers.
We created a GUI called Flasher.js to have a one click install for your ESP8266 based development boards, like the NodeMCU and the Adafruit Feather HUZZAH.
I put a short video together showing off the tools here:
- Martin Bavio