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Cooking Hacks: 5 Years with ArduinoJuly 13, 2012

[Post en español]

Cooking Hacks is in active 5 years ago and, although it seems that time has passed, it has happened so much since the old shop: Hacks & Gadgets. We would like to tell every single experience because YOU have been a part of them, so I will summarize these 5 years with a story.

In late 2007, I became part of Libelium, a Wireless Sensor Networks-based project. It was set up by two students from the University of Zaragoza: Alicia Asin and David Gascón. They were using a new prototyping tool called Arduino (something I had never heard of). At that time, they had contacted to Marcos Yarza (David Cuartielles' contributor) to develop a new hardware. In collaboration with the Arduino Team, we design Arduino Xbee Shield, a communication board which came with a Xbee 802.15.4 module. This one endowed Arduino with a wireless connection, allowing not only to exchange information, but control it remotely. Then we launched SquidBee as the first opensource Arduino-based "mote" for WSN in the market.

In order to show both projects to the Arduino Community, we created the Libelium's division, Hacks & Gadgets. It was a showcase for start distributing Arduino, the Arduino Xbee Shield and SquidBee. For over three years, it has been the site of Arduino products and of our contributions to the community. All our developments have been seated on three pillars: open hardware, modular and compatible with what already exists. Based on the experience of Libelium, our devices have been mainly wireless.

As Open Hardware products, we upload all their information and schematics, so anyone can make them. We also decided that the new boards we design must to be modular, so you could expand features over a existing hardware without creating an independent board; and as the third pillar, we insist on making hardware that could be reused. As an example, we have designed several communication modules with the same pinout (Bluetooth or RFID 125 kHz) to be used with the Arduino Xbee Shield. As an added value, we make ALWAYS our modules to be compatible with the latest version of Arduino.

Along 2008 we developed several modules that allowed Arduino to be used wirelessly and autonomously, becoming a complete system for WSN. The GPS module for Arduino was the first one, to receive the frames from the satellites and know the position of your Arduino. The next development was one of the top sellers in Cooking: GPRS module for Arduino. Thus, you could have an Arduino-based phone and, thanks to the modular design, it could be used both with other shields to get an Arduino that could send its location in an SMS, or activate a ZigBee network when receiving a call.

After that, we noticed what we needed to get a fully autonomous device: power and data storage. Thus, the microSD module and the 5V Regulator were born. We added a solar panel to the last one to get the Solar module for Arduino.

At the middle of 2010, and after launching two wireless modules, Bluetooth and RFID 125 kHz, it was time to reflex and think how to focus our work not only in product development, but to give the opportunity to all of you, Arduino enthusiasts, to become a part of a Community. And so Cooking Hacks was born.

The Cooking Hacks' name was set from a conversation where it is said “...to make an electronics project was the same as cooking. You need some ingredients (boards, sensors ...), to follow a few steps, "cook" them and you get a result (project)...” Thus was born the Let's Cook section, where people started sending us their projects like a recipe ... and finally they sent us an actual recipe and a photo of the two "projects". ;)

We create Cooking Hacks, not just a 2.0 shop but as a meeting place and information of Arduino and electronics. We enabled a forum for technical consultations, a section of Tutorials, Video Tutorials, and a Blog that currently feeds the more interesting and recent developments in the world of electronics and Arduino. Cooking Hacks began to be present on channels like Facebook and Twitter to provide a best service to the Community. There, you can find daily updates and a close contact to the people. This is the social way we have chosen to share opinions about Arduino.

Following this social aspect, in 2011 we had our first collaborative project in Cooking Hacks: Radiation Board. After the Nuclear Power Plant disaster in Fukushima, we started a development against the clock thanks to the feedback from experts in the field, "beta testers" and the broadcast media as in WSN Blog, where this open project was announced. We were be able to send the first samples in only 1 month!

The suggestions received from the Community allowed us to know the need for a useful product from the first time, so we launched three kits to get started with Arduino: Starter Kit, Lab Kit and Wireless Lab Kit, so that people could choose for a kit according to their level of knowledge in electronics and Arduino. These kits have become best sellers and are in the crosshairs of schools, colleges and universities to open the minds of the new generation of children and bring them to electronics and robotics in an educational manner.

During the first half of 2012, the Cooking Hacks' team have baked a wide selection of new products. We launched the 3G/GPRS shield for Arduino (3G + GPS), adding the latest technologies to the Arduino board, making a complete smartphone. As the latest Android phones, we designed the RFID/NFC module 13,56MHz to incorporate NFC technology. At the same time, we launched the Bluetooth Module PRO for Arduino, a comprehensive tool that discover up to 250 devices. We made two versions: a module for Arduino and an USB Dongle version for use on your computer. With the continuous updating of products, such as RFID and Bluetooth, and the feedback received by the Community, we improve our flagship product, GPRS Module for Arduino, improving the TCP / IP connection, making it easier to send FTP files and using the full potential of a GPRS module. In addition, we save on costs, so we low the price down more than 10%.

Finally, in June we started distributing the Libelium's Open Source Wireless Sensor Platform, Waspmote, through a starter kit for anyone who wants to access it, so many Arduino developers have been able to combine it in their projects.

To raise awareness of both our philosophy and contributions, we have attended several events, both national and local as, among others, OSHWCon by Synusia in Madrid, Open Hardware and Software days by OSLUCA in Cádiz and locally The Hacklab in January or the last Arduino Barcamp Zaragoza 2012 organized with Arduteka and Milla Digital. Such events are a meeting place for Arduino and open hardware enthusiasts and, more importantly, you can meet in person the Cooking Hacks' Team that makes possible what you see through the computer.

Over the years we have made several contests and special days, like the Arduino Contest or St. Patrick's day, so in order to celebrate this 5th Anniversary, we are going to do something special on 30th and 31st July. Stay tuned to the blog and social networks because they give you all the information soon.

Remember that we are 24 hours on Facebook and Twitter. You can contact us, make suggestions or just say hello. Many thanks to all!

David Bordonada from Cooking Hack's Team

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