The SAGES solar-powered circuit project began
where so many other personal projects begin: a question
that appears naive at first glance but reveals exciting
challenges when approached seriously.
I was demonstrating the MyForecast gadget as a follow-
up to my popular InfinityMirrorClock design. MyForecast
uses the ESP8266 WiFi chip to download the worst-case
weather forecast for the day in the region in which the
gadget is located. It then displays that forecast as a small
animation using 64 addressable RGB LEDs. For example,
it would display a pulsing yellow glow for sunshine, blue
“falling” lights for rain, and so on. The design goal was
to create an inexpensive,
Internet of Things gadget
that helps someone plan their
day’s outfit and activities at a
glance. The entire design fits
inside a 4-by-4-inch white
plastic square, and can easily
be attached to a wall next to
a closet or doorway.
As the preprogrammed
animations danced across the matrix during my demo, one
of the audience members complained about the existence
of the power cord.
“It’s such a clean design, but that cord ...” she started.
Admittedly, grabbing the first micro-USB cable I could
get my hands on and sticking it in the dead center of an
otherwise clean and minimal design would have made
anyone wonder if there was a better way. I promised that
I would tidy up the cable and consider some custom
Jarek Lupinski, a maker and electrical engineer, takes us on a journey through his solar-powered
circuit project called SAGES.
By Jarek Lupinski
Building a Better Circuit:
One Engineer’s Journey to
a Solar-Powered Model