DMC recently took a break from day-to-day tasks to participate in one of our favorite company traditions, FedEx Day. Routine work on hold, our offices still brimmed with life and projects while everyone worked on whatever they wanted.
FedEx Day is always an opportunity for fun, learning, and collaboration, with only two catches: the project must in some way help to improve the company, and it must be deliverable by the end of the day.
This year, our employees took on everything from testing the range of the transmission of an IoT gateway, to improving our Chicago office’s rooftop garden, to creating a new colorful marble sorting demo to show off at career fairs in Denver.
Here is a look at a few of the projects from DMC’s most recent FedEx Day!
Pomodino Timer - Ashley Sherwood
In Boston, Ashley created Pomodino—a colorful twist on the classic Pomodoro timer. It leverages a Particle internet button to create a screen-free interface for starting a Pomodoro timer—and when the timer finishes, it blinks string lights and a dinosaur lamp via WiFi-enabled outlets!
Virtual Skylight - Curtis Weir, Alexander Yared, Adam Wojcik
Curtis, Alexander, and Adam decided to help people break out of office fluorescent lights with a virtual skylight. They used an extra-bright RGBW LED array in a ceiling tile controlled by Raspberry Pi to poll Boston's weather info from DarkSky and tie it to light levels and a matching soundtrack from ASoftMurmur.
Upgrading DJ Roomba - Eddie Hunckler, Tim Herrmann, Alex Krejcie
DJ Roomba has been the mascot for DMC Chicago’s embedded group since its creation during a previous FedEx day. This year, Eddie and Tim H. upgraded DJ Roomba to achieve a higher quality of party. While DJ Roomba was already tricked out with colored LED lights and a “dancing blowup” DJ, new features include:
- Upgraded Bluetooth speaker that rides on the robot
- New frame for mounting all the components
- Touchscreen control display to start/stop driving actions
- WiFi chip to expand functionality in the future
Thanks to our DJ Roomba team, the enjoyment of our Chicago Happy Hours will increase exponentially!
Gym Updates - Ji-Hoon Kim and Kevin Service
At DMC Chicago, the gym equipment started to look a bit worn out, so Ji-hoon and Kevin spent their FedEx day replacing the tread on the office’s treadmill and installing a new squat rack for the bench. With these upgrades complete, the office is now ready to be happier and healthier than ever!
Roof Garden - Natalie Meeker, Jamie Sorensen, Lexi Torres, Amy Costello, Mary Doctor, Jimmy Brady
The Chicago office has a beautiful roof deck and veggie garden that was sorely in need of Spring maintenance! So, a group of green-thumbed DMCers took FedEx day as an opportunity to upgrade our roof-top food factory by weeding, prepping, and planting the veggie garden.
On top of planting, they doubled our potential to produce output by building a second garden bed. Our automatic watering system also underwent some upgrades.
RF Sensor Networks - Matt Goedke, Jeremy Green, Alex Krejcie, Tim Jager, Eddie Hunckler, Tim Herrmann
Curious about the distance that our new IoT gateway could receive a signal, our embedded team in Chicago spent their FedEx day testing. First, the team set up a Thread Network using ST 900MHz transceivers. Since IPV6 is not widespread at this point, they spent some setting up the IPV6 network in the office.
Our primary business router didn’t even support IPV6, so we ended up setting up an internal IPV6 network for testing! Finally ready to put the network to the test, the team drove around the streets near our Chicago office with a sensor in the car to see how far they could get without losing the signal. However, they were unhappy with the buildings obstructing the data, so the team looked to the sky.
WinCC OA Open Library Updates - Leon Grossman (Chicago), Jay LaFave, Jimmy Condon
While the WinCC OA Open Library is always available for download at OpenPLCLibrary.com, it is in an alpha version and has room for development. A recent and significant improvement to WinCC OA CTRL scripting language is the addition of classes and objects.
The alpha release of the WinCC OA library included many panels (e.g., motor control and valve control) that had functionality, but the logic was spread out between individual screen objects and sometimes hard to follow and debug.
On FedEx day, Jimmy C. and Jay began the migration of the existing panel objects to use a more centralized object for all the logic to live. Each action, such as commanding a valve to open, will call back to a script in the class. The team also began creating an application for importing PLC tags in global data blocks from a TIA Portal project into WinCC OA.
MarbleBot - John Sullivan, Jesse Jacobson, Kirsten Zimmerle, Otto Gottlieb, Samantha Valenteen, Andrew Neill
On a previous FedEx Day, DMC Denver created the DrinkBot, which was a popular success at conferences and recruiting fairs, but has lots of pieces and is time-consuming to set up.
When brainstorming DrinkBot replacements, the primary goals were:
- Use the same control panel from DrinkBot
- Be easier to set up
- Be easier to clean up
- Don't include any liquids
- Be interactive but also capable of doing something eye-catching, if no one is actively using the machine
The most popular idea from the brainstorm was MarbleBot—a machine in which the user makes a drawing on a Siemens HMI and, using Siemens Automation Hardware, marbles are sorted into 16 columns and rows to make the image.
While not complete, DMC Denver made good progress on MarbleBot and now continues to work on it during WIN! (DMC's weekly internal improvement meeting).
Pool Vision App - Tyler Brink and Ross Bunker
DMC Denver has an internal application used for tracking pool balls remaining for three and five-person cut-throat games. Tyler and Ross wanted to update the application to be able to see what balls remain on the pool table throughout a game, so they spent FedEx Day working to better the pool community.
Ross programmed a Nvidia Jetson module to capture images of our pool balls, crop out individuals, and identify them using some onboard machine learning algorithms for better accuracy.
Tyler updated the application so that it can query the machine vision application and Ross wrote code that automatically updates the remaining balls on the table.
The next steps in their project are to set up a Web API that our pool application can query to update the remaining balls on the table automatically.
TDMS Viewer Updates - Cecilia Brookshier
Cecilia worked on a LabVIEW project to redo the current TDMS Viewer and create a “TDMS Super Viewer.” The program by default reads any TDMS file and can display the data in a waveform graph, x-y graph, or table.
That’s pretty standard, but the distinction for the Super Viewer is its OO architecture. Jesse Batche and Eric West helped create a schema where another programmer can add a class to change how the data is read (Excel, text, database, etc.) or how it’s displayed (live chart, indicators, etc.).
So, as someone adds new code modules, the TDMS Super Viewer functionality will grow beyond just TDMS.
WinCC open Library Development - John Michael Frullo
John Michael Frullo worked on expanding DMC’s Siemens Open Library to include support for WinCC 7.4. Support expansion involved creating a VBA architecture with user-editable forms for project autogeneration to reduce development time of WinCC 7.4 projects.
The autogeneration handles the creation of reusable graphic elements (picture windows and faceplates), the associated tags, and optionally alarms and tag archives. John Michael then duplicated a few of the open library objects in WinCC 7.4 to test the functionality.
Siemens PLC - Elizabeth Hill, Ryan Landwehr, Nikhil Holay, Jeff Winegar
Ryan Landwehr worked on developing Siemens PLC training material for new hires and cross training, joining forces with a Chicago-based team (Elizabeth, Nikhil, and Jeff W.). The goal was to create a mini-project for an engineer to complete while training before they begin work on client projects.
There are rough specifications and an IO list, and from that, the engineer who is training needs to develop the control program for a stoplight. Ryan created a shell project to start with and a fully-completed reference project to go along with it.
MTA Train Tracker Slack Bot - Jeff Fukushima
Most of the engineers at DMC New York take the trains to work every day. So, Jeff F. decided that it would be productive to make an easier way for everyone to check when their trains are coming.
He made a program that uses the MTA API to track the subways in New York. Now, when employees are leaving, they can ask Slack when the next train on any of the different subway lines will be arriving.
Tilt Table Demo Updates - Chase Hollingsead and Patrick Corcoran
DMC St. Louis spent time updating the tilt table demo that they take to college recruiting events to give potential employees a taste of what we do. Patrick Corcoran and Chase Hollingsead worked together to test the Neonode functionality of the demo and connected it to sbRIO. Then, they developed a custom I2C driver for LabVIEW to communicate with the Neonode. Finally, the team worked to convert an old .NET App for use on an iPad Pro.
FedEx Day is just one reason why DMC continues to be named one of the Best Places to Work!