Early stage sim - StemulatorUK

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Stemulator
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Early stage sim - StemulatorUK

#1 Post by Stemulator » Thu Jul 02, 2020 9:39 pm

Hi All,

We're converting a caravan into multiple simulators which we've called STEMulator. The overall aim is to get more kids to take up STEM subjects and to get more people to follow engineering / STEM based careers.

Our first version used Saitek instruments but they were too limited and after we stumbled across Sim Innovations we started a rebuild with dual touch screens. We're aiming for something Cessna - like, but actually it will be flexible to support various aircraft types, but with some artistic licence and compromise.

Image

We had to extend the Saitek yoke so we could put the main body further behind the dashboard, leaving room for switches. Eventually we'll join these together physically to create a proper dual yoke sim.

Image

We've open sourced this on thingiverse: https://www.thingiverse.com/thing:4511277

We also plan to build our own controls, switches and other features, all open source, in the hope that we can persuade schools to build their own simulators. Air Manager will be fantastic for this! :)

Here's the basics of our open source Yoke
https://www.instagram.com/p/CB3WT9vH53x ... _copy_link

And our switch panel:
Image

Image

Follow more of our journey on instagram https://www.instagram.com/stemulatoruk/
And on facebook https://www.facebook.com/stemulatoruk

With a background in software development, diversifying into the world of aviation, I'll no doubt be asking questions on the forum as we learn more about this world of simulators, so thanks in advance for the help! :)

Keep safe

Tony

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Ralph
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Re: Early stage sim - StemulatorUK

#2 Post by Ralph » Fri Jul 03, 2020 6:55 am

Are you using an ESP32? :)

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Re: Early stage sim - StemulatorUK

#3 Post by Stemulator » Fri Jul 03, 2020 11:05 am

We're using a ESP8266 D1 Mini.
For the joystick we were going to use the ESP32 because the ADC had better resolution, but when using it as multichannel ADC it was too unreliable because it turns out it's a single ADC shared between multiple pins. So instead we use the ADS1115 which gives us 2 independent ADC channels and which we can read over two wire serial (I2C).

For the switches we use a MCP23018 which allows us to read up to 16 switches again via I2C and also sends an interrupt signal when a switch changes so we don't have to use CPU cycles to poll.

Both devices can be configured to have different I2C addresses which means we can read many of each device and therefore read multiple controllers and multiple banks of switches to a single MCU, in this case the ESP8266 D1 Mini.

I've ported, well kinda, the X-Plane Connect library for ESP8266 because the existing one didn't compile for the ESP8266. I'm new to C/C++. (I'm a c# developer) so it's a bit dirty. https://github.com/iot-crazy/xpc

We will use Xplane Connect right on the 8266 to send to X-plane and will hard-code the configuration of what each switch does. But, the long term plan will be to write a GUI to run on a PC or raspberry Pi which can detect new devices and allow the user to configure and calibrate them. This will be essential if we're to get schools to build their own sims! :)

The plan is to open source everything and you'll see we have a few bits on our 'sister' site IoT Crazy. https://github.com/iot-crazy. Mostly it's me publishing the code each time I learn something new that I need for Stemulator. Eventually, and again it's the time restrictions, I want to create tutorials for all this.

It's a long term project and quite early, but we're hoping to get investment and sponsorship to make it a reality.

Hoping to get our website up in a couple of weeks but it's only me working on the whole project so I'm split between making the actual simulator work and making the website and social media work!

Tony

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Re: Early stage sim - StemulatorUK

#4 Post by Ralph » Fri Jul 03, 2020 2:21 pm

Ah, I thought you were using our ESP32 support maybe.
http://siminnovations.com/wiki/index.php?title=ESP32

Stemulator
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Re: Early stage sim - StemulatorUK

#5 Post by Stemulator » Fri Jul 03, 2020 6:15 pm

I wasn't aware of that, but now I am, I'll take a look :). Thank you!

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Re: Early stage sim - StemulatorUK

#6 Post by Sling » Fri Jul 03, 2020 11:05 pm

Just an idea. Why not use the ready made switch and button interfaces for AM. It also makes integration with any AM instruments easier.

I love this project. There was a similar thing being done on here for Air cadets a while back. It just so happens i’m will be building a very similar setup. I’ve been developing AM panels for this purpose while I was unable to start the physical build. I just need to sort out the cnc to progress my intended switch panels. I’m always happy to help with projects like this so if you need any help along the way be sure to ask.

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Re: Early stage sim - StemulatorUK

#7 Post by Stemulator » Tue Jul 07, 2020 7:19 pm

Thank you for the suggestion, but our long term aim is to get schools to build their own simulators as cheaply as possible while allowing pupils / students to take an active part in that while learning the many STEM skills required. But, it looks like the government have solved the engineering skills gap in the UK by destroying the industry instead!

For our 'commercial' simulator we're using AM with touch screens but will also have physical switches. When we say 'commercial', it's more like our 'charity shop' generating (we hope) an income while we create the open source projects and get schools interested. of course, we're looking for sponsors :)

This is all in a converted caravan so it totally mobile which we then hope to take to schools to get them interested and encourage them to try a build themselves.

Stemulator
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Re: Early stage sim - StemulatorUK

#8 Post by Stemulator » Sun Jul 19, 2020 9:52 am

Hi again,

We've been doing a bit of painting to make the sims look a bit less like a converted caravan and have blackout out the windows so the only significant light source is the screens.

Unfortunately, out city has a third lockdown so we're still unable to open for customers. Hopefully we can get customers in August and our business can survive, if not, all this equipment might be for sale!

IMG_20200713_134354_405.jpg
IMG_20200712_220652_635.jpg
jetsimblack.jpg
nightflying.jpg
blackout.jpg

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jph
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Re: Early stage sim - StemulatorUK

#9 Post by jph » Mon Jul 27, 2020 7:17 pm

Stemulator wrote:
Fri Jul 03, 2020 11:05 am
We're using a ESP8266 D1 Mini.
For the joystick we were going to use the ESP32 because the ADC had better resolution, but when using it as multichannel ADC it was too unreliable because it turns out it's a single ADC shared between multiple pins. So instead we use the ADS1115 which gives us 2 independent ADC channels and which we can read over two wire serial (I2C).

For the switches we use a MCP23018 which allows us to read up to 16 switches again via I2C and also sends an interrupt signal when a switch changes so we don't have to use CPU cycles to poll.

Both devices can be configured to have different I2C addresses which means we can read many of each device and therefore read multiple controllers and multiple banks of switches to a single MCU, in this case the ESP8266 D1 Mini.

I've ported, well kinda, the X-Plane Connect library for ESP8266 because the existing one didn't compile for the ESP8266. I'm new to C/C++. (I'm a c# developer) so it's a bit dirty. https://github.com/iot-crazy/xpc

We will use Xplane Connect right on the 8266 to send to X-plane and will hard-code the configuration of what each switch does. But, the long term plan will be to write a GUI to run on a PC or raspberry Pi which can detect new devices and allow the user to configure and calibrate them. This will be essential if we're to get schools to build their own sims! :)

The plan is to open source everything and you'll see we have a few bits on our 'sister' site IoT Crazy. https://github.com/iot-crazy. Mostly it's me publishing the code each time I learn something new that I need for Stemulator. Eventually, and again it's the time restrictions, I want to create tutorials for all this.

It's a long term project and quite early, but we're hoping to get investment and sponsorship to make it a reality.

Hoping to get our website up in a couple of weeks but it's only me working on the whole project so I'm split between making the actual simulator work and making the website and social media work!

Tony
Hi Tony, I was going to say a HUGE caution with the ESP32.... the ADC's are cr&p !! but noticed you picked that up... :) ... almost all devices as such are a single adc with mux. The ESP 32 though is in a class of it's own for being abysmal. ! it really is, It is not because it is muxed - it is the timings and specs.. THE most unstable and useless adcs ever... I just wont use the horrible things.

Take a look at the DUE. Same footprint as the Mega 2560, far far better processor and supports simultaneous USB HID and also USB Serial via its dual ports. It has the on board processor ports and the external usb / serial. Also has really nice 12 bit adc's. - which are more than enough for any flight sim use.
You can, if you want to, run the Air Manager message port system on the usb serial and have a complete hid device / game controller on the other port, both connected at the same time. The interrupt routines are fine for encoders and stuff but may be a bit ott for normal switch reading :) .. but if you have the time and inclination - great.. if you are using and 7 seg displays take a look at the TM1638, 10 7 seg drive -capable of Common anode OR cathode.. (really nice as some display are really hard to get in the colour and size you may want in the right format ).. it also has built in 24 button keypad support although it all depends on how many simultaneous presses you want. Really simple SPI and only needs another 'EN per device.. really really nice. There are tons of bits of good kit out there.
for open source and getting others interesting at little cost - if any - then check out mobiflight.

https://www.mobiflight.com/en/index.html

But certainly have a peek at the DUE.. it is absolutely ace.. in Air Manager with message port just tell AM it is a basic arduino, a nano - a banana (well, I lied about the banana lol) - anything - it doesnt care as its only operating as a send and receive. With hid you can have multiple joystick / game controllers on the same port as well... 8 axis each with 32 buttons and two hats each... enough to keep you going lol... if you are using steppers for anything check out the 'accelstepper' arduino library. marvellous bit of kit. Makes the absolutely best damping and ramp up / down and acceleration / deceleration and movement for gauges I have ever seen. works with any steppers but the X27s are cheap and lovely.
enjoy, sounds like a super project and I wish you well in the job hunt. We left the UK a considerable amount of time ago and wouldn't go back fro a gold clock. :) .. when we visit - obligatory visits only... :shock: it is depressing as soon as you get of the plane. (MInd you, I almost always find an excuse not to go) .. and brexit ? - well -- let me just say.... corinthians 9.6 ... and I dont do deities lol :) ... It would be a real good riddance but unfortunately my dosh comes via the uk haha. :D :D so I have to humour them (a little bit),,,,, the lunatics taking over the asylum. If you manage to 'escape' and get a job in a better country in the EU then good on ya. you will never look back. Fingers crossed. :D :shock: :)

oh, just to add - take a look at Karl's channel on YT, https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCk3Qdc ... GCNj2JhmqA

really clear narration and excellent quality presentation and video quality.. He is using the free stuff (mobiflight) and gives excellent info.

Obviously I wouldn't normally promote this on a Sim Inno forum but in the case of what you want to do and the open source nature of your educational plan this is perfect me thinks. I think you will enjoy Karl's presentation skills and quality as well. ;)
Last edited by jph on Mon Jul 27, 2020 7:57 pm, edited 2 times in total.
“Everything in moderation, including moderation.”
“Experience is merely the name men gave to their mistakes.”
Joe (CISSP) -IT security consultant

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jph
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Re: Early stage sim - StemulatorUK

#10 Post by jph » Mon Jul 27, 2020 7:34 pm

Also Tony, I am really interested in your TV / monitors.
What size are they and what native resolution are they > ? --- I am looking at upscaling 1080p to a 4k screen (as 4k are cheaper than - or almost the same price as native 1080p 42 " units.

I would be interested in your experiences in upscaling or even native res on the large screens. I am looking to replace my triple 27" monitors with something around 42 + (3 of) ...
They are purely for external view. i can buy anything here over the emptynet here and return it within 14 days no question asked so am going to test a few, but info from someone with first hand experience cannot be overestimated,
“Everything in moderation, including moderation.”
“Experience is merely the name men gave to their mistakes.”
Joe (CISSP) -IT security consultant

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