KiCad Like a Pro 4th edition + AI Assistant + more news 

 May 10, 2024

By  Peter

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It has been a few weeks since my last announcement. Work on the KiCad Like a Pro book update made it difficult to do anything else. It was KiCad and writing around the clock. Plus a few other projects to help me maintain sanity.

So, this post is packed with news. Let’s dive in.

In this post:

  1. KiCad Like a Pro 4e eBook available to subscribers
  2. AI Assistant is now available
  3. New blog post: AI in engineering
  4. Peter’s aviation datalogger project

KiCad Like a Pro 4e eBook available to subscribers

I have released KiCad Like a Pro 4th edition as a web eBook to subscribers. I will follow up with a general eBook release in the next few weeks. If you are a subscriber, you can access the book right now (be sure to log in first).

Briefly, here’s what is new and changed in this edition of KiCad Like a Pro:

  • The book is divided into two volumes for easier use and management. Volume 1 contains the introductory content, two projects, and Recipes, while Volume 2 contains four projects and Recipes.
  • I have added a new project in Volume 2.
  • I have added new chapters in Volume 1 to cover NextPCB’s excellent tools (plugins and the Design For Manufacturing utility for Windows).
  • I have added recipes that cover new features in KiCad 8. These include topics like the upgraded simulator and the KiCad Python API, including Action Plugins.
  • I have replaced all screenshots to feature KiCad 8.0.
  • I have re-written, updated, and cross-checked all instructions (recipes, how-to’s, projects) to ensure they are consistent with KiCad 8.
  • I have checked and updated all links to make sure they work.
  • I have checked grammar and syntax, including the infamous autocorrect changes that have caused havoc.
  • I have addressed the contributed errata items from the 3rd edition and made the necessary corrections anywhere where the 3rd and 4th edition content matched.
  • Numerous other enhancements that I can’t remember right now!

As with all books, this new KiCad Like a Pro edition is now available to subscribers. You can view it in your browser using our excellent viewer, which is similar to regular courses. Downloading is not possible.

I will fix a few minor bugs in the next few days and release the eBook for purchase. If you have purchased the 3rd edition, look for an email with a special discount coupon.

KiCad Like a Pro 4e eBook is available to subscribers

AI Assistant is now available

I have experimented with various options for providing you with an AI assistant and have found a solution that balances the quality of replies to student queries, the effort of implementation, and the cost. 

I present the Tech Explorations “AI Assistant”!

This AI teaching assistant is available to all students and courses on Tech Explorations.

This assistant is not trained in the specific content of our courses. While experimenting with such solutions, I found they require much work to implement and maintain and are very expensive. I decided that a generic AI chatbot is still an excellent solution. I have been using the underlying technology for over a year and find it very helpful. 

Please try it out and let me know what you think.

New blog post: AI in engineering

A few weeks ago, I published a new article on the Tech Explorations blog exploring AI’s role in engineering design and manufacturing. I wanted to learn how this technology is being used by some of the most advanced tech companies in the world, such as NVIDIA and Autodesk. These companies use AI in their product research and development but also include AI features available to their product end users, i.e., us. 

To write this article, I used an AI assistant. Yes, I have done this in the past, but this time, I was careful to take what I had learned from past attempts and use the AI assistant cautiously, with a better understanding of its limits and strengths. 

Working on this article helped me design a methodology I will use in the future.

I have also decided to be fully transparent about using AI in my work in the future. Anywhere I use AI, I will make a relevant disclosure at the end of the article, as I did with this one.

Please read AI in Engineering and feel free to give me your feedback.

Peter’s aviation datalogger project

As you probably know, I’m also a student pilot. I’m training for my private pilot’s license. I record my flights on a GoPro Hero 12, which, unfortunately, does not have an integrated GPS and only a basic motion sensor. 

I was looking for a way to record more flight data to produce videos with a telemetry overlay like this one

Although I can use my phone and GPS apps or third-party devices, I decided to use my Arduino and programming skills to build a custom GPS datalogger. Because it’s Arduino-powered, I can add all sorts of sensors. Gyro, accelerometer, and barometer are some noticeable options.

So, I implemented a prototype based on an Arduino MKR1010 with the sensor shield, which provides an SD card module for recording the logger data on a CSV file. The prototype looked like this (1 and 2):

My Flight logger: Arduino MKR1010 + Vivid Unit + GPS

To start the logger, turn it on. No configuration is needed. The enclosure I designed in FreeCAD has only one switch (on/off). It has room for a 4000 mAh battery to power the logger for at least 24 hours. It also has provision for additional sensors and indicator LEDs. As soon as I turn it on, the device will look for satellites with the help of the external antenna and record GPS data on the SD Card at one record per second. 

I extended the prototype with the help of an excellent portable computer, the Vivid Unit. This computer has an integrated screen, a Raspberry Pi-compatible header, and USB ports. I used the USB port to connect the Arduino MKR1010 to the Vivid computer and wrote a Python script that takes the logger data and displays them in a full-screen window. It looks fantastic in photo 3. 

I am preparing a full review of this project on the blog. I am excited about its potential. I designed the box with provisions for more sensors. Combined with the Vivid Unit, I hope to build a GPS and flight recording device that will give me a treasure trove of data for flight analysis for my on-screen video telemetry gauges.

More details to follow!

Until next time, happy making!



AI, Arduino MKR1010, KiCad, Vivid Unit

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