The Linux Steampunk Conference Badge

Break the ice at your next tech conference by building a full function, Steampunk-themed Linux wearable.

I prototype, write, speak, and consult on physical computing gadgets and wanted a one-off attention-grabbing conference badge that would break the conversational ice when I walked around trade shows. That quest started a few years ago , with the first generation Arduino Pro-Mini and a 1.8” color TFT screen conference badge.

The Gen-5 Steampunk Conference Personality Identification Apparatus.

The latest Generation 5.0 model uses a Raspberry Pi 3, a 480 x 320 color TFT touchscreen display, an ultrasonic sensor, a DS18B20 thermometer, a leather and brass-tubing framework, and an antique-looking 'Dr Torq' name plate. There's also an auxiliary Arduino Pro-Mini , to handle near-real time input/output jobs. The badge is Internet-enabled via WiFi and plays full-motion, promotional mp4 videos on the display. A USB 2400 mAh power bank supplies power for about four hours of show-floor attendee interaction. I can use the Chrome browser and LibreOffice on the display with a wireless Logitech keyboard or remotely log into the badge over SSH. Think of it as a full-function, Linux wearable.

The badge also promotes my eclectic, slightly quirky engineer/inventor/geek ' Dr Torq ' persona. The good Doctor wears a top-hat, pin-striped vest, tweed jacket, tie and pleat-less/cuff-less trousers during tech talks and appearances. It's fun and makes my Steampunk character readily approachable.

Of course, encouraging audiences to build their own wearables and nano-Linux physical computing devices is also part of my schtick, as is soft-selling my consulting expertise. Making it fun, through over-the-top exaggeration and the Steampunk theme helps accomplish those things. While they may not be able to always define it, everybody recognizes and enjoys the Steampunk aesthetic.

Let's look at the Gen-5 badge in more detail.

Raspberry Pi 3

I chose the Raspberry Pi 3 model B because it's a powerful Linux-based nano-computer, featuring a quad-core Broadcom BCM2837 64-bit ARMv8 processor, with 1 GB of RAM and onboard Bluetooth and WiFi. A customized version of Raspbian Linux , burned onto the micro-SD card, made using the 320x480 TFT color touchscreen display a plug-and-play operation.

Touchscreen

The touchscreen is a PiTFT Plus 480 x 320 3.5" TFT+Touchscreen plate for Raspberry Pi. It normally plugs directly into the Pi using the 2 x 20 header. Doing it that way made the badge too thick, so I built a cable to mount the screen above the Pi. The display is also upside down, with the connector at the top because it was easy to keep the wiring straight. I corrected the display orientation with a parameter change at boot up. Touchscreen operation is still upside down, so I may turn the display right-side-up and reconfigure the cable, in the future.

Let's next look at the parts list, before continuing on with other details of the badge.

 

Part Description

Quantity

Supplier

Part Number

Raspberry Pi 3

1

DigiKey

1528-2347-ND

32 GB micro-USB card with TFT-capable Raspbian image

1

Best Buy

Samsung 32 EVO+

PiTFT 480x320 3.5" TFT+touchscreen for Raspberry Pi

1

DigiKey

1528-1348-ND
 

Arduino Pro Mini 328 5V/16 MHz

1

DigiKey

1568-1055-ND
 

SparkFun BOB-12009 Logic Level Converter, Bi-Directional

1

DigiKey

1568-1209-ND

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