PAN014: Build Thread/Questions - Sierra College Astronomy Club

Hi all,

Thanks for providing so many resources to participate in this exciting citizen science project! After our astronomy club’s hard work to fundraise, we earned a grant from Aerojet, received a matching donation, and then garnered a mini-grant from our college! Now that our costs are covered and our parts have arrived, we have been meeting weekly to build a PANOPTES unit. A few questions came up recently, and were wondering if someone might be able to clarify:

· What types of electronics belong on the lid of the camera box? There was a black box and a blue circuit board in the technical drawing, but we saw a USB hub instead in a later picture. After reexamining our supplies, we brainstormed that it could be a Raspberry Pi, expandable hard drive, or maybe even the Intel NUC that is secured to the camera box lid. Which of these, if any, should we place inside the lid?

· After looking online, it appears silicon rubber is sold in much larger quantities than we need. Do you think that cutting the doughnut shape from an old mousepad might suffice?

· We purchased the breadboard from the parts list but couldn’t track down information on the PCB. It does not seem like the breadboard is big enough for the main electronics. Where should we buy an inexpensive PCB, and what are the proper dimensions?

We look forward to hearing your recommendations.

Michaela Neal
President, Sierra College Astronomy Club

1 Like

Hi @sierra_astronomyclub! Thanks for the questions.

· What types of electronics belong on the lid of the camera box? There was a black box and a blue circuit board in the technical drawing, but we saw a USB hub instead in a later picture. After reexamining our supplies, we brainstormed that it could be a Raspberry Pi, expandable hard drive, or maybe even the Intel NUC that is secured to the camera box lid. Which of these, if any, should we place inside the lid?

The current set of instructions has a custom board in the camera box. This board accepts the 12V (delivered via a wire to the camera box) and has two 8-9V voltage regulators and switches to control the cameras, a DHT22 temp/humidity sensor, an accelerometer, a usb hub, and an arduino micro for control.

For unit PAN008 I have been playing with some Raspberry Pis both for the computer box as well as the camera box. Did you purchase and plan to use the Pi? I haven’t put out any instructions for that but will hopefully soon, so that could be good motivation.

· After looking online, it appears silicon rubber is sold in much larger quantities than we need. Do you think that cutting the doughnut shape from an old mousepad might suffice?

I used some cheap toilet flush valves from the hardware store. Just need to make sure to find the right size. They have been working well so far and we’ve had some heavy rains.

· We purchased the breadboard from the parts list but couldn’t track down information on the PCB. It does not seem like the breadboard is big enough for the main electronics. Where should we buy an inexpensive PCB, and what are the proper dimensions?

I’ll leave this for @james.synge or @nem, who are more familiar with the latest.

The mousepad is an interesting idea though. Would probably work.

Note that the flush valves really only worked for the smaller tubes although you might be able to find larger.

Google Photos

Google Photos

Google Photos

Thank you for the thoughtful and detailed reply, @wtgee! The photos you provided were an especially helpful illustration. We purchased a few flush valves for the PVC pipes but, ultimately, went ahead with the mousepads because we could cut them to a custom size that better fit our PVC pipes.

The Raspberry Pi is an interesting idea; we had not been planning to use the Pi, but please let us know if you post instructions. For now, we are planning to use the Arduino. After an Internet search, I see that a benefit to the Raspberry Pi is that it can run multiple programs simultaneously. Is this something a PANOPTES unit needs to be able to do? If we choose to use the Pi as a future upgrade, would it be feasible to swap microcontrollers on the existing PCB?

You mentioned the current version of instructions has a custom board in the camera box, but one image on the website appears to have a USB hub instead. What prompted the change in design? Is it best to place all microelectronics in the control box, if possible, to better protect them from harsh outdoor conditions? The most recent parts sheet (March 2018) also listed a custom PCB to be provided by Project PANOPTES. Is this the same board you described in the prior post? Is the custom PCB available as a set of blueprints, or is the board itself available for shipment via the program?

One more thing for now – can you please put us in the queue to be assigned a number for our PANOPTES unit?

Thank you in advance for all of the further clarification.

Michaela Neal
President, Sierra College Astronomy Club

Hi @sierra_astronomyclub
The image to construct the head unit was never fully completed. I wrote the original instruction set and it got you to do the machining and put the hardware together. Several years later we finally got custom electronics to drive the head unit. I built the electronics circuits and installed them in the head unit but as I was transitioning jobs, never went back to the head unit instructions to explain how I installed them. But the head unit has had a USB hub, to communicate with both cameras and a custom control board that hosts an arduino to drive the cameras.

In terms of electronics there have been several generations. All three generations have consisted of 2 boards. 1 in the head unit and 1 in the control box which do very different tasks. The first consisted of a super simple proto board with an arduino in the head unit as mentioned above. In the control box, we had another arduino for controlling various things, like the cooling fan, humidity and temp sensors on another proto board. Generation 2 used a custom PCB design in the control box. It could switch 4 power lines on/off and monitor the current flow to everything. Besides the custom PCB which was mostly used for power control, we had a protoboard in the control box for telemetry and another protoboard in the head unit for camera control. Now we are onto generation 3. We have a single custom PCB board which can be used both in the head unit and the control box. For each case you solder different components as you need different functionalities. James and I only received the brand new custom boards about 1 month ago and are busily building the boards for the first time. We are building instructions as we go and if everything works out, and there are no mistakes, then we will be able to roll out the gen 3 designs for all to follow. The New camera board and New control board tabs in the March 2018 parts list reflect the parts James and my group have purchased to build the gen 3 electronics.

In the next 5 weeks, we hope to get our unit at Caltech done and have updated all instructions sets to create a single start-to-finish instruction document for the first time. This will make life much easier for all.

I hope this answers your questions and I look forward to seeing one of your members at Caltech this week.
Best
Nem

Michaela,

Here is an album of pictures of my camera box build: https://photos.app.goo.gl/zywIlo2HlLfEX85L2

In the lid I attached the USB Hub, Camera Board and Humidity Sensor.

James

Hi @nem and @james.synge,

Thanks for the insight. It’s useful to hear that there have been three phases of PANOPTES development so far and that the assembly and hardware for each is a little different from the next. Also, the photos on the Google album are excellent at illustrating intermediate steps on the camera box. We look forward to reading the revamped instructions. In the interim, this information clarifies the electronics considerably.

Michaela Neal
President, Sierra College Astronomy Club

Michaela, you are set up with PAN014, congratulations! :slight_smile: I have you listed as the contact with your club gmail address as the email, let us know privately if you want to switch anything. Folks have also been giving their units individual names, which we also keep track of, so let us know when/if you decide on one (current names: Panny, Cloudy, BigMac, J.J., Nanea). Later we’ll have a better registration process and that will include a few things like delivering a API key that lets you upload files to google, etc. We’ll let you know when that is ready.

A volunteer has also recently stepped into write some software for us and as a intro exercise that added twitter integration into the unit. You can see an example page at

https://twitter.com/panoptes_001
https://twitter.com/panoptes_008
https://twitter.com/pan0061

@james.synge has the last unit and is going to rename to follow same naming scheme. So if you are interested in that I would encourage you to sign up for a twitter account for your unit. People have also been creating an email address for the unit itself, e.g. panoptes008 at gmail. This will probably also be preferable in terms of what email address we issue the API key to although is not required. I’ve also used the unit email address to sign up for the unit twitter account, etc.

This is exciting news, @wtgee! The Twitter integration is such a creative idea. Thanks for sharing and for our newly assigned PANOPTES name, PAN014! We are deliberating over a nickname for our unit and will put it to a vote when school resumes this fall.

-Michaela Neal

Hello! Peter Cole here from the Sierra College Astronomy Club. It is a pleasure to take part in this adventure!

We are nearly finished with constructing the PAN014 and have run into some objects of inquiry. Two of which are:

  • We are currently working with the GY-712 modules for the power board. Has there been a posted workaround for this if it supplants the discontinued SEN-08883? We cannot seem to find them. Is there a recommended alternative?

  • How will we be uploading the programs into the arduinos? And are there other points of note that we should follow when working along this step?

Thank you in advance for your response! We are a stone’s throw away from completing our project!

Peter Cole
President, Sierra College Astronomy Club

Hi Sierra College
Good to see things progressing. James Synge notified me a while ago that this part had changed. We dont have a documented work around. As the footprint does not match that on the power board (I believe) you will need to Just solder short wires between the appropriate points on this board to the power board.

In terms of arduino programs, you will need to plug in a USB cable. Download the application to your computer and use it to edit sketches and upload them. Sorry I dont have links to this off hand but it should be pretty easy to find on the web. Note there are instructions for installing software in general. Wilfred, and James know where this is.
Hopefully they can respond soon.
Thanks
Nem

Hi all,

Uploading an arduino sketch is fairly simple so we don’t provide our own instructions. If you are logged into the control computer and have a graphical interface it’s as simple as laid out in this guide. I think I had uploaded the sketch from my laptop with the arduino directly connected to the usb.

There are some newer arduino command line tools that will also let you upload the sketch. We will probably write some easy wrapper script around these in the future. I haven’t used that much but here’s an example video. @james.synge might have played with this option already.

Let me know if you are having any troubles and we’ll help you get them sorted out.

Great progress! :star: :telescope: :star:

Hi @sierra_astronomyclub, just wanted to check in and see how things are going?

Greetings, Sierra College Astronomy Club!
I’m going to be working with the evaluator for the PANOPTES team to create a pre and post assessment for other PANOPTES build teams. Can you let me know which skills you picked up (i.e., measuring, using power tools, soldering, learning about how scientists search for exoplanets, etc.) while working on building your PANOPTES unit? What did you hope you would learn, and what did you actually learn? What surprised you along the way? Did you feel empowered by being able to build your own exoplanet hunting telescope? What are the lessons learned that we can pass on to future builders? What can we make more clear in our instructions to make it easier for others? What else am I missing?
Thanks,
Rachel

(6/22/19) We are at the point where we are assembling the pieces to construct PANOPTES. We tested the boards and the connections me seem to be in order. We are now trying to figure out which wire goes to which part. We have an older power board, so we are being careful to make sure to use older instructions. Some of these instructions are complete, some are not. The Power board does seem to be functional are we are ready to assemble.

(6/29/19) We have put all the pieces together and have power going into the Telemetry board, but the Camera board is not working, though we have discovered why and will be correcting that in a future meeting. We noticed the external Seagate 1 TB hard drive seemed to be defective and we will be trying to put another one in to see if it fares better.

We also are trying to Navigate the software and are not seeing much more documentation beyond the initial setup. I believe we have programed the NUC properly and now we would like to know what exact software is doing the running of the camera and mount. We hopefully will be able to run some rudimentary tests the next time we meet for building PANOPTES.

Some Photos:

(07/19/19) Resoldered faulty wiring on camera board and did the pytest on all hardware. Most all things passed except those on the iOptron and the observatory. Still need to figure out how to attach to iOptron mount.

Fantastic progress! Please do let us know how you progress and if you need help.

Yes, we need some help! :slight_smile: I’m trying to connect all the wires and parts and so forth, then turn everything on and run pytest. This yields 3 errors and 5 fails - with all the errors being with the iOptron mount. I thought I got the correct connector,


but the NUC does not seem to recognize it, even when I thought I put the correct path to the mount (as reported by lsusb) /dev/bus/usb/002/022

hmm, What happened to the cable that came with the mount? Isnt it a RJ9 to RS232 and then youd need an RS232 to USB? Its interesting this part actually says IOptron mount in it so should work. Im not familiar enough with this cable nor the pytest to say what the issue could be but would suggest trying with the default cable that came with the mount and or getting input from Wilfred.

I’ll look for the RJ9 to RS232 cable that came with the mount. And if I have that… indeed then I would need to get a RS232 to USB cable to make the connection work…