External Links Bar:
Home
Helix Light Controller

Standalone, Wireless, Networkable Light Controller



Left Hand Side Navigation and Information Bar:
Helix PCBs
Helix PCBs are now available. Please send an email to Orders to request information.
What's New
The New Helix Main Board v2 is available. This site will be updated soon!


Main page content starts here

The Motivation


I'm an electronics engineer that does more managing than designing at work. In November 2004 my family and I moved into our new house that my dad and I built. It took me about 18 months to build it and another year to decompress from that effort. So in November 2005 I was an engineer without a major project. I'm sure all of the engineers out there and anyone that lives with one knows, that is a very dangerous situation.

Wizards in Winter


One afternoon my wife and I were surfing on YouTube and found the famous Carson Williams video. We both thought that was so cool. My wonderful wife, recognizing the dangerous situation I was in, suggested that I should do something like that with our house. I immediately started researching to see how he did it. It wasn't long before I found out he used a commercial light controller. After looking at that controller I decided that route would be too easy. I needed to design my own.

April Fools Joke


That is when I started researching the different microcontrollers available. I started to settle on the PIC series and almost purchased a development kit when I read an article in the April 2006 Nuts and Volts magazine about a new chip from Parallax called the Propeller. This new chip sounded way too good to be true, eight 32-bit processors on a single chip, each capable of 20 MIPS, all for about $13.00. This had to be an April fools article. After much research I finally started to believe that this chip might be for real. (Note to self, never debut a too good to be true product in April.) Also in this edition I saw an ad for the MaxStream XBee radios. I fell in love with these two products. Unfortunately the Propeller chip would not be available until June or July 2006. I was determined to design a project around the Propeller and XBee once I finished designing my light controller.

The Epiphany


I went back to researching which PIC microcontroller and programmer I was going to use for my new 16 to 32 channel light controller. After about another month of research the proverbial light bulb finally went off in my head and I got the idea that I could use the Propeller chip to create a much larger controller and use the XBee radio to make it wireless. Thus began the design of the Prop 128 light controller.