MadSci’s Circuit Journey I

In the recent, I’ve decided to resurface my macropad project that was put on the back burner last year for various reasons.

After recruiting a fellow friend to help out with this journey - I ended up ordering parts for the pad from We decided to go with a Raspberry Pico W microcontroller without any headers pre-soldered, male headers to potentially solder in later, Kailh switches and sockets, a couple rotary knobs, potentiometers, half breadboards, helping hands, and male to male jumper wires for prototyping. This comprehensive list was a solid foundation to having the components in hand - something tangible to wrap our head around. At the time of ordering I had no idea whether or not these would be enough or if I was missing anything - quite whimsical, but I figured if I forgot something it wouldn’t be much to get after the fact.

The anticipation leading up to these components arriving was building by the day. Through all the excitement it was time to crank up some hours in KiCad in hopes of finishing this project as soon as possible. That turned out to be dead weight walking for far too long. These parts sat enclosed in their plastic bags for a while - I wanted to make my own custom Printed Circuit Board. Learning how to make a custom PCB is one of the most daunting tasks I’ve decided to take on to date. I know there’s easier ways to go about this, but I am letting my determination exfoliate. I’ve already practiced on 3 or 4 - if not more - iterations without any success. Success being defined as sending it out to get printed with gerbers and all. Lots of excuses have been had as to why it’s still not done. This brought me to the point where I made the move of trying to build from the ground up rather than my standard practice of 'finding out what I need to know when I need to know it'.

Today, the Pico W was released from its plastic shell for experimental behavior. I mounted it on the breadboard for the first time after a few not-so-quick google searches to make sure I don’t brick the board before I can even get my hands working on it. ( I almost said wet, but that doesn’t sound too good with electronics involved ) I plugged this board in and started looking at the intro projects. I had to find ones I could do without most of the common components of LEDs and the like to create a successful prototype build. Luckily for me the first project that has a walkthrough is this ->

The TL;DR version is a simple plug, code and play project that utilizes Thonny - Raspberry Pi’s python IDE ( integrated development environment ) to connect to your wifi, turn the Pico W into a web server, use said web server to control digital outputs (The LED light that comes with the board) from a browser and to receive sensor data - the built in thermometer. All of this with only the board connected to my computer and roughly 80 lines of code.

I wish I could have captured my excitement in a photo - it doesn’t seem like much, but after that painstaking month of doing almost nothing from having this giant cloud of blockers suffocating - it was an absolute monster of a breakthrough for me. The ‘craziest’ part was realizing that it’s not taking input from the cord connected to my computer, rather the input is being relayed via the web over my wi-fi network. Now maybe that isn’t crazy for you, but I felt so much dopamine from this small victory that I couldn’t help myself. This breakthrough is what I needed - the smallest of victories deserves to be celebrated as much as the next. This is what will propel me to keep going forward.

“I do not think there is any thrill that can go through the human heart like that felt by the inventor as he sees some creation of the brain unfolding to success . . .” - Nikola Tesla


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