About the Project
It started out with a miss, how did it end up like this?
In the Fall of 2021, I was looking at the barren, landlord-beige walls of my DC-area apartment and thought about how it would be nice to have some more art for my walls. I then thought about how other cities have blinky PCB metro maps, and given DC’s burgeoning maker / tech crowd and transit / urbanist enthusiasts, someone surely had made one. As it turns out, no one had (at the time).
So I decided to learn how to make one. I figured it would be a good learning exercise to learn about making custom PCB and developing embedded / IoT software (beyond very simple RaspberryPi projects).
Over the next few months, I got an ESP8266 chip talking with WMATA’s API using Arduino code, poked at developing a continuous-integration pipeline for embedded software, appreciated the value of going with what an API provides to meet my needs instead of trying to come up with a clever solution to save computer memory, learned how to use InkScape to design artwork, turned that artwork into a PCB footprint, and designed some custom PCB!
While I’m selling the boards for more than the raw material costs (not to mention shipping costs, transaction fees, …), I’m not making a huge mark-up or coming close to making what I would per-hour at my job. I started this project to have some art that I could enjoy, and I want these boards to be accessible. I also don’t plan on pocketing most of the profits. Aside from some passive income, the proceeds will be going to local DC community members and organizations, mostly mutual aid efforts.
I have a full-time job that is not selling these boards, so don’t expect the most responsive or highest-quality customer service. I want to make something that everyone can use and enjoy, but I don’t have the capacity to make this as professional and seamless as possible.
I plan on (eventually) writing blog posts going through the entire development process, my lessons learned, etc. - especially for the project management practices I tried to bake-in to the process (e.g. setting up a CI pipeline, creating an auto-updating bill-of-materials). Until then, the source code is public; feel free to reverse-engineer my mistakes from the commit history.
I am a hobbyist open-source software developer, transit enthusiast, hacker, and DC resident. If you really want to know more, I have a personal website at loganarkema.com.