The ep5 Educational Broadcasting Foundation

education in technology for schools and public broadcasting

ep5BAS – automation . . . the C# way

The ep5 Educational Broadcasting Foundation is a not-for-profit charitable institution established in 1988. We produce educational content for cable and for public radio and television. The ep5BAS open-source project is wholly pro bono publico, with no commercial objectives or goals. It seeks to make a useful and beginner-friendly automation tool widely available and to encourage those with an interest in software development to learn programming done correctly.

Unlike an ordinary open-source project with a single program as the finished product, ep5BAS's modular source-code format means essentially no limit on the number of ideas which can be incorporated into the release version. This enables far more participation by many more contributors, and at more meaningful levels. Further, the vast scope of general-purpose automation, in buildings and other processes, expands the range of possible ideas for involvement by programmers throughout the English-speaking world.

Image courtesy of Honeywell Industrial Automation & Control

ep5BAS won't encompass any new magic, found nowhere else. Rather, it brings together the various means of utilizing readily available control hardware and making it all work. No specialized single-purpose program, no matter how sophisticated, can match the power and flexibility of a high-level general-purpose programming language, such as C#. The language provides the capability of expressing in code almost any intent by the user, and ep5BAS gives her the link between this enormous power and the nitty-gritty of the real world.

From simple systems to turn lights on and off automagically to edge computing in a large industrial plant, ep5BAS will provide a means of quickly and easily invoking the power of modern control technology.

It can even be used to control stage and set lighting for theatre, television, and cinema productions via DMX512 over a simple RS-485 serial link:

Diagram swiped from Wikipedia

The vast array of readily available off-the-shelf industrial hardware provides the means to accomplish this. All that it needs is your own application programming. ep5BAS will contribute exceptional ease of use at the coding level.

In the Beginning...

We began the development of the ep5BAS building automation system as a series project for “The Art of Programming”. The purpose of the project is to give new programming students a real-world/hands-on program to create, using coding skills as they acquire them, instead of the traditional but essentially meaningless “Hello World” exercises.

It did not take long for this idea to acquire a life of its own.

This was the first PC-controlled machine designed and built by the author, awaiting delivery to a US aerospace manufacturer — note the CRT and dot-matrix printer. It made parts for the F-16.

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