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Web developer creates coolest side project, ever

Coding isn't just for pushing pixels, as we discover when we chatted with developer Nathaniel Deal, from Atlanta. Deal is an avid coder, hacker, and maker and he focussed all of his tech skills to on one cool project: an automated Nerf Gun.

Why don't you introduce yourself

I am a frontend developer with over 12 years of professional experience in the industry. I spend my days creating responsive user experiences and my nights building custom Nerf Blasters powered by Arduino.

How did the project come about?

I've always been a maker at heart; ever since I was a little kid. But it wasn't until Bryce Bigger's talk at ConvergeFL that I realised it. His talk opened my eyes to the world of microcontrollers and computing. It turned out that I had the right skills for it, and I haven't turned back since.

What technologies did you use?

The blaster is equipped with a webcam that recognises faces, processes the location and sends signals to the pan/tilt servos using an Arduino microcontroller. The code used is based on C and Java libraries. It requires a MacBook to process the video but I'm in the process of replacing that with a Raspberry Pi.

Java, Arduino, and lots of other technologies went into the robot Nurf gun

Java, Arduino, and lots of other technologies went into the robot Nurf gun

What's the community reaction been like?

It's been amazing and very supportive. I've been asked many times to sell them online, but they're just prototypes. I've also equipped some of my blasters with dart counters and that's attracted a lot of praise.

Did the project help you as a developer?

It gave me a chance to express my creativity on so many levels. The Arduino language is C-based so it is very similar to coding in JavaScript which is helping me become a better coder overall. It's pretty great to make something physical and tie it back to what I do every day.

Are you planning any future side projects?

Absolutely. I'm building a series of custom blasters for influential people in the tech community. I learn so much from them and it's my way of saying thanks. I'm also working on a partnership to make a market version of this blaster which we'll put on Kickstarter. We would appreciate your support!

Words: Martin Cooper

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