Launchpad not limited to value line chips

Wanting to use my TI Launchpad as more than just a development board I thought I’d do a few experiments using it as an in-system programmer. After a few tripping points I was able to get it working and then some. It seems that the device is not limited to just the value line of microcontrollers it was intended to support. In the image above I’m using it to program an MSP430F2272 which is a pretty powerful little chip with 32 KB of program space. Click through the break for more information on the setup.

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Building a crystal oven

Radio communications depend on stable oscillator frequencies and with that in mind, [Scott Harden] built a module to regulate temperature of a crystal oscillator. The process is outlined in the video after the break but it goes something like this: A small square of double-sided copper-clad board is used as a base. The body of the crystal oscillator is mounted on one side of this base. On the other side there is a mosfet and a thermister. The resistance of the thermister turns the mosfet on and off in an attempt to maintain a steady temperature.

This is the first iteration of [Scott's] crystal oven. It’s being designed for use outdoors, as his indoor setup uses a styrofoam box to insulate the oscillator from ambient temperatures. He’s already working on a second version, and mentioned the incorporation of a Wheatstone bridge but we’ll have to wait to get more details.

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Graffiti Analysis

Here’s a fascinating project that started with a great idea and piled on a remarkable amount of innovation. Graffiti Analysis is a project that captures gestures used to create graffiti art and codifies them through a data-type called Graffiti Markup Language (GML). After the break you can watch a video showing the data capture method used in version 2.0 of the project. A marker taped to a light source is used to draw a graffiti tag on a piece of paper. The paper rests on a plexiglass drawing surface with a webcam tracking the underside in order to capture each motion.

The newest iteration, version 3.0, has some unbelievable features. The addition of audio input means that the markup can be projected and animated based on sound, with the example of graffiti interacting with a fireworks show. The 3D tools are quite amazing too, allowing not only for stereoscopic video playback, but for printing out graffiti markup using a 3D printer. The collection of new features is so vast, and produces such amazing results it’s hard to put into words. So we’ve also embedded the demo of the freshly released version after the break.

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Photo Booth for a wedding

[Joe Bain] built a portable photo booth for his wedding. We’ve looked in on photo booths before, both as a robust feature in your apartment and as a mobile option. But making it part of a wedding reception is the best reason we’ve found to build one. [Joe's] electronics consist of a laptop, camera, screen, and a big pushbutton that interfaces via a serial cable and adapter. He found some software that was written for photo booths which takes care of almost everything including polling the “go” button.

The booth itself is a frame build from PVC pipe (another chance to use those fancy fittings) with fabric dividers hanging from it. This is fun for the wedding-goers and it produces a bit of nostalgia for your scrapbook.

Single string servo electric guitar

its a catchy tune!

Ah, we love musical hacks that actually play music.  [Mike Baxter] is back again with a new servo electric guitar. This one, called the physical string synthesizer, and has only one string.  He’s using two Arduinos to control the unit. One to change the midi file to a note within the string’s limits and the second to actually control the servo. It seems like that could be simplified a little bit, but we’re pretty sure his end goal was to build an instrument quickly, not learn to be a circuit ninja. Last time we saw Mike Baxter, he had built a servo electric guitar that used a keypad for control. You can see a video of the single string one after the break.

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Solder Paste How-to Tutorial

The application of Solder Paste is an essential part of short run manufacturing and prototyping. After getting back bare boards from a PCB shop, its time to get down to business and populate those boards. This new tutorial set assumes you have access to things such as stencils for your boards, but does mention a couple of resources on commercially available ways to purchase stencils. Of course, if you have a laser cutter, we can help you out. After getting your solder paste chops down, make sure you check out our guide to toaster oven reflowing.

[Thanks to P. Torrone]

Homemade solid propellant rocket motors

[KoD] and [Navic] are building solid propellant motors using sugar and potassium nitrate. They cook up the two ingredients along with water and a bonding agent. They find that corn syrup is particularly good for bonding and that cooking the strange brew is more of an artform than science. Either way, the video after the break is proof of the dangers involved in this hobby. Testing the engine thrust with a bathroom scale ends badly for the scale.

There is something satisfying about the ingenuity that goes into the materials. For a casing they’re using PVC pipe, and forming a cone to focus the thrust by using a what amounts to plumber’s epoxy putty. The capping agent for the finished motor is ground up kitty litter.

This is an interesting read, but for now we’re going to stick to water rockets.

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