Solar-powered bird house Tweets using B-Squares

This bird house will tweet to let you know when the occupants pass through the door… err… hole. It uses solar panels to keep a battery topped off, and an Arduino along with an optical sensor which monitors the doorway to pass along an alert via an XBee module.

Admittedly, the video after the break is a bit tongue-in-cheek and doesn’t safeguard against the elements, or even against bird poop. AND it’s basically an advertisement for B-Squares. But we still like it.

These squares use magnetic corners to connect the solar squares together, as well as the squares that house the Arduino and the battery. These magnetic corners also act as the power and ground rails. Two nails have been pounded through the roof of the bird house, acting as a surface to magnetically attach the solar panels to, as well as a conductor to pass the power rails through the wood. It’s no wonder that B-Squares are closing in on  raising five-times their Kickstarter goal.

13 thoughts on “Solar-powered bird house Tweets using B-Squares

  1. why not use the microcontroller on the xbee itself? dispense with the arduino and its massive power requirements

  2. “over-engineered project is over-engineered…”

    You know, I came at this site because I had no experience in making and wanted to get involved. And I am very excited to see people building so much cool stuff and I am delighted with each piece of knowledge I acquire (got shift registers down in my last project).
    I am sick to death of snipers banging on about Arduino, over-engineering, etc. Here’s a suggestion, if you wish to criticise someone else’s project because it is over-engineered stick up a tutorial on how to make it more efficient. Those of us who are just starting in this world don’t want to hear any more nonsense from the seasoned pros who should be guiding us along.
    Put up or shut up.

  3. Way over engineered… a low end picaxe would have done it far better and with less solar cell due to far less power being used.

    Arduino is fun, but please people, learn what else to use! picaxe if you cant learn real pics, real pic programming if you can… Hell you can program most real pic’s in C for free if you look hard enough.

    as for x-bee… why? I still can not find a reason to use that horribly overpriced system. the dirt cheap 433mhz modules are easier to use and I can buy 90 of them for the price of ONE xbee module.

  4. @fartface: So why don’t you write down your alternative that uses a picaxe or real pic and a 433mhz module for communication and drop us a link to it here? You don’t even need to build the thing, just give us a diagram or detailed description to prove that you’re not just parroting “arduino bad, pic good.” Okay, in your case I’ve read enough of your comments to know that you know what you’re talking about, but please _show_ us that your suggestion for improving this project is workable and superior, rather than just saying it is.

    Between the people who say “why not just buy X that does all of this off the shelf” and the “if it has more than one commercial component it’s not a real hack” crowd, I’ve just about given up on the comment section here at Hack-a-Day.

    Or to put it another way: “What timbot said.”

  5. @zengar Fine I’ll one up you even harder…

    http://www.sparkfun.com/products/10665

    All done except for the door entry sensor which is trivial enough that even a n00b can do that.

    three Ni-cad AAA batteries for the power supply and a single surplus ebay Solar cell for charging.. heck with a charging circuit… NiCads can take it… if you want to go even cheaper, rob a pair of old solar yard lights for the nicads and the solar cells. all done. brain dead easy, smaller than it needs to be, throw in a 1 wire temperature sensor for inside the bird house for added “features” under $24.00 total by any decent scrounger and buying the Wixel new from sparkfun.

    Taking advantage of the fact that the wixel will tolerate 3v6 in and the discharge curve of nicads are pretty flat coupled with the fact they will sink excess voltage nicely from the solar cells.

    Write the software right for this and you dont even need the solar cells. the batteries would last all summer long.

  6. @justDIY, what “massive power requirements”?

    Do you have actual test numbers to back that statement up or are you just guessing?

  7. Had to bite… I have to agree with the ‘over engineered’ comments. Cobbling something together is always fun and usually educational but a hack that solves a problem in an elegant way (cheap, minimalist, novel, etc) is truly noteworthy. Retrieving my crumpets from the toaster with a knife _is_ a hack, but I hope I never see it on hackaday!

    @fartface – re: Wixel, spot on – game, set & match!

  8. So there’s nothing holding the solar panels on aside from the magnets? and the Arduino stuff that could easily fit inside the roof is instead on the floor, so where are the birds supposed to go? I won’t say this is over-engineered because to be honest, I don’t think this setup would last a week outdoors.

    If anything it’s severely under-engineered, development kits are designed to be put together and taken apart easily, when people make tutorials like this that show how easy it is to use this stuff for permanent installations, I think this is actually damaging to the noob community since it shows how easy it is to do something when you completely ignore efficiency and durability. It’s just like the home improvement shows that show how ignoring building codes makes it so much easier to do your own electrical or structural work.

    Also, we were all noobs once, I didn’t get to the point I’m at now by complaining about people who know more than me and acting as if they owe me an education. If someone mentions something you’ve never heard of or don’t understand, instead of complaining, try going to google, typing in what they said, and maybe you might learn something you weren’t expecting to.

    When I was a kid, there was no hackaday, there was no google, hell I didn’t even get on AOL until I was in 7th grade. If you wanted to build something, you had to use your imagination and be creative and find your own way to do it, and you learn so much more that way. There’s no creativity in following a step by step tutorial.

  9. The very and I mean VERY first useful thing for tweeting…lol…tweeting is stupid in the first place and tweeting is for the birds…look at me look at me LOOK AT ME!

    Did you hear that twitter, youtube and myspace are merging? The new site will be youtwitface.com…lolz….

    Twitter and tweeting…this thing is spot on…gotta go and describe my poopz in 140 character or less…cya.

  10. Here’s a better use of magnets for prototyping:

    1) Make or buy electronic modules with standard standoff mountings, rather than simultaneously over-engineered and limiting connection systems like this one.

    2) Get some female-female aluminum standoffs with internal threads. Using JB Weld or some other epoxy, glue small supermagnets to one end.

    3) Attach the standoffs to the modules using matching screws.

    4) Get a piece of galvanized sheet metal, or other material that magnets will stick to, as a prototyping area.

    Your modules will snap securely into place on your sheet of metal, yet can be moved or removed easily if you need to.

    If you want, you can later permanently mount the modules on another surface by using unmodified standoffs.

    Connections are easy enough with spring terminals, or 0.1″ male headers with 0.1″ jumper wires (available at Sparkfun/Pololu, or make your own).

    Many useful modules are quick and easy to make on your own on a piece of perfboard. Especially when you don’t have to include the overhead of a “standard” mounting; like slapping a ridiculous 28-pin Arduino pass-through connector on an I2C device that only requires four connections (two for power, two for data).

    If you’re making your own modules, consider using right-angle 0.1″ male connectors and putting all connections on one side. You can still mount them horizontally while prototyping, But later, if you want a space-saving “stacked” format, you can mount the boards vertically from the non-connector side, using a right-angle bracket. You can even make these brackets yourself. Get some aluminum angle, cut off small sections, and drill two holes. I like to make them like this (copy and paste into Notepad or other fixed font size editor):

    +——+
    | O |
    +——+
    | O |
    +——+

    Which gives them extra rigidity. Plus the sides protrude from the board profile, which make them easier to screw into the mounting surface.

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