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Devboard deal: TI Experimenter Board for $15 (50% off)

Cheap things come to those who wait. If you’ve had your eye on a TI Experimenters Board (MSP-EXP430FR5739) now’s the time to pull the trigger. You can use the coupon code MSP430_FRAM to get 50% off. This pulls the total price down to $14.50 plus shipping with several readers reporting free shipping.

The board features an upgraded MSP430. Instead of using flash memory, it’s got  ferroelectric random access memory (FRAM) which boots the power savings of these aready lean-mean chips.

We’ve posted a few deals from Texas Instruments before, like the announcement of the Launchpad which was just $4.30, as well as a coupon-deal gone awry with the evalBot. There were huge threads in those posts reporting back how long shipping took, as well as how well the codes worked. So feel free to share your thoughts on this deal by leaving a polite comment.

Of course if you get one, we want to see what you do with it. Don’t forget to write up your projects and send in a tip.

Slot car lap timer/counter

For his first project using the TI Launchpad [VOJT4] built a lap timer and counter for slot cars. For us it’s always hardest to come up with the idea of what to build and we think he found a great one here.

Each time a car passes the finish line of the track it trips a reed switch that was hot glued to the underside of the track segment. Both reed switches have a capacitor to smooth out the inputs (is this acting as a hardware debounce?). The time and lap number are then pushed to a graphic LCD by the MSP430G2553.

You must be logged into the forum where [VOJT4] posted the project in order to see the images. Because of this, we’ve embedded them (including the schematic) after the break along with a demo video. But do take a look at his project thread to hear his thoughts and peruse the code he wrote.

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Keypad uses a PIC’s built in capacitance functionality

[Giorgos Lazaridis'] most recent project was to build a capacitive touch pad. Since he’s using a PIC 16F1937 it will be relatively easy. That’s because it has a 16 channel capacitance sensing module built right in. But there are still some design considerations that make the development a bit touching.

This isn’t the first time he’s worked with capacitance sensing. Through past experience he has found that it is very important to position the microcontroller as close to the button pads as possible. Because of this, the chip is soldered on the back of the PCB used for the keypad itself. Because he’s hand soldering vias, he also used some foam tape to raise the button pads just a bit. This way they will be flush with the acrylic overlay, which cannot sit flat on the board due the via solder joints.

Check out the video after the break to hear [Giorgos] walk us through the project.

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A Simple DIY Solar Tracker

solar panel

The sun is a great source of energy, however, efficiently collecting this energy can be hard to do.  One thing that can improve the results of solar use is to actually track the sun’s movement. [fanman1981] hooked up his own homebrew solar tracker using some pretty clever techniques.

For this hack he used two Harbor freight 45 Watt solar kits, some struts on the bottom, and a Dish Network satellite dish bracket hooked up to an “old school” antenna motor.  Although one might think this device tracks the sun using some sort of sensor, it’s actually just a matter of hooking up the device to rotate at timed interval with a remote control.  This interval is figured out with the benefit of some charts on livingonsolar.com.

To see it in use, check out the video after the break.  He gives a good explanation about how everything was put together, but if you just want to see it move, fast forward to around 5:26, really quite impressive.

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Homebrew TTL logic computer

Although [Jack] just graduated High School and doesn’t have much experience with electronics, that didn’t stop him from building the DUO Adept, a homebrew computer built entirely out of TTL logic chips.

The DUO Adept has 64k of memory, 6K of which is dedicated to the video ram that outputs a 240×208 black and white image onto a TV. Bootstrapping the computer to it’s current state was quite a challenge, as an entire OS was put into th system one bit at a time though DIP switches. After the OS was written to the computer, [Jack] was able to connect a keyboard and started programming. [Jack] programmed a hex editor and a few games of his own design. If all that wasn’t impressive enough, [Jack] also programmed an assembly compiler and emulator for his homebrew system.

We’ve seen a a few homebrew computersbefore, but not many of them are laid out on 17 breadboards like the DUO Adept. With skills like these, we can’t wait to see what [Jack] comes up with next. Check out the video after the break for a walk-through of the build.

[Read more...]

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