Need cheap and plentiful project boxes? Hit up your local hardware store


One thing that really makes a project complete is the way in which you package your final product. Some people are fine with a piece of protoboard with wires sticking out in every direction, and truth be told, so are we – depending on the application.

[Daniel] over at was seeking out enclosures to wrap up some humidity and temperature monitors he was working on. He suddenly realized that electrical junction boxes were cheap, widely available, and perfectly suited for the job. He hauled off to the hardware store and bought a few different boxes, then spent some time cleaning them up a bit before putting them into service.

While he couldn’t put the PVC-based plastic lids into his laser cutter, he did grab some birch plywood at the store, which fit his needs nicely. A few minutes in the cutter and a few coats of paint later, he had some great looking covers for his project boxes. He added a piece of ply to the inside of the metal enclosures to protect his components, and when everything was finished, he was quite pleased with the results.

Let’s say you don’t happen to have a laser cutter on hand. Plastic boxes would do fine in most scenarios, but if you absolutely required a metal enclosure, a few coats of Plastidip on all interior surfaces would keep your electronics safe as well.

Now, no one is calling the use of junction boxes for electronics projects revolutionary by any means. It’s just one of those items you can blindly pass by in the hardware store countless times without giving them a second glance, until someone happens to point out that they would make a perfect enclosure. That’s something we can appreciate.

If you’re interested in putting some of your own together, [Daniel] has made his laser cutter templates available online.

LAN-connected washing machine lets you know when your clothes are done


[Micha’s] washing machine is equipped with a rather inaccurate timer, so it is always difficult to estimate when the load will be finished. Since it is located in his basement, he hated having to check on the machine continually to know when his clothes were done. Instead of hauling up and down the stairs over and over, he decided to hack in an “end of cycle” notifier of his own.

The washer has an LED that lights when it is finally done doing its thing, so [Micha] removed the LED and soldered in two wires, which he then connected to his Arduino. When the washer is finished and the LED should be lit, the Arduino senses that the input has been pulled low, signaling the end of the cycle. The Arduino was hooked into his home network via an Ethernet shield, enabling him to monitor the process from the comfort of the nearest web browser.

It’s a clever implementation, and it sure saves him a lot of time trudging up and down the stairs. Nice job!

Robots tends your lawn while you veg out on the couch


Most people can agree that picking weeds is not a whole lot of fun. [Dave] was not a big fan of sitting out in the heat toiling over his lawn, so he did the only rational thing and built a robot to do it for him.

Nuntius, the Garden Avenger, is a remote controlled robot that [Dave] can use to pick weeds from the comfort of his couch. The robot is controlled by a Propeller microcontroller, taking its commands wirelessly via a pair of XBee modules. Nuntius’ controller is pretty intuitive, consisting of a 5-axis arm complete with a gripper that [Dave] can articulate in any number of directions. His motions cause the robot’s arm to move in sync, and driving Nuntius is as easy as holding down a button and moving the controls in the desired direction.

[Dave] can monitor what Nuntius is doing via a wireless camera he has installed on the robot’s arm, allowing him to sit back and relax indoors while the robot handles the hard work.

Keep reading to see a short video demo of Nuntius in action.

[via Make]

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Building a computer out of 555 chips

[M. Eric Carr] came up with an interesting build for the 555 contest earlier this year, and we’re pretty sure that it would have kicked the winner of the complex category off the throne if it were completed. Although it’s a few months late, we’re happy to feature at least part of his 555-based computer on Hack A Day.

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Basic Animatronics Tutorial: PIC Based Servo Eyebrows

[Chris] writes in to let us know about his latest animatronics tutorial, this time on robotic eyebrows! The tutorial takes us through the process of using a fairly simple PIC  circuit to display various facial expressions. Since a wide array of facial expressions have unique and well understood eyebrow positions this simple hack can make even the most bland looking mask come to life . Animatronics is a subject near and dear to our hearts, but the simple actuation of servos can go much further than cardboard faces. This easy to follow tutorial can help you on your way to controlling all sorts of servo stuff like vent flaps or um…  fish, if you’d like. The software is not very deeply explained but it is commented and available for download from [Chris]‘s site.

From here [Chris] plans to expand the project with more tutorials that can help further animate the face. We are particularly interested in the one and two eye systems he mentions, as well as more complicated eyebrow mechanics. Also check out [Chris]‘s other servo based robotics tutorials like the Sharpie Spotifier and the Wooden Menace.

There is also a video of the eyebrows in action after the break.

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Etch-a-Sketch automatically draws a tribute to Hack a Day


We have seen quite a few automated Etch-a-Sketch machines in our time, but when [Jason] wrote in to share his take on the subject, it came with a nice bribe attached. We are vain. It’s not something we are proud of, but when it comes to seeing the Hack a Day logo drawn out by a robot, consider us sold.

[Jason] has several CNC router builds under his belt, and thought it would be fun to automate his Etch-a-Sketch, a toy he loved as a child. He cut some gears and a face plate for the toy with his new CNC machine, then got busy programming his Propeller microcontroller to do his bidding.

A piece CNC software handles the conversion of a bitmap image to an outline, which is then converted to a CNC cutting path. The cutting path is translated into x/y coordinates by a bit of C++ code, before being fed into the microcontroller, which is running a small SPIN application he calls RoboSketch. The Propeller takes care of the rest, quickly drawing the image or pattern to the Etch-a-Sketch.

Continue reading if you would like to see a video of [Jason’s] tribute to Hack a Day, and don’t miss some of our previous automated Etch-a-Sketch coverage if this is something on your to-do list.

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