66% or better

Need something in a pinch? SparkFun products now at Micro Center

sparkfun_available_in_microcenter

If you happen to live near a Micro Center retail store, you are now lucky enough to have another choice when it comes to purchasing DIY electronics components – SparkFun is selling their products at all Micro Center retail outlets.

While it seems SparkFun announced this change in June, we’re seeing quite a bit of buzz on the topic today. We’re pretty sure their entire catalog won’t be available in store, but they are promising a “wide-range of SparkFun products at all 23 Micro Center locations across the country.”

Known for being very DIY-friendly when it comes to building your own PC, Micro Center was a logical choice for SparkFun. There are definitely times when you need/want a part right away rather than waiting for it to ship, so this seems to be an ideal situation for hackers and makers within range of a Micro Center retail store.

This announcement definitely has us wondering if this will be one of the final nails in the Radio Shack coffin. While Micro Center doesn’t have nearly the market penetration Radio Shack does, a wider selection of components and a friendly, knowledgeable staff makes the SparkFun/Micro Center combination is a compelling one.

What are your thoughts? Let us know in the comments.

Matchbox-sized line following robot

pocketbot_line_following_robot

While they are not nearly as complex as their self-navigating brethren, building line following robots is no simple task, especially when they are this small. The creation of [Ondřej Staněk], this matchbox-sized line following robot is quite impressive.

PocketBot’s 48mm x 32mm circuit board also acts as its frame, supporting the wheels, motors, microcontroller and more. The brains of the operation is an ATmega8 microcontroller mounted on the bottom of the bot. A pair of wheels are driven independently using a set of mobile phone vibration motors that power the bot at speeds of up to 0.35 meters per second. Line detection is achieved by using three different IR sensors paired with four IR emitters located at the front end of the bot.

PocketBot also has an IR receiver on its top side, which allows [Ondřej] to control the robot, tweak its parameters, or calibrate its sensors on the fly using an IR remote or his computer.

The PocketBot might not be the absolute smallest line following bot we’ve seen, but it’s pretty darn close!

Continue reading to see PocketBot in action.

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Engine Hacks: Electric drill made into a trolling motor

We knew our engine hacks theme would come down to an argument over the difference between “a motor” and “an engine” so after much deliberation, name calling, restraining orders, and a duel we’re happy to put up [Berto]‘s DIY trolling motor made out of an electric drill. The project is probably inspired by [Berto]‘s collapsible amphibious e-scooter that used the same electric drill propulsion setup.

The build is just a few pieces of wood, drill rod, some hardware and a prop. Definitely not the most complicated build. This isn’t the speediest motor ever when attached to a canoe, and isn’t meant to be a primary means of propulsion. That’s not a problem for this build – trolling motors aren’t designed to be fast or powerful. There’s no word on how much thrust [Berto]‘s motor can put out, but it is a nice bit of MacGyverism to build a boat motor out of spare parts.

Check out the build walk though video after the break to see the motor in action.

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Hybrid control scheme using an Xbox game pad and Kinect

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The Kinect is an interesting beast. On one hand, it’s fantastic for hacking – a purpose for which it was not designed. On the other hand, it’s “just OK” when it comes to gaming – its entire reason for being.

One of the big complaints regarding the Kinect’s control scheme is that it’s no good for games such as first person shooters, where a large majority of the action involves walking, jumping, and aiming. For his Master’s project, [Alex Poolton] put together a fantastic demonstration showing how the Kinect can be paired with a standard Xbox controller to provide hybrid gaming input.

While you might expect a simple game that shows the fundamentals of the hybrid control system, he has put together a full fledged game demo that shows how this control scheme might be implemented in a real game. [Alex] admits that it’s still a bit rough around the edges, but there’s some real potential in his design.

Continue reading to see a video demonstration of [Alex’s] project in action, and be sure to check out his blog for news and updates on the project.

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