Print the best mascot, win a shiny new Makerbot

If you’ve always wanted a 3D printer, here’s your chance to win one. Makerbot Industries wants the Internets to design a new mascot for them. The contest winner will receive a Makerbot Thing-o-matic.

Don’t worry about a chicken or egg situation with this contest. You don’t actually need to print your design (although printability is a quality considered when judging). All you need to do to enter is upload your design files before the deadline on September 28th. Designs must be robot themed, and anything uploaded as Private will be made Public after contest results are announce. It should be fun looking through all of the submissions. There’s several other design restrictions so make sure to read carefully before you get to work.

Those that would rather work with a soldering iron than design plastic robot parts need not despair. You haven’t missed the deadline for the 7400 Logic contest, which is accepting entries through October 21st.

Repeat timer hacked for 35 minute hydroponic cycles

[GrowColt] shows you how to modify a lamp timer for use with hydroponics. You can pick up this type of mechanical timer at most local big box stores for around $5. The timer plugs into an outlet, and the device you want to operate plugs into it. [GrowColt's] end goal is to make the timer repeat every 35 minutes, routing power to the connected device for about 50 seconds each cycle. It will operate the pumps and misters in his hydroponic garden to keep the plants hydrated and keep the nutrients flowing.

We’ve embedded his detailed process after the break. It’s not all that difficult, requiring a few common hand tools, some glue, and rubber washer. There’s a gear box inside which controls the timer. Reorganizing that gearing makes it repeat more frequently.

Not into hydroponics, but looking for watering help with your greenhouse? Check out this system which monitors water sensors and dispenses H2O accordingly.

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Program an Arduino using your sound card

audioino_programming_arduino_with_sound

[Chris] wrote us to share a neat technique he has been using to program the Arduinos he uses in his projects. He likes to build bare bones Arduino clones rather than sacrifice full dev boards, and instead of programming them via traditional means, he is using his computer’s sound card.

He builds a simple dead bug Arduino (which he calls an Audioino) using a handful of resistors, a pair of caps, an LED, a reset switch, and most importantly – an audio jack. After burning a special audio bootloader to the chip, he can connect the Arduino directly into his computer’s speaker port for programming.

Once the microcontroller is connected to his computer, he runs the IDE-generated hex file through a Java app he created, which converts the data into a WAV file. With the Arduino put into programming mode, he simply plays the WAV file with an audio player, and the code is uploaded.

He says that this method of programming comes in handy in certain cases where he builds things for friends, because they can easily update the software on their own without a lot of fuss.

Spinning UV light writer

uv_light_writer_ring

[David] has always wanted use UV LEDs to write on a phosphorescent surface ever since saw an article about it on Make. He accidentally purchased UV LEDs when he meant to buy purple ones, so he figured that his mistake was all the reason he needed to give UV light writing a try.

He built a PIC16F628 UV POV board using the LEDs, and while manually swiping the writer across various glow in the dark surfaces was cool, he wanted to keep the POV board stationary, moving the writing medium instead. He bought some phosphorescent vinyl, but found that it wasn’t too flexible, meaning he could not use a conveyor belt approach for his display. One day it dawned on him that a vinyl ring might work pretty well, and using a motor from an old cassette player, he constructed the UV writer you see above.

It seems to work pretty well despite a small flaw in the UV ring, and while [David] is happy with the results, he already has plenty of ideas in mind for the second revision.

Check out the video of his UV light ring in action after the jump.

[Thanks, Riley]

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No quarters required for this sidescrolling game in a box

teagduino_game_in_a_box

[Adam] from Teague Labs wrote in to share a new gadget they built to help demonstrate the capabilities of the Teagueduino. Their table top video game in a box was made with a bunch of electronic components they had sitting around, as well as soda straws, plenty of painter’s tape, and some popscicle sticks.

When someone pulls the string on the front of the box, a servo opens it automatically, and a second servo starts spinning the game reel. As the reel moves, the player is presented with a set of obstacles to dodge, guiding the “hero” via a knob-controlled servo. A hall sensor attached to the back of the character is tripped when passing over any of the obstacles, which are attached to the reel with magnetic tape. When the hero collides with an obstacle, the game ends and proceeds to close itself, much to the chagrin of the player.

As you can see in the video below, it’s a pretty entertaining and challenging game.

Looking to make one of your own? Swing by the Teagueduino site to grab the game’s code and be sure to share your creations with us in the comments.

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Laser etched PCB production

Like most of us, [reonarudo] isn’t satisfied with the current methods of homebrew PCBs, so he put a laser on a reprap and started burning some boards.

The basic procedure is to cover a copper clad board with matte black spray paint. A laser was installed on the X carriage of the reprap. [reonarudo] used cad.py to convert the board files into g-code and fired up his laser. The quality of the boards is highly dependent on the accuracy of the laser so after working through some mechanical problems [reonarudo] managed to make some passable boards.

We’ve seen just about every manufacturing method imaginable applied to PCB production. Etch resist and toner transfer do the job and a reprap milling machine is pretty neat, but lasers are so much cooler. While it may not be perfect (yet), printing PCBs with a laser shows a lot of potential. Check out a video of [reonarudo]‘s bot burning some copper after the break.

[Read more...]

Engine Hacks – Tesla turbines

Engine Hacks Theme banner

You probably weren’t expecting a project based on [Nikola Tesla's] work to show up during the Engine Hacks theme. Most people know of him because of his pioneering work with high voltage equipment. Never the less, [Tesla] designed a device that later became known as the Tesla Turbine. Tesla turbines are made out of a series of thin disks attached to a central rotor. Air or steam is injected into the closed turbine housing at the outer edge of the disks. It swirls around through the turbine blades and eventually exits near the rotor. This type of turbine can achieve very high rotational speeds but doesn’t have a lot of torque, which limits their usefulness. Check out this instructable that shows you how to build your own Tesla turbine out of hard drive platters.

We have featured a Tesla turbine in the past on Hackaday. In this previous post, [Rick] shows us how to carve a pumpkin with a skill saw blade that is powered by one of these turbines.

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