Laser shooting gallery made from scrap

When he’s not being completely awesome hosting a radio show on electronic music, [Gaston Klares] is busy in his workshop coming up with some awesome stuff. One of his most recent builds is a laser gun shooting gallery that brings a classic carnival game to his back yard. (Google translate link)

The laser gun itself is made up of 95% recycled components. The purpose of the laser gun is pretty simple – just make a sound effect and fire a laser downrange when the trigger is pulled. The shooting gallery is where all the fun happens. Five dog food cans are lined up at the far end of the range. There’s a small hole in each can and a phototransistor inside each can that activates the ‘fall over’ mechanism. When all the cans are knocked down, a windshield wiper motor puts all the cans upright again.

Thanks to [Kris] for sending this one in. Check out the shooting gallery in action after the break.

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Voting is open for the Buildlounge laser cutter contest

A few months ago, Buildlounge and Full Spectrum Laser started a contest to win a 40 Watt laser cutter. The only requirement? Submit a project that uses light in some way. The deadline is now over and voting is open, right on the buildlounge.com page.

First place gets a 40 Watt laser cutter provided by Full Spectrum Laser. Second place is a neat green laser courtesy of Wicked Lasers, and Third place is an EL wire starter kit  from Adafruit.

There’s a lot of really awesome projects that were submitted for this contest. The laser terminal looks really cool, as does the friggin huge LED wall and choreographed light show. We would be remiss if we neglected to mention that there’s a home-made x-ray machine in the running, and of course there’s the mathematical precision of fellow Hack a Day-er [Jack]‘s solar clock that isn’t a sundial.

The guys at Buildlounge got a lot of submissions for this project, so head on over and vote for your favorite. The winners will be announced next week, Friday, the 13th of January.

Portable electronic drum kit made from plastic bowls

portable-drum-kit

[Ian Cole’s] son is learning to play the drums on an electronic drum set, and he wanted a way to continue practicing during his frequent visits to his grandparents’ house. [Ian] had picked up a Spikenzielabs “Drum Kit Kit All-Inclusive” (DKKAI) earlier this summer, and set out to build an easily transportable drum set.

The DKKAI comes with an ATmega168-based board and a set of piezos that can be used to register hits. It was up to [Ian] to provide the rest of the kit, so he set off to IKEA in search of cheap, durable drum heads. He returned with a handful of 1/2 Liter plastic bowls, which he mounted on a PVC pipe drum stand.

The piezos were mounted on thin aluminum discs, which were in turn glued to the back side of the bowl lids. The piezos were wired to the DKKAI kit via the PVC tubing, with the signals ultimately fed into an iPad running Garage Band. [Ian] says that his portable drum set works quite well, and although there are some things that require changing, his son is very happy with his new practice set.

Check out the video below to see the portable drum kit in action.

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Neural networks control a toy car

After taking the Stanford Machine Learning class offered over the Internet last year, [David Singleton] thought he could build something really cool. We have to admit that he nailed it with his neural network controlled car. There’s not much to the build; it’s just an Android phone, an Arduino and a toy car. The machine learning part of this build really makes it special.

A neural network takes a whole bunch of inputs and represents them as a node in a network. Each node in [Davids]‘s input layer corresponds to a pixel retrieved from his phone’s camera. All the inputs of the input layer are connected to 64 nodes in the ‘hidden layer’. The nodes in the hidden layer are connected to the four output nodes, namely left, right, forward and reverse.

After training the network and weighting all the connections, [David] got a toy car to drive around a track. Weird, but it works. All the code is up on github, so feel free to take a look behind the inner machinations of a neural net. Of course, you could check out the video of [David]‘s car in action after the break.

EDIT: We originally credited [icebrain] as the author. Our bad, and we hope [David] doesn’t hate us now.

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Two player Space Invaders via FPGAs

Last semester, [Peter], [Jared], and [Jeremy] took a course on embedded systems. They managed to turn out a very accurate copy of the classic Space Invaders in their class. Not wanting good code to go to waste, they decided to develop two player Space Invaders, and we wouldn’t mind testing it out.

The guys built their Space Invaders clone on a Virtex II dev board. Wanting a little more hardware development, they picked up a pair of RF trancievers so the two boards could communicate with each other. The rules of two-player Space Invaders is fairly simple; if you destroy an alien, there’s a 30% chance it will appear on your opponent’s screen. Hit the space ship that flies along the top of the screen, and 1 to 7 aliens will appear on the opponent’s screen. It’s a bit like two player Tetris where your victories bring about your friend’s downfall.

The guys put a really neat spin on an old game, and we’d love to try it out. Check out the guy on the left losing a game of Space Invaders to his lab partner after the break.

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Arduino heliostat calculates the position of the sun

We’re past the winter solstice and the days are getting longer, but that doesn’t mean we’re not sick of the sun setting around 5 in the afternoon. There is a way to get more sunlight through our windows – a heliostat. Lucky for us, [Gabriel] sent in his Open Source Sun Tracking / Heliostat project that can reflect sunlight through our windows all winter long.

Using mirrors to brighten up a room is an ancient practice; a few thousand years ago, heliostats went by the archaic term, “slaves.” Luckily there’s a far more elegant way of doing things nowadays – an Arduino. [Gabriel] came up with an Arduino sketch that calculates the altitude and azimuth of the sun using only latitude, longitude and time zone. [Gabriel] used this sketch to drive a pair of stepper motors and reflect sunlight through his window.

You can check out [Gabriel]‘s demo of his heliostat after the break.

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Arcade controller will give you button envy

[Aaron's] arcade controller really makes us want to put in a button order. There aren’t any secrets hidden in his design or fabrication, but he did a remarkably clean job of putting it together.

The housing is a writing box he bought at the hardware store (but he also shows off an emtpy Xbox 360 case hosting the same control layout). It has a hinged cover which is perfect for getting at the components inside, and is also at a nice angle for your wrists during long gaming session.

An Xbox 360 controller provides the connectivity for the device. Obviously it will work with the Microsoft hardware, but all modern operating systems have methods available for interfacing with these controllers as well. In the video after the break you can see [Aaron] gut the controller, soldering wires to all of the button pads and connecting those to some terminal strips. This makes the wire organization inside quite clean. He uses crimp connectors to jumper the buttons and joy stick to the other side of the terminals. Add  a nice paint job and you’ve got a controller that will look right at home in your living room.

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