DIY Solid State Tesla Coil

Tesla Coils are always a blast to see and are relativity simple to build. While there are plenty of sites on the subject, [Michael’s] newest instructable breaks building a solid state Tesla Coil down to 12 easy steps.

Items that should be familiar to anyone who has even looked at a Tesla Coil include PVC pipe, Aluminum ducting, and wire … lots of wire. The PVC pipe is cut to length and a flange is attached to help form a base. From there the pipe is wound with about ¾ of a pound of 30 AWG enameled wire, which takes some time by hand to make sure you don’t overlap or get space between the coils.

Aluminum ducting is then wrapped around the outside of a second flange. Some stovepipe wire is ran though the ducting and twisted to close up the 2 ends, and hot glue is used to attach the two ends together. The assembly is screwed to the top of the pipe now containing the secondary of the massive transformer. All that is left is to attach a primary, which is made out of a few turns of 16 AWG wire, and the control circuitry.

Join us after the break for a shocking video!

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Bring your own name badge

It used to be that the contents of your pocket protector directly mirrored your geek level. But that just doesn’t cut it in our fast-paced digital age. We think [Jonathan] is headed down the right track though, by creating a scrolling LED name badge which he takes to conventions with him. With the right enclosure this could reach the same geek level as Woz’s watch. There’s a lot packed into the little device, but readability at close range doesn’t look like one the features so make sure you glance at the tag before you approach him for a conversation.

As you can see, the PCB for the project is the same form factor as a landscape ID card. It hosts an 8×5 LED matrix, which meshes nicely with the registers of the MSP430 chip which runs it. He admits that the hardware may not last very long as the chip is multiplexing the display directly, with no resistors or LED drivers for current protection. But there is potential in the design. It uses a rechargeable battery (which we like) and he included a QR code in the board artwork for easy exchange of contact information. We’ve embedded his description of the project after the break. Continue reading “Bring your own name badge”

WiFi experiments with ATtiny microcontrollers

[Quinn Dunki] got some free stuff from Element14 to evaluate, including this Mircrochip WiFi module. It’s been used as the centerpiece of an Arduino shield in the past, and she grabbed a copy of that library to see if it would play nicely with an ATtiny chip. What follows is a struggle to de-Arduino the code so that it’s portable for all AVR controllers.

This module is one of the least expensive ways to add WiFi to a project, coming in at around $23. But it’s not really an all-in-one solution as there’s still a huge software hurdle to cross. The hardware provides access to to radio functions needed to communicate with the network, but you need to supply the TCP/IP stack and everything that supports it. Hence the re-use of the Arduino library.

Battling adversity [Quinn] fought the good fight with this one. Switching from an ATtiny to the ATmega168, compiling more code, and troubleshooting the process. She used a single LED as feedback, and can get some connectivity with her hotspot. But to this point she hasn’t gotten everything up and running.

We’re hot for an AVR WiFi solution that is cheap and easy to use. But as we see here, the software is complex and perhaps best left up to beefier hardware like the ARM controllers. What do you think?

Build your own 4-channel logic analyzer

If you’re just getting into hobby electronics chances are there are lots of tools you’d like to get you hands on but can’t yet justify the purchases. Why not build some of the simpler ones? Here’s a great example of a 4-channel logic analyzer that can be your next project and will add to your arsenal for future endeavors.

As you can see, [Vassilis’] creation uses a cellphone-sized LCD screen as the output. It is powered by four rechargeable batteries and driven by an ATmega8 microcontroller. He’s designed the tool without power regulation, relying on the ATmega’s rather wide range of operating voltages, and a few diodes to step down that voltage for the LCD screen.

As you can see in the clip after the break, alligator leads can be used to connect the test circuit to the inputs (don’t forget the ground reference!). Thee buttons at the bottom let you navigate the captured data by panning and zooming. Perhaps the best design feature is the single-sided circuit board which should be quite easy to reproduce at home.

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Web game bot coded with Python

We find the programming challenge of game-playing bots to be fascinating. Take a look at this Python bot which plays Burrito Bison all the way through (video after the break). This is a totally pedantic exercise which has no purpose, other than to hone your mastery of a certain programming problem. And to that we say Bravo!

We looked in on a similar project which used some C# code to dominate the game Bejeweled Blitz. We’re not fantastic at C# and that code was never made public. But [Audionatics] has released this code through Github, and it’s written in Python which is a language in which we’re well versed.

The script monitors pixel locations to use as an input, which [Audionautics] admits is very error-prone. But if everything is setup just right it works like a charm. He’s also using the PyWin package which we believe is what lets the script move the cursor and register button clicks. We think this is really fun, but it make us wonder about the black-hat possibilities. What are the chances this could be turned into a gambling bot? Scary thought, huh?

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Circuit Playground – An electronics reference app from Adafruit

It’s not everyday that we review software around here, but the folks at Adafruit recently put together an iOS app that I figured might be of interest. Their iPad/iPhone compatible application is called “Circuit Playground”, and it includes all sorts of handy electronics reference tools. For the context of this review, it should be noted that I paid for the application myself, and that I have had no communication with the Adafruit team regarding my assessment of the app.

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Tweets send your balls flying (on TV)

Members from the London Hackerspace recently got a little on-air time with a ping pong ball launcher. They were invited to build something for the Click show on BBC. The launcher that they built responds to hash tags on Twitter by barraging the audience with balls.

The hardware was built in two parts. The first is a dispenser that responds to incoming Tweets by releasing one ball onto a set of staging ramps. The other portion is the launcher itself. Building it like this makes it a rapid fire device, as the spinning wheels of the launcher make quick work of several dozen balls just waiting to be let loose. Check out some footage from the show after the jump.

We like this one just as much as that remote controlled launcher. We’re glad to have seen these both because we happen to have a surplus of the balls lying around since we built that clock and we’re not about to undertake some of the more dangerous ping pong based projects we’ve seen. Continue reading “Tweets send your balls flying (on TV)”