I need someone to explain this to me.

Westport Mini Maker Faire is the first for Connecticut

If you’re in Westport CT, or within day-trip distance, you might want to check out the Mini Maker Faire happening there this weekend. Being held at the Westport Library & Jesup Green, there are going to be several interesting planned events, on top of the usual gathering of makers and hackers. Local hackerspaces will be in attendance as well.

Some of the planned events include a battle of the home made bands, rube goldberg events, and jam sessions with the home made bands. Check out the guest speakers as well, there are a few names there that we would love to see.

Pinball Stomp: part1

Despite my atrociously short attention span, I’ve always loved pinball. Maybe it is something about all the flashing lights and clunking solenoids. Maybe it is just the simple physics at the center of it all. I’m not really sure.  My kids, however, don’t share my enthusiasm. I suspect part of it is that they never wandered through a fog filled arcade in the middle of the night, hopped up on Reese’s Pieces with a shrinking pile of quarters in their pocket. The other part might be the fact that they have gotten used to the Nintendo Wii and the Xbox Kinect (we just got one last week).

Watching them jump up and down playing an extremely simple and repetitive game with the Kinect gave me an idea. I envisioned pinball projected on the side of my house, the kids jumping up and down in front of it to move the paddles. Keep reading to see how I plan to build it and what I’ve done so far. There’s a full video, but also text of the entire thing.
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Laser so easy to build anyone can burn their eyes out

The boys over at North Street Labs built a handheld burning laser and made it look super simple. Well it’s not. We don’t think it’s hard either, but the only reason it looks so easy is because they really know what they’re doing.

The first step was to source the best parts for the application. They’re using a handheld flashlight body which is small but still leaves plenty of room for the components. Next they ordered a quality lens made for the wavelength of the diode, as well as a prefab driver board.

Now the real build starts. They hit the metal lathe and machined a housing for the diode out of some aluminum stock. To marry the parts together they applied some thermal paste, and used a wrench socket to protect the diode from the pressure the vice jaws exert. It slid into place and the whole thing fits perfectly in the flashlight housing. The project wouldn’t be complete without video proof of it burning stuff. You’ll find that after the break.

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Hackerspace Intro: The Geek Group in Grand Rapids, Michigan

We’re happy to see some links rolling in from our call for Hackerspace introductions. This is sort of a reintroduction of The Geek Group. They’ve been around for a while and we’ve featured several interesting projects coming out of the collective (check out this pulse capacitor autopsy). You may remember some tax woes they ran into when the home base was located in Kalamazoo, but they’ve moved past the issue and moved out of town. This is their new location in Grand Rapids, MI and you can get a peek at the tour starting about 4:45 into the video after the break. Be warned, there is some mildly vulgar language in the video in the form of the ‘S’ word (you’re welcome cubicle dwellers).

We hope you’ll look at the video and see that we don’t need to you spend a week in post-production. Give us a tour by video as if we were there in person. Show us what you’re up to and we’ll be eternally grateful.

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Receiving asynchronous data bursts

[Johan's] been working on a chunk of code for about seven years and he thinks it’s ready to help you with your next project. He calls it D1 (The One) and it lets you receive asynchronous data without the need for a hardware USART. It’s capable of working with signals from an IR or RF remote, as well as tangentially related transmissions like RFID and magstripe readers.

It uses timer and port interrupts to sample the incoming data. Once it’s captured a transmission, the code sets a flag so that you can pull what it got into your own application. If you’re expecting to receive a protocol that sends packets several times in a row a verification module is also included which runs as a precondition of setting the received flag. The package is written in PIC assembly, but with all the information that [Johan] included in his post this shouldn’t be hard to port over to other chip architecture.

Scanning turntable digitizes objects as 3D models

This turntable can automatically digitize objects for use in 3D rendering software like Blender3D. [James Dalby] built it using a high-quality DSLR, and some bits and pieces out of his junk box. The turntable itself is a Lazy Susan turned on its head. The base for the spinning model is normally what sits on the table, but this way it gives him an area to rest the model, and the larger portion acts as a mounting surface for the drive mechanism.

He used the stepper motor from a scanner, as well as the belt and tension hardware from a printer to motorize the platform. This is driven by a transistor array (a ULN2003 chip) connected to an Arduino. The microcontroller also controls the shutter of the camera. We’ve included his code after the break; you’ll find his demo video embedded there as well.

The concept is the same as other turntable builds we’ve seen, But [James] takes the post-processing one step further. Rather than just make a rotating gif he is using Autodesk 123D to create a digital model from the set of images.

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Text adventures for Arduino starting with Hunt the Wumpus

Let’s be honest, you’re going to have trouble getting kids to play text-based adventure games these days. But this is one way to get them interested. This weekend you should get together with niece, nephew, son, or daughter and help them build their own hardware and program it with an adventure game. One last project before school’s out and the weather’s nice.

This is [Dan's] shiny example of Hunt the Wumpus. He used Adafruit’s RGB LCD shield for Arduino. It’s got a character LCD and five buttons. But you can easily breadboard this yourself using a few tactiles plus a screen and uC of your own choosing. One nice touch with this one is the RGB backlight which is used to add an element of danger to the story line. He also mentions a few bugs in the Arduino language which he found while setting up the game.

We’ve been meaning to make our version of Zork using an Arduino, GLCD, and PS/2 keyboard ever since we read “Ready Player One”. This is just a bit more encouragement to get moving on that project.

[Thanks PT]