Building Main Street, USA in a coffee table

[Alex George] has been collecting miniatures of Main Street, USA in Disney Land hand crafted by artist [Robert Olszewski]. These models are incredibly accurate, but sadly static. [Alex] has some of the floats from the Main Street Electrical Parade that light up with the help of a few LEDs. One day, [Alex] found himself wishing he could watch a miniature parade circling around his diorama and did what any of us would do: make a tiny electrical parade move around his miniature town.

[Alex] began his build by designing a system of chains and sprockets underneath his miniature Main Street. When not on display, the parade floats are hidden underneath the town. At night, though, the parade ascends to the surface to put on a show.

It’s not an electrical parade if there aren’t any lights, so [Alex] grabbed a couple Blinkms to attach to the underside of each float. These are small programmable RGB LEDs that can repeat the same sequence of lights for the entire time the parade is visible. A very excellent job and a masterwork of craftsmanship for both [Alex] and [Robert Olszewski].

[Alex]‘s ‘making of’ video and a full demo of the float are available after the break.

via boingboing

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Beautiful wooden case for a portable NES

After building a few portable gaming systems, [Parker] wanted to try something a little different than the usual sleek plastic builds. He decided to go with a nice wooden classic NES. He started by gutting a NOAC or Nintendo On A Chip. The NOAC has already done most of the miniaturization for him, so he was mainly focusing on the portability. While this wasn’t the most extreme mod, it wasn’t just a case swap either. He took great pictures of the process of modifying the screen to work and putting everything together. The final product is fantastic looking.

The first comment we thought was, why is the game facing backward? Due to the shape of the NOAC board, he would have had to either add more depth to the case, or extended and flipped the actual cartridge plug to make the game face forward, so we can understand why he left it alone.

Two saxophone synthesizer builds for the price of one

[Bruce Land] has been sending in student projects from the electronic design course he taught at Cornell last semester. By a curious coincidence, two groups build saxophone synthesizers with the same key arrangement as a real sax.

First up is [Brian Wang]‘s digital sax. There’s a small microphone in the mouthpiece and a series of buttons down the body of the sax telling the ATMega664 what note to play. The data for the saxophone synthesis was created by looking at a frequency plot of a sax, bassoon, harp, and pipe organ. [Brian] has the synthesis part down pat; there’s definitely a baritone sax in that little microcontroller.

Next up is [Suryansh] and [Chris]‘s PVC pipe saxophone. It’s the same general principle as [Brian]‘s project – the musician blows into the sax (we really like the kazoo mouthpiece) and a small mic picks up the sound of the wind. If the microphone output is above a certain threshold, the buttons are read and a note come out of the sax. We’re picking up a whiff of alto sax here; shame there wasn’t a duet with the two teams.

After the break you can see both saxophone projects in all their glory.

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Turning anything into a touch sensor

This year at the CHI conference in Austin, [Munehiko Sato], [Ivan Poupyrev], and [Chris Harrison] out of the Disney research lab in Pittsburgh demonstrated their way to make touch sensors out of anything. Not only to they suggest using the surface of your skin to control cell phones and MP3 players, they’re also able to recognize touch gestures, like poking or grasping an object. That sounds a little heady, so check out the video of the Touché tech in action.

Like the capacitive touch sensors in our phones and tablets, Touché measures the rise and fall of a capacitor’s charge over time. Unlike  other touch sensors, Touché scans the capacitor at different rates, allowing for a ‘capacitive profile’ that is used to recognized touch gestures.

The applications for this tech are nearly innumerable; the team demonstrated scolding someone for eating cereal with chopsticks (yeah, we know…), an on-body music player interface, and gestures for an office doorknob that notifies passersby if you’ve stepped out for a minute or are gone for the day.

It’s a very interesting build, and we give it two weeks until someone replicates this build. We’ll be sure to post it then.

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Build an 8-bit TTL computer

Very rarely do we see an Instructable so complete, and so informative, that it’s a paragon of tutorials that all Instructables should aspire to. [8 Bit Spaghetti]‘s How to Build an 8-bit computer is one of those tutorials.

[8 Bit Spaghetti]‘s build began on his blog. He originally planned to build a 4-bit computer but decided a computer that could only count to 15 would be too limiting. The build continued by programming an NVRAM as the ROM on a breadboard and finally testing his bundle of wires.

What really makes [8 Bit Spaghetti]‘s special is the Instructable – he covers just about all the background information like the definition of a Turing machine, a brief introduction to electronics and logic chips, and binary numbers. Even though he’s doing some fairly complicated work, [8 Bit Spaghetti]‘s tutorial makes everything very clear.

The computer isn’t quite done yet – there’s still a few nixie tubes to add – but we couldn’t imagine a better project for the budding electronic hacker.

Building giant temperature displays from Gottlieb display wheels

On Saturday, we found a cool article where pinball machine display wheels were being used as a display. In that article, one of the listed inspirations was this giant Gottlieb wheel being used to display the water temperature of a pool.  Before we go further, we’d like to mention that this project is hosted on a magazine’s website that requires you to register to get 1 free download. We did, and no financial information was required.

[Ludovic], they author of the project, was looking for an efficient and highly visible way to display the temperature in his pool. He wanted something he could see from 30 yards away, that had minimal power usage. These pinball reels were perfect, being easy to read and having virtually zero power draw when not updating.

Keep reading for a video and some more information.

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