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Winning a no holds barred pinewood derby

Every year, [ilektronx] and a few other guys get together and compete in a ‘no holds barred’ pinewood derby for kids of all ages. Of course this results in an immense amount of engineering to push a wooden block with wheels down a track, and [ilektronx]‘s car is no exception. He won the competition with electronics from a remote control airplane bolted on to a piece of wood.

The electronics for [ilektronix]‘s build are pretty much what you’d find in any small electric RC plane: a cheap transmitter / receiver combo sends commands to an ESC which powers a small brushless motor with a small LiPo battery.

Like all good pinewood derby cars, the success of [ilektronix]‘s entry relied on the overall design. The wooden chassis cleverly hugs the raised guide in the track, and the slight downward angle of the propeller keeps the car from popping a wheelie when it is released from the starting line.

You can check out a video summary of the pinewood derby competition after the break. Also shown are a few of the other derby cars, including an amazing futuristic tank entry built by [Ken Cook]. [Ken] spent the better part of a year on his build, and the amazing detail of making his own tank treads by hand made him a shoe-in for the winner of the ‘style’ competition.

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Meet the Teensy 3.0

[Paul Stoffregen], the brains behind the popular and very capable Arduino-compatible Teensy development board, has offered his contribution to the explosion of ARM-powered boards with the Teensy 3.0.

The original Teensy is an AVR-based development board that goes far beyond the official Arduino offerings. The new and improved Teensy 3.0 improves upon an already wonderful platform with a 32 bit ARM Cortex-M4 microcontroller running at 48 MHz. There’s also a lot of pins available for whatever project you have in mind: the Teensy 3.0 supports 14 analog inputs, 10 PWM outputs, a USB host mode, and an I2S audio interface that will be very useful when accessing the microcontroller’s DSP functions.

There are a couple neat features on the Teensy 3.0 [Paul] somehow managed to work in. In addition to supporting a real-time clock, there are also a few extra IO pins in the middle of the board. [Paul] says the extra pins are due to Kinetis not releasing a 48 pin version of the microcontroller in time for production. It may not be what [Paul] originally had in mind, but we’ll take the upgraded board just the same.

Of course the Teensy 3.0 will be compatible with the Teensyduino Arduino IDE add-on, so if you’d like to run your Arduino sketches on a very powerful piece of hardware, this will be the board to use.

70 watt amp uses an ATtiny

If you’re looking for a DIY amplifier project made with a minimum of parts, this is the build for you. [Rouslan] created a 70 watt class D amplifier using an ATtiny45 and just a few dollars worth of additional components.

A class D amplifier simply switches transistors of MOSFETs on and off very rapidly. By passing the signal produced by these MOSFETs through a low pass filter and connecting a speaker, a class D amp is able to amplify a signal very efficiently. Usually, these sort of amp builds use somewhat esoteric components, but [Rouslan] figured out how to use a simple ATtiny microcontroller to drive a set of MOSFETs.

In [Rouslan]‘s circuit, the audio signal is passed into the analog input of an ATtiny45. Inside this microcontroller, these analog values are sent to the MOSFETs through a PWM output. [Rouslan] threw in a few software tricks (explained in revision 2 of his build) to improve the sound quality, but the circuit remains incredibly simple.

[Rouslan] posted a video going over the function of his ATtiny amp, and from the audio demo (available after the break), we’re thinking it sounds pretty good. Amazingly good, even, if you consider how minimalistic this 70 watt amp actually is.

Thanks [Alec] for sending this one in.

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The Python Programming Language For Physical Hacking

We see projects here all the time that blend computing with the real world. Some people are naturally stronger on the mechanical end of things, whereas some are better with electronics or coding. All three specialities can be needed depending on your project. If your weakness lies in making a computer do your bidding, I might suggest that the Python language is a good one to learn.

I’ve been going through Learn Python the Hard Way, which is offered for free online, or you can pay for it if you so choose. I’ve published my thoughts on lessons 1-10 and 11-20 so far. As a mechanical engineer with limited (but not totally nonexistent) programming skills, it’s been an excellent experience so far.

If you’re wondering if Python is a good language to learn if you’d like to participate in [HAD] style projects, why not check out the following projects featured here:

Or just do a search of [HAD], and you’ll find many other projects for inspiration. If you’ve got a Python project to share, be sure to tell us about it in the comments!

Wireless stereo add-on turns on receiver and pipes in some music

[PC486] wanted to add Bluetooth to a simple shelf stereo system. But if you’re going to go wireless, why not develop an all-in-one solution. His adapter turns on the stereo and feeds it audio all from a smart phone.

This is his roommate’s hardware so cracking it open and grabbing an iron wasn’t really an option. He needed a way to control the system without any permanent alterations. Since the unit has IR remote control capabilities that’s the most obvious way to go. But the original remote is long gone so he had to hit the Internet. Luckily the remote control codes are in the LIRC repository. He grabbed a small microcontroller, an ATtiny25, and wired up an IR led to send commands to the unit.

Next he examined the Bluetooth audio receiver board he planned to used in the project. It’s got an LED that lights up when connected to another Bluetooth device. The microcontroller knows when to turn the stereo on and when to shut it off again by monitoring that LED with a pin interrupt. Check out the final results in the clip after the break.

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