LED mortar board battles suns brightness with 21W of power


[Jeremy Blum] aimed to be the brightest student at his Master’s graduation ceremony this spring. He designed an LED rig for his mortar board which should battle the sun’s intensity by using up to 21 watts of power. But he didn’t stop with eye-catching intensity. while he was at it he also included some interactive features so the guy behind him has a way to keep from going blind.

One thing that really caught our eye is the 3D printed parts he generated for the project. There’s a nice mounting plate for the LED side of things, and a wrist-mounted enclosure for the Raspberry Pi board. Wait, why does he need an RPi to drive some LEDs? We already mention interactivity which is facilitated by the Pi acting as a WiFi hotspot. Connect to the access point and choose a color. If you’re in the seat behind [Jeremy] you’ll want to choose black! All of this and is explained in his video presentation.

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Already impressive Wolverine claws now energized with high voltage


A few years back [James] built an utterly amazing set of Wolverine replica claws. They are held together by a bar that laces between his fingers so that when he’s gripping it you don’t see anything but the claws. Add to that the tail design which makes it look like they’re actually coming out of his skin and he’s made an amazing replica. But they’re also rather utilitarian as you can see in the demo/how-it-was-done video where he spears hay bails as they’re thrown at him from off camera. Machine shop fans are going to love learning how these were made.

More recently he decided to update the project after seeing our own Thor’s Hammer offering. He got down to business by salvaging a huge transformer from an old oil furnace. He has no idea what kind of voltage this thing puts out, but that doesn’t stop him from wiring it up to the pair of claws and letting the sparks fly. He even creates a Jacob’s Ladder effect by placing the claws at a narrow angle to each other.

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High speed photography with friggin’ lasers


[Bruce] built his own high-speed photography equipment for a fraction of the price it would have cost him to purchase it. He was inspired by a friend who showed him some example images. He headed into his shop and built an Arduino-based high-speed flash controller.

To capture an image like this one the camera is placed in a dark room and set for a long exposure. At just the right instant the flash is activating, capturing the image. In this case [Bruce] used an infrared laser diode pointed at a phototransistor to trigger the flash. When the droplet breaks the laser beam the Arduino triggers the flash after a calculated delay. It’s not specifically covered in his guide, but [Bruce] also mentions that this can be modified to use sound as a trigger. Here’s another sound-activated flash controller if you need inspiration.

The image at the top was made by dropping dye from a pipette into a pool of water. If you don’t have a pipette on hand you can head over to our LIFE blog to make one out of heat shrink tubing.

[Jeri] spills the beans on her AR glasses


In the last year, [Jeri Ellsworth] has been very busy. She was hired by Valve, started development of an augmented reality system, fired by Valve, and started a new company with [Rick Johnson] to bring her augmented reality glasses to the market. On the last Amp Hour podcast she spilled the beans on what went down at Valve, how her glasses work, and what her plans for the future are.

[Jeri] and [Rick]‘s castAR glasses aren’t virtual reality glasses like the Oculus Rift or other virtual reality glasses that cut you off from the real world. The castAR glasses preserve your peripheral vision by projecting images and objects onto a gray retro-reflective mat and allows you to interact with a virtual environment with an electronic wand. So far, there are a few demos for the castAR system; a Jenga clone, and a game of battle chess called Team For Chess, a wonderful reference to Valve’s hat simulator.

The electronics inside the castAR glasses are fairly impressive; new frames are drawn on the retro-reflective surface at 100 Hz, positioning accuracy is in the sub-millimeter range, and thanks to [Jeri]‘s clever engineering the entire system should be priced at about $200. Not too bad for an awesome device that can be used not only for D&D and Warhammer, but also for some very cool practical applications like visualizing engineering models of 3D prints before they’re printed.

18-year-old builds functioning submarine


[Justin Beckerman] built a functioning one-man submarine. The thing is, this isn’t the first one that he’s built. Looking through the projects on his website we find almost no information about this build, but he does show off one previous model, as well as a couple of unmanned underwater rover projects.

The pressure hull of the sub is made from corrugated drainage pipe. This isn’t a bad idea as the tube is engineered to be buried in the ground and carry the load of earth on top of it. It’s designed to go down just 30 feet, which explains the lack of half-dome caps on either end; the pressure just isn’t that great at that depth. The buoy floating to his left is his tether to the surface. Fresh air is pumped from here into the sub. He’s also included safety features like a 20-minute air tank in case he gets into a bind, and a quick opening top hatch. That hatch is a hemisphere of clear acrylic which lets him view what’s around him.

You’ll learn more from the two video clips he posted. The Fox 5 news interview includes a shot of one of the messiest work benches we’ve seen. A messy bench is the sign of constant project construction, right?

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Raspberry Pi helps with 2.4GHz home automation


Wanting to extend the capabilities of the radio frequency devices in his home [Kalle Löfgren] turned a Raspberry Pi into an RF control hub. We’ve seen some of his home automation work in the past. In his media room he built a universal remote base station which used the same RF board as in this project. The main difference is that before he went with an AVR microcontroller and this time he’s upgrade to a Raspberry Pi board.

The RPi brings a lot more to the table. Notably, the scripting (whose output is shown above) and networking features. His radio board is an nRF24L01 which he talks to via the SPI protocol. The Raspberry Pi has no problem talking to SPI devices through its GPIO header. [Kalle] just needed to do a bit of setup to configure the pin modes.

A Python script lets him sent commands using his keyboard, but this can also be automated. Combine that with the TCP server script he wrote and it opens up the a wide range of configurations to switch or talk to any device operating on the 2.4 GHz band.

Giving the Nexus 4 a serial port


Having a serial port on any Linux box is always useful, but with the tiny computers we’re carrying around in our pockets now, that isn’t always an option. Some of the more advanced phones out there break out a UART on their USB OTG port, but the designers of the Nexus 4 decided to do things differently. They chose to put the Nexus 4′s serial port on the mic and headphone input, and [Ryan] and [Josh] figured out how to access this port.

Basically, the Nexus 4 has a tiny bit of circuitry attached to the microphone input. If the Nexus detects more than 2.8 Volts on the mic, it switches over to a hardware UART, allowing everything from an Arduino to an old dumb terminal to access the port.

The guys used a USB to serial FTDI board wired up to a 3.5 mm jack with a few resistors to enable the hardware UART on their phone. With a small enclosure, they had a reasonably inexpensive way to enable a hardware serial port on a mobile device with GPS, cellular, a camera, and a whole bunch of other sensors that any portable project would love.

EDIT: An anonymous little bird told us this: “You should add a note to the Nexus 4 serial cable post that TX and RX need to be 1.8V.  If you use 3.3V USB cables, you will likely eventually fry something.  FTDI makes 1.8V IO cables that work – you just need to make the trigger voltage for the mic line.” Take that for what you will.