6 foot tall fire breathing piranha plant from Super Mario Brothers


I always thought it would be cool to build a giant fire breathing piranha plant. I never really came up with an excuse to do it though. Eventually, I just decided I didn’t really need an excuse, and thus it was born.

The plant itself is pretty much just foam and cardboard. You can see the construction process in the video, it was really easy, but a little time consuming. I wanted to go with a bit of a crazy, hyper stylized look, so it is covered in veins and has these insane looking wrinkly lips.  The plant itself would be a fun thing just to have around the house. Actually, I may turn it into a lamp.

The fire systems were very much trial and error.

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Voice controlled chess robot


[Ben Yeh] wrote in to tell us about this voice-controlled chess robot he built along with three others as a final project for their Georgia Tech ECE 4180 Embedded Systems Design class.

To handle the speech recognition they grabbed an EasyVR board. This is a fine solution because it prevents the need for a computer to process voice commands (remember, it’s an embedded systems class). This concept breaks down when you find out that the desktop computer next to the robot is where the chess game is running. Perhaps that can be moved to a microcontroller by the next set of 4180 students.

The robot arm portion of the project is shown off well in the clip after the break. Normally we’d expect to see stepper motors driving the axes of a CNC machine but in this case they’re using servo motors with built-in encoders. The encoders are i2c devices which feed info back to the main controller. There was a parts ordering snafu and the z axis motor doesn’t have an encoder. No problem, they just added a distance sensor and a reflector to measure the up and down movement of the claw.

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Everything you need to know to make a Laser engraver from scrap


Check out the Einstein head which [Sebastian Müller] etched on the cover of his calculator using a laser engraver he made from scratch. We think he did a great job with the build, but we’re even more impressed with the work he put into sharing the techniques he used to salvage and repurpose all the components. It’s a perfect resource that should be pretty easy to adapt to different model/manufacturer source hardware.

He used an old scanner and an old printer for the bulk of the parts. These both originally included stepper-motor actuated gantries, which pull together to form the x and y axes in his Frankenstein Laser Engraver. As the parts came together he started in on the control electronics which include a couple of EasyDriver stepper motor boards and an Arduino.

At this point he took the machine for a test-run, attaching a marker to the carriage to use it as a pen plotter. After putting in a solid performance at this [Sebastian] moved on to adding in the laser diode. He covers how to drive the diode, as well as focal point alignment in great detail. It seems like his webpage post has the same content as the Instructable linked above but we wanted to leave the link just in case.

Raspberry Pi housed inside a computer monitor


Behold, something we’ve always wanted. [Matthieu] mounted his Raspberry Pi board inside of a computer monitor. His work makes for the cheapest smart-TV modification we can possibly think of.

The image above shows the monitor’s driver board on the left, with the Raspberry Pi mounted on the back plastic cover. [Matthieu] used a short HDMI cable to connect the two. The HDMI connector plugs into the RPi directly. The other end has been cut off and the wires soldered to the DVI pins on the monitor’s PCB. This is not a problem since HDMI and DVI use electrically identical protocols. The one thing missing is audio. But if you were pulling off the same hack with a device that had HDMI (like a television) it would just be a matter of also soldering in the audio connections. While he had his iron hot he also connected a 5V source from the monitor board to the RPi. He completes his hack by cutting a slot in the monitor case to allow access to the SD card.

We’ve long wanted an XBMC computer we could velcro to the back of the TV and the RPi turned out to be just the thing. Now we’ve got to consider cracking open the TV to replicate this internalization hack!