Before Arduino There was Basic Stamp: A Classic Teardown

Microcontrollers existed before the Arduino, and a device that anyone could program and blink an LED existed before the first Maker Faire. This might come as a surprise to some, but for others PICs and 68HC11s will remain as the first popular microcontrollers, found in everything from toys to microwave ovens.

Arduino can’t even claim its prominence as the first user-friendly microcontroller development board. This title goes to the humble Basic Stamp, a four-component board that was introduced in the early 1990s. I recently managed to get my hands on an original Basic Stamp kit. This is the teardown and introduction to the first user friendly microcontroller development boards. Consider it a walk down memory lane, showing us how far the hobbyist electronics market has come in the past twenty year, and also an insight in how far we have left to go.

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Beautiful Arduino Fireworks Controller

A lot of designers have the luxury of creating things that aren’t supposed to explode. That’s usually easy. The trick is designing things that are supposed to explode and then making absolutely sure they explode at the right time (and only the right time). [JonBush] recently did a beautiful build of an Arduino-based fireworks controller. Seriously, it looks like a movie prop from a summer blockbuster where [Bruce Willis] is trying to decide what wire to cut.

[Jon] used a mega 2560 because he wanted to do the I/O directly from the device. His code only takes about 8K of the total program storage, so with some I/O expansion (like shift registers) a smaller chip would do the job. The device can control up to 8 sets of fireworks, uses a physical arm key, and has a handheld remote. It is even smart enough to sense igniter failures.

The front panel is a work of art and includes a seven-segment display made from Neopixel LEDs. The whole thing is in a waterproof case and uses optical isolation in several key areas.

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Cozy Heat Control with an Arduino

[George Dewar] and his wife live in a typical 1940’s house in New Zealand , which in case you didn’t know, have a little insulation in the ceiling… and nowhere else. Like most, they put up with the cold — but after having a baby, [George] decided it was time to start controlling the heat a bit better.

They have an electric oil radiator which works well, but isn’t very smart. It only has 6 settings — not very useful when you’re trying to stay at a certain temperature. First off, they looked into a plug-in thermostat controller, and found a cheap one called the HeaterMate. Unfortunately it left a lot to be desired. For example, it didn’t seem to have PID control at all — and for an oil radiator, when you turn it off… it’s still going to heat the room for a while. He also found that because of the high current load of a heater … the device would read a few degrees over room temperature when operating. Unperturbed, [George] took this opportunity to design and build his own PID thermostat controller instead.  Continue reading “Cozy Heat Control with an Arduino”

Arduino Radar Watches You Breathe

We’ve all likely watched an episode of “Star Trek” and admired the level of integration on the sick bay diagnostic bed. With its suite of wireless sensors and flat panel display, even the 1960s imagining of the future blows away the decidedly wired experience of a modern day ICU stay. But we may be getting closer to [Dr. McCoy]’s experience with this radar-based respiration detector.

[Øyvind]’s build, which takes the origin of the term “breadboard” to heart, is based on a not-inexpensive Xethru module, which appears to be purpose-built for detecting respiration. The extra-thick PC board seems to house the waveguides internally, which is a neat trick but might limit how the module can be deployed. The module requires both a USB interface and level shifter to interface the 2.8V levels of the module to the 5V Arduino Uno. In the video below, [Øyvind]’s prototype simply lights an RGB LED in response to the chest movement it detects, but there’s plenty of potential for development here. We’ve seen a laser-based baby breathing monitor before; perhaps this systems could be used to the same end without the risk of blinding your tyke. Or perhaps better diagnostics for sleep apnea patients than an intrusive night in a sleep study lab.

Clocking in at $750USD for the sensor board and USB interface, this build is not exactly for the faint of heart or the light of wallet. But as an off-the-shelf solution to a specific need that also has a fair bit of hacking potential, it may be just the thing for someone. Of course if radar is your thing, you might rather go big and build something that can see through walls.

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Arduino Powered Rubber Band Sentry Turret Is Not a Lie

You know that guy in the next cube is sneaking in when you are away and swiping packs of astronaut ice cream out of your desk. Thanks to [Kevin Thomas], if you have an Arduino and a 3D printer, you can build a rubber band sentry gun to protect your geeky comestibles. You’ll also need some metric hardware, an Arduino Uno, and a handful of servo motors.

The video shows [Kevin] manually aiming the gun, but the software can operate the gun autonomously, if you add some sensors to the hardware.  The build details are a bit sparse, but there is a bill of material and that, combined with the 3D printing files and the videos, should allow you to figure it out.

We couldn’t help but wish for a first person view (FPV) camera and control via a cell phone, so you could snipe at those ice cream thieves while hiding in the broom closet. On the other hand, if you got the gun working, adding the remote wouldn’t be hard at all. You probably have a WiFi FPV camera on your quadcopter that finally came out of that tree and there’s lots of ways to do the controls via Bluetooth or WiFi.

Not that you don’t have options. But here at Hackaday HQ, we have lots of rubber bands and not so many green pigs. If you’d rather shoot paintballs, be careful you don’t accidentally repaint the insides of your cube.

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Irrighino, an Arduino Yun Based Watering System

There are many different ways to keep your plants watered on a schedule. [Luca Dentella] just created a new one by building the irrighino watering system. He used standard off the shelf, hardware to keep it simple. Irrighino is a complete watering system based on the Arduino Yun, featuring a user friendly AJAX interface. This allows scheduling in a manner similar to creating appointments in Outlook. It’s also possible to manually control the various water solenoids. The code is fully customizable and open source, with code available from [Luca’s] github repository. The web interface is divided in to three tabs – “runtime” for manual control, “setup” to configure the scheduling, and “events” to view system logs.

The Arduino Yun activates solenoid valves via a relay shield. A switch panel has indicator Status LED’s and three position switches. These allow the outputs to be switched off or on manually, or controlled via the Yun when in auto mode. [Luca] describes how to read three states of the switch (On-Off-On) when connected to a single analog input of the Arduino. He’s also got another tutorial describing how to connect a USB WiFi adapter to the Yun. This is handy since the Yun is mounted inside an enclosure where the signal strength is very weak. While the Yun has on-board WiFi, there is no possibility to attach an external antenna directly to the test SMA socket.

One interesting part is the commercial rain sensor. It’s a switch surrounded by a spongy material. When this material absorbs rain water, it begins to expand and triggers the switch. The Arduino sees the sensor as a simple digital input.

Check a short demo of his system in the video after the break.

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Arduino Based Remote Shutter For Beme

The well-dressed hacker [Sean Hodgins] has put together a neat little project: a battery powered remote shutter. He built it for use with Beme, the latest Snapchat clone that all of the cool kids are now using.

This service is designed to get away from the selfie culture by starting to record when you hold your phone against your chest, so you are looking at the thing being recorded, not your phone. [Sean] wanted a bit more control than that, so he built a remote control that starts the recording by moving the servo arm over the proximity sensor.

He built this neat little device from an Arduino Pro Mini, a battery, a small servo, a couple of power control boards and a cheap RF link from SeedStudio, all glued onto an iPhone case. It’s a bit rough around the edges (the servo makes some noise that is picked up on the recording, for one thing), but it is a great example of how to lash together a quick prototype to test a project out.

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