Hackaday Prize Entry: Arduino MPPT Controller

Imagine you’re building a small solar installation. The naive solution would be grabbing a solar panel from Horror Freight, getting a car battery and AC inverter, and hoping everything works. This is the dumb solution. To get the most out of a solar you need to match the voltage of the solar cell to the voltage of the battery. How do you do that? With [Debasish]’s entry for The Hackaday Prize, an Arduino MPPT Solar Charge Controller.

This Maximum Power Point Tracker uses a buck converter to step down the voltage from the solar cell to the voltage of the battery. It’s extremely efficient and every proper solar installation will need a charge controller that does something similar.

For his MPPT, [Debasish] is using an Arduino Nano for all the math, a DC to DC buck converter, and a few MOSFETs. Extremely simple, but [Debasish] is connecting the entire controller to the Internet with an ESP8266 module. It’s a great example of building something for much less than it would cost to buy the same thing, and a great example for something that has a chance at making the world a little better.


The 2015 Hackaday Prize is sponsored by:

NES Controller Made Out Of Fused Craft Beads

Close your eyes and think back, far back when you were a wee kid. Remember those colored beads that a child would populate on a small plastic peg board, arranged in some sort of artsy pattern, then ironed to fuse the beads together into a crafty trinket? They were fun for kids but what good are they to us adults nowadays? Well, [Lalya] has shown that they can be used to make a unique and interesting NES Controller.

First, the controller’s front panel was laid out on the pegboard, remembering to lay it out in reverse so the melted side of the beads was facing into the controller. Holes were left in the top panel for the D-pad and B/A buttons. The sides, back and bottom panels of the controller were made the same way. Hot glue holds the case panels together.

Craft Bead NES Controller

Inside the case is an Arduino and breadboard with three through-hole momentary buttons. These are wired up to the Arduino inputs and a sketch emulates keystrokes when connected to a computer. Unfortunately, the D-pad’s functionality is just a button right now. [Lalya] uses the project to control iTunes.  Maybe the next revision will be more video game friendly.

Having your own NES controller recreation might not be high on your list. But you have to admit that this s a pretty simple and inexpensive way to make custom enclosures.

3D Scanning Rig And DIY Turntable

It seems almost every day 3D scanning is becoming more and more accessible to the general DIYer. The hardware required is minimal and there are several scanning softwares and workflows to choose from. However, if you have slowly walked around a subject while holding a Kinect and trying to get a good scan, you know this is not an easy task. A quick internet search will result in several DIY scanning setup solutions that have been cobbled together and lack substantial documentation…. until now! [aldricnegrier] is fighting back and has designed and documented a rotary table that will spin at a constant speed while a subject is 3D scanned, making person scanning just that much easier.

The project starts off with a plywood base with a Lazy Susan bearing assembly attached to the top. The Lazy Susan supports the rotating platform for the subject person to stand on, but it’s not just a platform, it’s also a huge gear! The platform teeth mesh with a much smaller 3D printed gear mounted on the shaft of a DC motor and reduction gearbox assembly.

Another goal of the project was to make the rotary table autonomous. There is an ultrasonic sensor mounted to the base aimed above the rotating platform. The ultrasonic sensor is connected to an Arduino and if the system senses someone or something on the platform for 3 seconds, the Arduino will command a DC motor driver to start spinning the platform.

As cool as this project is so far, [aldricnegrier] wanted to make it even cooler: he added speech recognition. Using Microsoft’s Speech Toolkit, saying the words ‘Start Skanect‘ will start the scanning process on the PC. Now, a sole person can scan themselves easily and reliably.

[aldricnegrier] has made all of his CAD files, STL files and Arduino code available so anyone wanting to build this clearly capable setup can do so!

Pictures that Defeat Key Locks

We’re at LayerOne this weekend and one of the talks we were excited about didn’t disappoint. [Jos Weyers] presented Showing Keys in Public — What Could Possibly Go Wrong? The premise is that pictures of keys, in most cases, are as good as the keys themselves. And that pictures of keys keep getting published.

[Jos] spoke a bit about new services that offer things like 3D scanning and storage of your key for printing when you get locked out, or apps that ask you to take a picture of your key and they’ll mail you a duplicate. Obviously this isn’t the best of ideas; you’re giving away your passwords. And finding a locksmith is easier than findind a 3D printer. But it’s the media gaffs with important keys that intrigues us.

We’ve already seen the proof of concept for taking covert images to perfectly duplicate a key. But these examples are not so covert. One example is a police officer carrying around handcuff keys on a belt clip. Pose for a picture and that key design is now available to all. But news stories about compromised keys are the biggest offenders.

subway-keysA master key for the NYC Subway was compromised and available for sale. The news coverage not only shows a picture at the top of the story of a man holding up the key straight on, but this image of it on a subway map which can be used to determine scale. This key, which is still published openly on the news story linked above, opens 468 doors to the subway system and these are more than just the ones that get you onto the platform for free. We were unable to determine if these locks have been changed, but the sheer number of them has us thinking that it’s unlikely.

firemans-keysWorse, was the availability of fire-department master keys which open lock boxes outside of every building. (Correction: these are fire department keys but not the actual lock-box keys) A locksmith used to cut the original keys went out of business and sold off all their stock. These keys were being sold for $150, which is bad enough. But the news coverage showed each key on a white background, straight on, with annotations of where each type of key will work.

Other examples include video news stories about credit card skimmers installed in gas pumps — that coverage showed the key used to open the pump housing. There was also an example of speed camera control cabinet keys being shown by a reporter.

key-photo-duplication-layerone[Jos’] example of doing the right thing is to use a “prop” key for news stories. Here he is posing with a key after the talk. Unfortunately this is my own house key, but I’m the one taking pictures and I have blurred the teeth for my own security. However, I was shocked during image editing at the quality of the outline in the image — taken at 6000×4000 with no intent to make something that would serve as a source for a copy. It still came out remarkably clear.

Some locks are stronger than others, but they’re all meaningless if we’re giving away the keys.

Hacklet 48 – Weather Sensing Projects

Throughout history, mankind has been at the mercy of the weather. Planning a major outdoor event like a wedding or a naval battle? Better hope for clear skies! Man doesn’t have the ability to change mother nature at will quite yet, but hackers are working on it! Until then, we can measure  the current conditions and predict the weather in the near future. A bit of help from cloud based computer models and global sensing even allows us to model and predict weather patterns days in advance. It’s no surprise that makers, engineers, and hackers love weather projects. We’ve found there are two basic project groups (with a some overlap between them): Sensing projects and display projects. This week’s hacklet focuses on some of the best weather sensing projects on Hackaday.io!

aneWe start with [diysciborg] and Modular Weather Station. This 2014 Hackaday Prize entrant is a DIY outdoor weather station. [diysciborg] went with easily available PVC pipe and sheet metal for most of his mechanical build. His anemometer alone is a work of art. Mounting 8 magnetic reed switches in slots cut in a PCB allows for a thin device which can easily sense the speed of the wind. Other sensors include a TLS230R light to frequency converter for sunlight measurement, CO, wind direction, and more. An Arduino Pro Mini is at the center of it all.

facil[Clovis Fritzen] is saving the planet from global warming with his project FacilTempo. FacilTempo is a weather station, and an entry in the 2015 Hackaday Prize. The idea is to make a simple and low-cost setup which can be built in bulk and placed anywhere on the Earth. [Clovis] plans to measure temperature, humidity, atmospheric pressure, sunlight, and rain. He also hopes to add a Sparkfun sensor to monitor wind speed and direction. All the data will be transmitted via a radio link. [Clovis] is adding the ability for FacilTemp to communicate via 433 MHz, WiFi, or Bluetooth. The entire sensor suite and its on-board ATmega328 will be powered by a LiPo battery. The battery will be charged by solar or wind power, depending upon what is available on site. With 8 project logs already in the can, FacilTempo is well on its way to beating back global warming!

lcw[Ulf Winberg] is building the Low Cost Weather Station, his entry in the 2015 Hackaday Prize. Low Cost Weather Station aims to be a $50 sensor suite for local weather conditions. [Ulf] plans to power the entire device using wind and solar energy. He’s hoping to avoid batteries by storing his power in a supercapacitor. Power calculations have been taking up quite a bit of his design time so far. The $50 bill of materials limit is one that [Ulf] is serious about. He’s keeping careful eye on his component selections to keep that goal attainable. The system will transmit wind speed, wind direction, sun, and other data through a Laird BL600 Bluetooth low energy transceiver.

zetaFinally we have [Greg Miller] taking it back to basics with Weather Station Zeta. Zeta is [Greg’s] first big project. He’s only just recently learned to solder, but he’s already squeezing a lot of performance out of a little Arduino. The idea is to create a two station system. The outdoor station will monitor the weather, including temperature, humidity, and barometric pressure. Data will be transmitted to an indoor station with a similar set of sensors. The indoor station will also include a 20 line x 4 column character LCD to display the data.  [Greg] has the indoor section of the system just about done, and he’s working on learning the ins and outs of XBee data radios. He’s also going to include an Adafriut CC3000 breakout board to Web enable the weather station. We love seeing ambitious early projects like this one!

If you want to see more projects like these, check the Weather Sensing Projects list on Hackaday.io. 

That’s it for this week’s Hacklet, As always, see you next week. Same hack time, same hack channel, bringing you the best of Hackaday.io!

Finally, VR For Four Eyes

In the next few years, VR headsets will be everywhere, and everyone will slowly recede into their own little reality that is presented on high-resolution displays right in front of their eyes. One specific group will be left out: eyeglass wearers. VR just doesn’t work with eyeglasses, and a few people in Germany are fixing this problem. They’re creating custom prescription lenses for Google Cardboard, giving anyone with glasses the opportunity to look just a little more hipster.

The folks behind this Indiegogo already run a specialty optics shop in Germany. They have the tools to make custom lenses for spectacles, and they’re the first company so far that has identified a problem with the current crop of VR headsets and has created a solution. The campaign is for a set of lenses that can be attached to Google Cardboard with double stick tape. There are limitations on how strong of a prescription they can make, but it should work for most four eyes.

It should be noted this Indiegogo isn’t the only way to get custom lenses for a VR headset. If you have your prescription, there are a few places to buy glasses online for $30 or so. Do that, remove the lenses from the frame, and affix them to Cardboard.

From Broken Drill Bit To Knife: Backyard Forging Basics

One of our tipsters sent in a great video showing how to make knives out of old broken drill bits. It comes from [The Art of Weapons] YouTube channel which is run by a 15 year old from the UK. He’s applying old techniques to modern technology and it’s awesome to see someone young with these skills.

The beauty of this hack is aside from the tools you’ll need, it’s practically free to do. Worn out drill bit or other steel tool? No problem – heat it up and make something new. At the heart of this build is making your own forge. There’s lot of options, from using firebricks, to making a soup can forge like he did. From there, it’s really just a matter of annealing the steel (heating it up to red hot, and letting it cool down slowly in sand), and then heating it up again and forming it with a hammer and anvil.

But he doesn’t stop there: he also shows us his method of making handles for knives out of hardwood — its a pretty cool process and the finished knives are beautiful. The video below is a bit long, but well worth the watch if you’re interested in trying your own hand at forging.

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