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!

Robot K-9 Scares Off the Daleks

[Bithead942’s] love of the ever popular Dr Who series led her to develop a replica of the 4th Doctor’s robotic companion. It’s name is K-9, and was built from scratch in only 4 months. Its shell is made from HPDE – a light and bendable plastic. A custom plastic bender was constructed to get the angles just right, and custom laser cut parts were used in various places.

Its frame consists of aluminum channel, and is packed full of juicy electronics. An arduino with an XBee shield controls the remote voice, frickin’ laser and eye sensors. Another arduino is paired with a motor shield to control the linear actuator for the neck movement. And a Raspberry Pi keeps the LCD screen in order.

We’re not done, folks. Because this puppy is radio controlled, a custom controller is needed. Sparkfun’s Fio paired with another XBee is used along with a 16×2 LCD and various other electronics to keep the robot on an invisible leash.

Be sure to check out the blog site, as it goes into great detail on all the various parts used to construct this complicated but awesome project.

A Motor, an Arduino and a Whole Bunch of Laser Cutting

[Guido] was recently commissioned to build a kinetic sculpture for a client who wanted something unique. What he came up with is really awesome.

It’s called ORBIS: The Wooden Kinetic & Lighting Sculpture. It mounts to the wall and provides a focal point for the room – a bright flashy spinning one at that! Does it just stay there and do random things? Nope, of course not! [Guido] built it with a unique control box, two Arduino 2560’s and an Xbee to communicate between them.

Orbit Kinetic Sculpture

He was told to design it using old and new technologies so he’s got a rotary phone dial on the side of the box which allows the user to change through the different modes.

Switches on top also let you change the color of the sculpture and the speed at which it moves around. Since it’s wireless it can be easily set on the coffee table and become an instant conversation starter.

See it in action after the break.

Continue reading “A Motor, an Arduino and a Whole Bunch of Laser Cutting”

Wireless Water Level Sensor from PVC Pipe

[Bob] was having trouble keeping up with his water troughs. He had to constantly check them to make sure they weren’t empty, and he always found that the water level was lower than he thought. He decided it was time to build his own solution to this problem. What he ended up with was a water level sensor made from PVC pipe and a few other components.

The physical assembly is pretty simple. The whole structure is made from 1/2″ PVC pipe and fittings and is broken into four nearly identical sensor modules. The sensors have an electrode on either side. The electrodes are made from PVC end caps, sanded down flat at the tip. A hole is then drilled through the cap to accommodate a small machine screw. The screw threads are coated in joint compound before the screw is driven into the hole, creating its own threads. These caps are placed onto small sections of PVC pipe, which in turn connect to a four-way PVC cross connector. 

On the inside of the electrode cap, two washers are placed onto the screw. A stranded wire is placed between the washers and then clamped in place with a nut. All of the modules are connected together with a few inches of pipe. [Bob] measured this out so it would fit appropriately into his trough, but the measurements can easily be altered to fit just about any size container. The wires all route up through the pipe. The PVC pipe is cemented together to keep the water out. The joint compound prevents any leaks at the electrodes.

A piece of CAT 5 cable connects the electrodes to the electronics inside of the waterproof controller box. The electronics are simple. It’s just a simple piece of perfboard with an XBee and a few transistors. The XBee can detect the water level by testing for a closed circuit between the two electrodes of any sensor module. The water acts as a sort of switch that closes the circuit. When the water gets too low, the circuit opens and [Bob] knows that the water level has lowered. The XBee is connected to a directional 2.4GHz antenna to ensure the signal reaches the laptop several acres away. Continue reading “Wireless Water Level Sensor from PVC Pipe”

Castellated Breakout is Pitchin’ Brilliant!

Radio, WiFi and similar modules are getting smaller by the day. Trouble is, they end up having non-DIY-friendly, odd pitch, mounting pads. Sometimes, though, simple hacks come around to help save the day.

[Hemal] over at Black Electronics came up with a hack to convert odd-pitch modules to standard 2.54mm / 0.1″. The process looks simple once you see the detailed pictures on his blog. He’s using the technique to add 2mm pitch modules like the ESP8266 and XBee by soldering them to standard perf board. Once they are hooked to the board, just add a row of male header pins, trim the perf board and you’re done. Couldn’t get simpler.

Another technique that we’ve seen is to solder straight across the legs and cut the wire afterward. That technique is also for protoyping board, but custom-sized breakout boards are one good reason to still keep those etchants hanging around. If you have other techniques or hacks for doing this, let us know in the comments.

Water Tank Monitoring System Is Now Slug-Proof

[Peter] is doing his part toward protecting the environment and conserving water. He’s built a rainwater collection system complete with an underground storage tank. Since he wanted to monitor the water level in the tank, he made a level indicating system. Everything was going well until one day out of nowhere it stopped working, only returning 0’s as the level. [Peter] took a look and found that I slug had made its way into the electronics enclosure and slimed up the traces on the PCB, causing short circuits.To fix the problem [Peter] decided to redesigned the system. This time it would be built into an all-weather electrical box. The system uses a standard hobby ultrasonic range finder to measure the distance from the top of the tank to the level of the water. Two holes cut into the electrical box allow the sender/receiver components to peek outside of the enclosure. Any gaps were then filled with sealant. [Peter] also added a thermistor to measure the temperature inside the tank.The sensor values are read by an Arduino and sent wirelessly to [Peter]’s computer via a pair of XBee’s and a second Arduino with an ethernet shield. The data are sent in 3 minute intervals and automatically stored in a MySQL database for quick reference of level and temperature trends. Now [Peter] can monitor his rain water remotely and adjust his usage habits accordingly. Want to read more about water tanks? Check out this overflow monitor system.

Serial Surgery Saves Wacom Tablet from Landfill

Years ago, [Greg] got a Wacom Artpad II graphics tablet through Freecycle. What’s the catch, you ask? The stylus was long gone. When he found out how expensive a direct replacement would be, the tablet was laid to rest in his spare parts box. Fast forward a few years to the era of the phone-tablet hybrid and [Greg]’s subsequent realization that some of them use Wacom stylii. Eight bucks later, he’s in business, except that the tablet is serial. Wacom no longer supports serial tablets, so he had to convert it to USB.

With the help of the WaxBee project and a Teensy 2.0, he would be able to emulate an Intuous2 tablet by sniffing and re-encoding the packets.  Things got a little hairy when he went under the hood to remove the ADM202 TTL-to-RS232 chip with a Dremel—he accidentally gouged some of the pads it sat on as well as a few of the traces. Feeling frustrated, [Greg] took some high-res pictures of the board and posted them to a message board. As it turns out, those pictures helped him recreate the traces and get the tablet running. A little big of glue and tape later, he was in business. [Greg] even gave himself access to reprogram the Teensy.