A Modern Woodworking Workbench

This is a post about workbenches, but not the benches you’re probably thinking about. Workbenches meant for electronics development are simple matters – just about any flat surface, a few shelves for equipment, and an anti-static mat will be fine for every conceivable use.  Workbenches for woodworking are a separate matter entirely. There’s actually quite a bit of history behind the development of the woodworking workbench, but the basic idea is a thick laminated wood top, integrated vices, holes in the work surface for bench dogs, and ergonomics that allow for comfortable use of hand tools. The basic design of these benches hasn’t changed much in several hundred years, and [Dirk] thought the design was ready for a modern update.

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Hello Kitty Night Light Gets Flashy Upgrades

See something in the world that sucks? As a person with hacker prowess, you view this sucky thing as a challenge to come up with an improvement and in some cases, an improvement that extends beyond what’s truly necessary but is just plain cool. This is what maker and father [Dan McDougall] did with his daughter’s light projecting Hello Kitty pillow.

kittypillow2As a thing whose one purpose was to shine bright starry patterns on a child’s wall at night, the pillow failed miserably. [Dan] Wondered why his daughter’s toy couldn’t live up to reasonable expectations all while sucking batteries dry, so he opened the large pink plastic casing in the center of the pillow to find a rather minimal board driving three very dim LEDs. The LEDs that faded on and off to create mixtures of different colors weren’t even red, green and blue either. The makers of the toy used yellow instead of the slightly more expensive blue color. Having none of this, [Dan] replaced these sad innards with an Arduino Pro Mini which he programmed to drive an old salvaged speaker and three bright RGB LEDs borrowed from the end of a light strip. For the unnecessary but cool part, he used the additional pins of the Arduino micro-controller to add four touch sensitive buttons on the outside of the pink casing. These small capacitive tiles made from copper tape activate sound and change the color of the LEDs when touched, making the pillow a lot more reactive than it was before.

The Arduino Mini board and the added components fit nicely inside the original pink casing of the pillow when all was soldered up and finished. With threefold ultra bright LEDs and a super strobe mode, his daughter’s Hello Kitty pillow is more of a disco ball than a night light now… but we doubt she will complain about the cool additions. To see the pillow in action and hear more about the upgrades you can check out [Dan's] video below:

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Programmable Lithium Charger Shield for Arduino

Surely you need yet another way to charge your lithium batteries—perhaps you can sate your desperation with this programmable multi (or single) cell lithium charger shield for the Arduino?! Okay, so you’re not hurting for another method of juicing up your batteries. If you’re a regular around these parts of the interwebs, you’ll recall the lithium charging guide and that rather incredible, near-encyclopedic rundown of both batteries and chargers, which likely kept your charging needs under control.

That said, this shield by Electro-Labs might be the perfect transition for the die-hard-’duino fanatic looking to migrate to tougher projects. The build features an LCD and four-button interface to fiddle with settings, and is based around an LT1510 constant current/constant voltage charger IC. You can find the schematic, bill of materials, code, and PCB design on the Electro-Labs webpage, as well as a brief rundown explaining how the circuit works. Still want to add on the design? Throw in one of these Li-ion holders for quick battery swapping action.

[via Embedded Lab]

Powering Your F-16 With An Arduino

What do you do when you have an F-16 sitting around, and want to have some blinking navigation lights? We know of exactly one way to blink a light, and apparently so does [Dr. Craig Hollabaugh]. When asked to help restore an F-16 for the National Museum of Nuclear Science and History in New Mexico, [Craig] pulled out the only tool that should ever be used to blink navigation lights on an air superiority fighter.

[Craig]‘s friend was working on getting an F-16 restored for the Nuclear Museum, and like anyone with sufficient curiosity, asked how hard it would be to get the navigation lights working again. [Craig] figured an Arduino would do the trick, and with the addition of a shield loaded up with a few mosfets, the nav lights on an old F-16 would come to life once again.

The board doesn’t just blink lights on and off. Since [Craig] is using LEDs, the isn’t the nice dimming glow you’d see turning a normal incandescent light off and on repeatedly. To emulate that, [Craig] is copying Newton’s law of cooling with a PWM pin. The results are fantastic – at the unveiling with both New Mexico senators and a Brigadier General, everything went off without a hitch. You can see the unveiling video below, along with a few videos from [Craig]‘s build log.

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Programming an Arduino over WiFi with the ESP8266

A lot of people have used ESP8266 to add inexpensive WiFi connectivity to their projects, but [Oscar] decided to take it one step further and program an Arduino over WiFi with the ESP8266. [Oscar] wrote a server script in Python that communicates with firmware running on the Arduino. The Arduino connects to the server on startup and listens for a “reboot” command.

When the command is received, the processor resets and enters the bootloader. The python script begins streaming a hex file over WiFi to the ESP8226, which relays it to the Arduino’s bootloader. Once the hex file is streamed, the microcontroller seamlessly starts executing the firmware. This method can be used with any AVR running a stk500-compatible bootloader.

[Oscar]‘s writeup is in Spanish, but fortunately the comments in his Python and Arduino code are in English. Check out the video (in English) after the break where [Oscar] demonstrates his bootloading setup.

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Mobile Planter Chases the Sun

There are two types of people: ones with green thumbs, and ones that kill their cacti  because they forgot to water them for over a year. Sadly, we are of the latter group. We currently have a resilient spider plant that looks like it could use more sun. Now there’s a way for it to catch those rays wherever they may shine, thanks to [Dot Matrix] of Instructables. She made a mobile planter that actively seeks out sunlight.

The planter’s base was made of plywood, topped with fake grass and a watering can to hold the plant. Anything above the planter base can be modified to whatever desired aesthetic. A CRT planter may be too heavy, but there are countless ways to personalize it. [Dot] used an Afinia 3D printer to make various mounts and brackets with ABS plastic. The planter was controlled by an Arduino Micro and used a pair of 0.5W solar panels and Parallax PING))) sensors to decide how it should move from its current position. If the planter would fall or hit an object moving forward, it would reverse and turn on wheels powered by Parallax continuous rotation servos. It would evaluate its new position, repeating the process if it was in danger. Once the planter was safe, it used the solar panels to detect the most sunlight: the sum of the panels determines the area’s brightness while the individual panels’ readings were used to move the planter towards a brighter area. The sun-seeking continued until the sunniest spot was found (defined in the code). Here, the planter remained idle for 10 minutes before restarting the process.

We think [Dot's] planter is a fun way to keep plants happy and healthy in spite of us. See a video of the planter after the break.

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Monitor Shield Leaves No Pin Unused

What doesn’t this Arduino Mega shield have? Ponder that as you realize that it doesn’t just attach itself to the pin headers, but uses every single one of the mega’s connections.

This isn’t a bunch of components kludged together either. [Carsten] is an a EE and that explains a lot of the really great choices he made like buffering, opto-isolation, and the clean assembly despite a schematic that’s so busy it’s difficult figure out where to start.

So, what does it do? Looks like a one-stop-shop for quick prototyping needs. For instance, there’s a pushbutton, toggle-switch, and a couple of trimpots for quick and easy input. At the center of the board is a 7-segment display, and multiple rows of LED bar displays (assembled from SMD components and protoboard) to provide feedback to the user.

There are also a number of sensors at the party, including a mercury shake sensor, temperature sensor, microphone, thermistor, and light dependent resistor. If what you need isn’t on the board there are multiple options for connecting external gear including opto-isolated input and output, and a LEMO for digital I/O with another for analog. All of that and we forgot to mention the moving coil voltmeter that measures PWM.