Zen and the Art of Arduino

A zen garden should be a source of relaxation and escape from the everyday. The whole point should be to escape from–among other things–your electronics. Unless you are [MakrToolbox]. Then you’ll make a beautiful zen garden end table that allows you to make patterns in the sand using a ball bearing and an Arduino. You can see a video below.

Technically, the device is almost an upside down 3D printer with no Z axis. The mechanism moves a magnet which controls the steel ball and draws patterns in the sand. However, the really impressive parts of this project are the woodworking for the end table and the impressive documentation, should you want to reproduce this project yourself.

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Digitize Your Room With LIDAR

What’s the best way to image a room? A picture? Hah — don’t be so old-fashioned! You want a LIDAR rig to scan the space and reconstruct it as a 3D point map in your computer.

Hot on the heels of [Saulius Lukse]’s scanning thermometer, he’s replaced the thermal camera on their pan/tilt setup with a time-of-flight (TOF) camera — a Garmin LIDAR — capable of 500 samples per second and end up scanning their room in a mere fifteen minutes. Position data is combined with the ranging information to produce a point cloud using Python. Open that file in a 3D manipulation program and you’ll be treated to a sight like this:

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Hacklab’s Logo Changes with the Habitat of a Beet Plant

Zaragoza, Spain hacklab La Remolacha (“The Beet”) sports a logo which responds to human interaction with a beet plant growing in the space. Sensors keep track of temperature as well as humidity for both air and ground, while buttons add more water, plant food, light, and music.

The shape and activity of the visualization responds to the sensors. The higher the temperature, the more folds in the shape. More distortions appear when there’s more humidity in the soil, while rotation speed increases with air humidity. Adding food increases the size of the visualization, and music triggers more vibrations.

An Arduino keeps track of the buttons and humidity sensors, while a nearby computer, connected via USB, sends the data to a node.js server. The data are displayed on the website through the torus visualization, which is done in WebGL.

The beet’s environment also signals the health of the space, because if no one is visiting, no one can feed the plant. On the other hand, could too many visitors actually kill the thing?

The project was created by [Innovart],  [Miguel Frago], and [Santi Grau] with help from other folks.

Thanks [Esther Borao Moros] for the tip!

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Son of Sonoff

We’ve covered the Sonoff a few times–a very inexpensive box with an ESP8266, a power supply, and an AC relay along with a way to tap into a power cord. Very inexpensive means $5 or $6. The supplied software will work with several systems (including, recently, Alexa). But what self-respecting hacker wants to run the stock firmware on something with an ESP8266 inside?

[Tzapu] certainly didn’t. But he also knew he didn’t want to start from scratch every time he wanted to deploy a switch. So he built SonoffBoilerplate and put the code on GitHub. The code manages taking configuration (including network settings) using a web-portal, can update itself over the air, and integrates with Blynk and MQTT. If you don’t like that code base, there are other choices including one that has a failsafe reconfiguration mode.

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Translate Color to Smell with Bouquet

Hope springs eternal for Smell-O-Vision. [Niklas Roy] recently taught a workshop called Communication Devices at ÉCAL in Lausanne, Switzerland. Four of his Media & Interaction Design students built a scanner that detects colors and emits a corresponding scent.

The project consists of an Arduino connected to a color sensor as well as a SparkFun EasyDriver. The EasyDriver controls a stepper motor which rotates a disc of scent swatches so you sniff the swatch corresponding with the color. The students chose strawberry for red, and blue ended up being “ocean”-scented room spray.

With design students involved it’s no surprise the project looked good. Bouquet’s creators [Erika Marthins], [Arthur Moscatelli], [Pietro Alberti] and [Andrea Ramìrez Aburto] gave the device an intriguingly featureless look, and the “olfactory graphic design” posters they created to demonstrate it look great as well.

[Niklas Roy]’s excellent projects have graced the pages of Hackaday many times before. Be sure to check out his RC Beer Crate, his Music Construction Machine, and his Thermal Imaging Rig if you haven’t already.

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Friday Hack Chat: Tenaya Hurst From Arduino

Join us this Friday at noon PDT for a Hack Chat with Tenaya Hurst of Arduino. If you’ve been one of the big Maker Faires over the last few years (or innumerable other live events) and stopped by the Arduino area you’ve probably met Tenaya. She is the Education Accounts Manager for Arduino and loves working with wearable electronics.

Come and discuss maker education and the role Arduino is playing in getting our students excited about electronics, and STEAM education in general. Tenaya will also be discussing a new wearable tech kit she’s been working on. We hope to see the gear in person at Bay Area Maker Faire next week.

Here’s How To Take Part:

join-hack-chatOur Hack Chats are live community events on the Hackaday.io Hack Chat group messaging.

Log into Hackaday.io, visit that page, and look for the ‘Join this Project’ Button. Once you’re part of the project, the button will change to ‘Team Messaging’, which takes you directly to the Hack Chat.

You don’t have to wait until Friday; join whenever you want and you can see what the community is talking about.

Building an OBD Speed Pulse: Behold the ICE

I am a crappy software coder when it comes down to it. I didn’t pay attention when everything went object oriented and my roots were always assembly language and Real Time Operating Systems (RTOS) anyways.

So it only natural that I would reach for a true In-Circuit-Emulator (ICE) to finish of my little OBDII bus to speed pulse generator widget. ICE is a hardware device used to debug embedded systems. It communicates with the microcontroller on your board, allowing you to view what is going on by pausing execution and inspecting or changing values in the hardware registers. If you want to be great at embedded development you need to be great at using in-circuit emulation.

Not only do I get to watch my mistakes in near real time, I get to make a video about it.

Getting Data Out of a Vehicle

I’ve been working on a small board which will plug into my car and give direct access to speed reported on the Controller Area Network (CAN bus).

To back up a bit, my last video post was about my inane desire to make a small assembly that could plug into the OBDII port on my truck and create a series of pulses representing the speed of the vehicle for my GPS to function much more accurately. While there was a wire buried deep in the multiple bundles of wires connected to the vehicle’s Engine Control Module, I have decided for numerous reasons to create my own signal source.

At the heart of my project is the need to convert the OBDII port and the underlying CAN protocol to a simple variable representing the speed, and to then covert that value to a pulse stream where the frequency varied based on speed. The OBDII/CAN Protocol is handled by the STN1110 chip and converted to ASCII, and I am using an ATmega328 like found on a multitude of Arduino’ish boards for the ASCII to pulse conversion. I’m using hardware interrupts to control the signal output for rock-solid, jitter-free timing.

Walk through the process of using an In-Circuit Emulator in the video below, and join me after the break for a few more details on the process.

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