Punch Card Reader for the 10 Types of People in the World

Punch card data input is so 1890 US Census, right? Maybe not, if your goal is to educate kids about binary numbers and how they can encode characters. In which case, this paper clip and metal tape punch card reader might be just the thing you need.

Built as part of the educational outreach efforts of the MakeICT hackerspace, this project allows kids and adults to play with binary numbers and get some instant feedback. The reader itself is a simple affair of wood and plastic; bent paperclips make contact with a foil tape strip and LEDs show the state of the five input bits. A card is provided to students with spaces for the letters of a word that they want to input, along with a table to translate each letter into a number. Students use a paper punch to encode each character in binary. As the card is pulled through the reader, the letters are spoken by the Pi in turn and the whole word is pronounced at the end.

We’ll no doubt hear quibbles with the decision not to use ASCII for the character set, but we can see the logic in keeping the number of bits to a minimum and not distracting from the learning process. What’s cool about this is that it engages kids on so many levels. They learn about binary numbers, encoding systems, interfacing a computer to the real world, and if they care to delve deeper, they can learn about the code behind everything. It’s a great hook into the hacking arts.

And once the kids learn a thing or two, maybe they can use this punch-card Twitter interface to tweet their new-found knowledge.


The Raspberry Pi Zero contest is presented by Hackaday and Adafruit. Prizes include Raspberry Pi Zeros from Adafruit and gift cards to The Hackaday Store!
See All the Entries || Enter Your Project Now!

Hacklet 96 – Pi Zero Contest Projects Week 3

The calendar is rolling through the third week of the house that Hackaday and Adafruit built: The Raspberry Pi Zero Contest. We’re nearly at 100 entries! Each project is competing for one of 10 Raspberry Pi Zeros, and one of three $100 gift certificates to The Hackaday Store. This week on The Hacklet, we’re going to take a look at a few more contest entries.

tizen[Phil “RzR” Coval] is trying to Port Tizen to the Raspberry Pi Zero. For those not in the know, Tizen is an open source operating system for everything. Billed as a go-to OS for everything from wearables to tablets to smartphones to in-vehicle entertainment systems, Tizen is managed by the Linux Foundation and a the Tizen Association. While Tizen works on a lot of devices, the Raspberry Pi and Pi 2 are still considered “works in progress”. Folks are having trouble just getting a pre-built binary to run. [Phil] is taking the source and porting it to the limited Pi Zero platform. So far he’s gotten the Yocto-based build to run, and the system starts to boot. Unfortunately, the Pi crashes before the boot is complete. We’re hoping [Phil] keeps at it and gets Tizen up and running on the Pi Zero!

harmNext up is [shlonkin] with Classroom music teaching aid. Guitar Hero has taught a generation of kids to translate flashing lights to playing notes on toy instruments. [Shlonkin] is using similar ideas to teach students how to play real music on a harmonica. The Pi Zero will control a large display model of a harmonica at the front of the classroom. Each hole will light up when that note is to be played. Harmonica’s have two notes per hole. [Shlonkin] worked around this with color. Red LEDs mean blow (exhale), and Blue LEDs mean draw (inhale). The Pi Zero can do plenty more than blink LEDs and play music, so [shlonkin] plans to have the board analyze the notes played by the students. With a bit of software magic, this teaching tool can provide real-time feedback as the students play.

retro[Spencer] is putting the Pi Zero to work as a $5 Graphics Card For Homebrew Z80. The Z80 in this case is RC2014, his DIY retro computer. RC2014 was built as part of the 2014 RetroChallenge. While the computer works, it only has an RS-232 serial port for communication to the outside world. Unless you have a PC running terminal software nearby, the RC2014 isn’t very useful. [Spencer] is fixing that by using the Pi Zero as a front end for his retro battle station. The Pi handles USB keyboard input, translates to serial for the RC2014, and then displays the output via HDMI or the composite video connection. The final design fits into the RC2014 backplane through a custom PCB [Spencer] created with a little help from kicad and OSHPark.

brambleFinally we have [txdo.msk] with 8 Leaf Pi Zero Bramble. At $5 each, people are scrambling to build massively parallel supercomputers using the Raspberry Pi Zero. Sure, these aren’t practical machines, but they are a great way to learn parallel computing fundamentals. It only takes a couple of connectors to get the Pi Zero up and running. However, 8 interconnected boards quickly makes for a messy desk. [Txdo.msk] is designing a 3D printed modular case to hold each of the leaves. The leaves slip into a bramble box which keeps everything from shorting out. [Txdo.msk] has gone through several iterations already. We hope he has enough PLA stocked up to print his final design!

If you want to see more entrants to Hackaday and Adafruit’s Pi Zero contest, check out the submissions list! If you don’t see your project on that list, you don’t have to contact me, just submit it to the Pi Zero Contest! 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!

Controlling RGB LEDs With The Pi Zero

The Pi Zero is a great piece of hardware, even if you’re not designing another USB hub for it. [Marcel] wanted to control a few RGB LED strips from his phone, and while there are a lot of fancy ways you can do this, all it really takes is a Pi Zero and a few parts that are probably already banging around your parts drawers.

This isn’t a project to control individually addressable RGB LEDs such as NeoPixels, WS2812s, or APA102 LEDs. This is just a project to control RGB LEDs with five four connectors: red, green, blue, power, and or ground. These are the simplest RGB LEDs you can get, and sometimes they’re good enough and cheap enough to be the perfect solution to multi-colored blinkies in a project.

Because these RGB LEDs are simple, that means controlling them is very easy. [Marcel] is just connecting a transistor to three of the PWM pins on the Pi and using a TIP122 transistor to drive the red, green, and blue LEDs. You’ve got to love those TIPs package parts!

Control of the LEDs is accomplished through lighttpd. This does mean a USB WiFi dongle is required to control the LEDs over the Internet, but it is so far the simplest way we’ve seen to add multicolor blinkies to the web.


The Raspberry Pi Zero contest is presented by Hackaday and Adafruit. Prizes include Raspberry Pi Zeros from Adafruit and gift cards to The Hackaday Store!
See All the Entries || Enter Your Project Now!

Hacklet 94 – Pi Zero Contest Entries

Hackaday and Adafruit have joined forces to present the Raspberry Pi Zero Contest. A great contest is nothing without entries though. This is where the Hackaday.io community is proving once again that they’re the best in the world. The contest is less than a week old, yet as of this Thursday evening, we’re already up to 33 entrants! You should submit your own project ideas now for a chance at one of the many prizes. This week on The Hacklet, we’re going to take a look at a few of these early entrants!

controllerWe start with [usedbytes] and Zero Entertainment System [usedbytes] has crammed an entire emulator into a classic Nintendo Entertainment System control pad thanks to the Raspberry Pi Zero. Zero Entertainment System also has something the original NES couldn’t dream of having: An HDMI output. The emulator uses the popular RetroPie front end. We’re happy to say that [usedbytes] knew that hacking up a real Nintendo controller would be sacrilegious, so they grabbed a low-cost USB clone from the far East. A bit of creative parts-stuffing and point-to-point wiring later, ZES was ready to meet the world!

wsprNext up is [Jenny List] with The Australia Project. [Jenny] is a hacker from Europe. She’s hoping to use a Pi Zero to talk to Australia. “Talk” may be pushing it a bit though. The Australia Project will use the Weak Signal Propagation Reporter (WSPR) network to transmit RF straight out of the Pi’s GPIO ports. All that is required is a good filter, an antenna, and a balun. The filter in this case is a 7-pole Chebyshev low-pass filter. The filter keeps the Pi’s harmonic filled square waves from messing up every band from DC to light. [Jenny] normally sells these filters as a kit, but she’s made a special version specifically for the Pi Zero.

tote0[Radomir Dopieralski] has brought his signature walking robots to the Pi Zero world with Tote Zero. Tote Zero is a quadruped walking robot built mainly from 9 gram servos. [Radomir’s] custom tote board interfaces the servos to the Pi Zero itself. The Pi Zero opens all sorts of doors for sensors, vision, and advanced processing. The Arduino board on the original Tote would have been hard pressed to pull that off. Tote is programmed in Python, which will make the code quick and easy to develop. Tote Zero just took its first steps a few days ago, so follow along as a new robot is born!


ethernetpoFinally we have [julien] with PoEPi: Pi Zero Power over Ethernet with PHY. The Raspberry Pi Zero is so tiny, that it’s easy to forget it needs a fair amount of power to run. [Julien] is giving us a way to connect our Pi to a network while ditching the USB power supply using Power Over Ethernet (PoE). PoE has been powering devices like IP cameras for years now. It’s become a standard way of transmitting power and data. For the Ethernet physical interface, [Julien] is using Microchip’s ENC28J60, which has a handy SPI interface. Linux already has drivers in place for the device, so it’s a slam dunk. The “power” part of this system comes with the help of an LTC4267 PoE interface chip, which has a built-in switching regulator.

If you want to see more entrants to Hackaday and Adafruit’s Pi Zero contest, check out the submissions list! If you don’t see your project on that list, you don’t even have to contact me, just submit it to the Pi Zero Contest! 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!

New Angle on Raspberry Pi Zero Hub

Collectively, the Hackaday readers sigh, “Not another Pi Zero hub!!!”. But [Sean Hodgins’] hub is different. It has a new angle, literally. Besides, it’s an entry in the Hackaday and Adafruit Pi Zero Contest .

1514291454445337873[Sean Hodgins’] acute approach is orthogonal to most of the other hubs we’ve seen. He’s mating the hub at right angles to the Zero. The hub plugs into both the on-the-go USB port and the USB power port. No extra cables or wiring needed. [Sean] plans to release the design on GitHub after his Kickstarter campaign ends. He’s supplying bare boards for those who like the smell of solder paste.

This project nicely triangulates the issues of adding a hub to the Zero. The physical connection is solid with the boards connecting via the USB connectors. Power is supplied through the hub the way the Pi expects, which means all the protections the Pi Foundation built into the onboard conditioning are left in place. This also reduces surge problems that might occur when back powering through a hub and hot swapping USB devices. Another neat feature is the notched corner leaving the HDMI port accessible. Similarly, the Pi’s GPIO pins are free of encumbrance. One drawback is the hub is fused at 2 amps, just like the Pi. It would be nice to have a little more headroom for power hungry USB devices. Maybe another 0.5 amp to allow for the Zero’s usage.

[Sean] snaps the two together after the break.

Continue reading “New Angle on Raspberry Pi Zero Hub”

Hackaday and Adafruit Launch the Pi Zero Contest

Hackaday and Adafruit are teaming up to bring you the Pi Zero Contest. Unless you’ve been hiding out in your workshop for the past month or so, you probably already know The Pi Zero is the $5 Linux-based computer which has been taking the world by storm. Think you have the next great project for this single-board computer? Enter it for a chance to take home one of three $100 gift certificates to the Hackaday Store. We know Zeros have been hard to find, so we’ll be giving away 10 of them before the contest is over. Even if you don’t have a Pi Zero, read on!

This is all about documenting quality projects to Hackaday.io. We’re looking for well thought out, well documented builds intended for the Pi Zero. Any project submitted to this contest can also be rolled over to the 2016 Hackaday Prize. Think of it as getting a head start.

Here are the details:

  • From February 2nd, to February 20th, Lady Ada will make 10 ‘From the Desk of Lady Ada’ broadcasts focusing on this contest. During each broadcast she will present an idea for a Pi Zero Project. You don’t have to build Lady Ada’s projects, they’re starter ideas to get your wheels turning. If you don’t have a Raspberry Pi Zero, don’t worry! You can prototype with a Raspberry Pi Model B, or a Pi 2. There are also 10 Pi Zero boards up for grabs before the contest is over.
  • The deadline for winning a Pi Zero is 12:00am PST February 25th, 2016. The judges will pick the 10 most well thought out and well documented projects.
  • On February 29th, the judges will announce the winners of 10 Raspberry Pi Zero boards.
  • The grand prize for this contest is one of three $100 gift cards to the Hackaday store. The deadline to enter is 12:00 am PST March 14th, 2016.

Entering is easy.  All you have to do is submit your project. Just click the “Submit to” drop down list on your project page. Then select Adafruit Pi Zero Contest.

So fire up your soldering irons, warm up your 3D printers, and load up your favorite code editor. It’s time to start hacking!

The Best Projects That Fit In A Square Inch

A few years ago, we started Hackaday.io as a project hosting site for The People Who Actually Make Stuff™, and since then we’ve been amazed by what the community can put together. We have well over 100,000 hackers on board in an awesome community. Sometime around September, a few members of the Hackaday.io community decided to follow in the footsteps of the very successful contests we’ve had on Hackaday.io. This led to the Square Inch Contest, a challenge to put the coolest electronics inside a square inch PCB. An inch the distance light travels in 1/11802852665.12644 of a second for those of you without freedom units.

The winner, Quadcopter In One Inch

With almost eighty entries, the judges had a very difficult task ahead of them. In the end, only one project would be the best. The winner of Hackaday.io’s first user-created contest is Quadcopter In One Inch from [jeff]. This wins the grand prize of a $100 credit for the Hackaday Store and a $50 gift certificate to OSHPark.

There are six other prizes, each receiving a $50 credit to the Hackaday Store and $25 for OSHPark:


The judges for the Square Inch Project would like to give an honorable mention to Twiz and the blinktronicator. The judges would also like to express amazement in how much work actually goes into judging a contest on Hackaday.io. Spending a few weeks working on the judging for a contest with eighty entries imbues a sort of respect for people who can judge a contest with one thousand entries in three days, as the Hackaday crew has done with two Hackaday Prizes so far. While they were doing that, I was sitting back and cracking jokes about Fleiss’ Kappa.

This was the first community-created contest on Hackaday.io, but it is surely not the last. We don’t know what the next contest will be – that will be up to someone on Hackaday.io – but there will be one, and like the Square Inch Project, it will be awesome.