The Internet of Rice Cookers

You’d be forgiven for thinking this was going to be an anti-IoT rant: who the heck needs an IoT rice cooker anyway? [Microentropie], that’s who. His rice cooker, like many of the cheapo models, terminates heating by detecting a temperature around 104° C, when all the water has boiled off. But that means the bottom of the rice is already dried out and starting to get crispy. (We love the crust! But this hack is not for us. This hack is for [Microentropie].)

So [Microentropie] added some relays, a temperature sensor, and an ESP8266 to his rice cooker, creating the Rice Cooker 2.0, or something. He tried a few complicated schemes but was unwilling to modify any of the essential safety features of the cooker. In the end [Microentropie] went with a simple time-controlled cooking cycle, combined with a keep-warm mode and of course, notification of all of this through WiFi.

There’s a lot of code making this simple device work. For instance, [Microentropie] often forgets to press the safety reset button, so the ESP polls for it, and the web interface has a big red field to notify him of this. [Microentropie] added a password-protected login to the rice cooker as well. Still, it probably shouldn’t be put on the big wide Internet. The cooker also randomizes URLs for firmware updates, presumably to prevent guests in his house from flashing new firmware to his rice cooker. There are even custom time and date classes, because you know you don’t want your rice cooker using inferior code infrastructure.

In short, this is an exercise in scratching a ton of personal itches, and we applaud that. Next up is replacing the relays with SSRs so that the power can be controlled with more finesse, adding a water pump for further automation, and onboard data logging. Overkill, you say? What part of “WiFi-enabled rice cooker” did you not understand?

Build Your Own In-Fridge Soda Fountain

Who doesn’t love an ice cold soda? Lots of people, probably. This one’s not for them. It’s for those of us that are tired of having to go through the arduous process of manually opening a bottle and pouring a drink. Wouldn’t it be cool if you could have your own soda fountain at home? [Kedar Nimbalkar] thought so, and built a soda fountain that you can install right inside a fridge.

The system is based around using small pumps marketed as “6V DC air pumps” on Amazon. [Kedar] uses an indirect method of pumping the soda in this project. It’s a sad fact that it’s hard to find a cheap pump that’s safe to use with fluids for human consumption, and on top of that, many types of pump out there aren’t self-priming. This means the pump needs to be charged with fluid to work, which can make changing empty bottles a real pain.

Instead of pumping the fluid directly, the pumps instead push air into the top of the sealed soda bottles, which forces soda out of another tube in the bottle. This means that the pumps themselves don’t have direct contact with the soda which is a great design when working with stuff you’re going to put in your body. Following on from this careful design, the tubing selected is food safe. Unfortunately, even though the pumps don’t directly touch the soda itself, it’s highly unlikely the pumps chosen (designed for aquariums) are genuinely food-safe themselves.

When you’re building a beer funnel setup for Australia Day/4th of July/Other, using all manner of industrial or agricultural fittings may be a relatively low risk, as it’s a one-off exposure. But if you’re building a system handling products for human ingestion that you’re using on a regular basis, you really do want to make sure that the parts you use aren’t slowly poisoning you. There’s many ways this can happen — parts may corrode or react with substances in the food, plastics may outgas, or there may be lubricants in the parts that have toxic compounds in them. Just look what can happen if you drink wine out of a gun barrel — and that was from a single exposure!

Overall it’s a cool project, and one that would be especially fun and educational to do with children. Young humans are well known for their predilection towards sugary beverages, and have minds ready to be filled with knowledge about pumps, safe food handling practices, and of course, electronics. We also like [Kedar]’s use of commonly available materials, like a plastic food container for the enclosure. The project would be a great starter on your way to building a more complicated cocktail-mixing barbot. Video after the break.

We know peristaltic pumps are the go-to for safe liquid pumping. Anyone know a hacker friendly way of pumping air while ensuring all parts of the system are food safe? The most creative solution we’ve seen is to use breast pumps but it wasn’t ideal. Let us know your own tricks in the comments!

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Sudo Make Me a Sandwich

How do you like your Ham and Cheese sandwich? If you answered “I prefer it beefy”, look no further than [William Osman]’s Vin Diesel Ham and Cheese Sandwich! [Osman]’s blog tagline is “There’s science to do” but he is the first to admit this is science gone too far. When one of his followers, [Restroom Sounds], commented “Please sculpt a bust of [Vin Diesel] using laser cut cross-sections of laser sliced ham”, he just had to do it.

His friend [CameraManJohn] modeled the bust using Maya and [Osman] has provided links to download the files in case there’s the remote possibility that someone else wants to try this out. They picked the cheapest packs of sliced ham they could get from the supermarket — so technically, they did not actually laser slice the ham. For help with generating the slice outlines, they found the Slicer app for Autodesk’s Fusion 360 which did exactly what needed to be done. The app converts the 3D model into individual cross sections, similar to an MRI. It helps to measure the thickness of various samples of your raw material so that the Slicer output is not too stretched (or squished). The result is a set of numbered 2D drawings that can be sent to your laser cutter.

The rest of the video scores pretty high on the gross-o-meter, as [Osman] goes about laser cutting slices of ham (and a few slices of cheese), tasting laser cut ham (for Science, of course), and trying to prevent his computer from getting messed up. In the end, the sandwich actually turns out looking quite nice, although we will not comment on its taste. A pair of googly eyes adds character to the bust.

One problem is that the Slicer app does not optimise its results for efficient packing. with the smallest part occupying the same bounding box as the largest. This leads to a lot of wasted pieces of ham slices to be thrown away. [Bill] is still wondering what to do with his awesome sandwich, so if you have suggestions, chime in with your comments after you’ve seen the video linked below. If you know [Vin Diesel], let him know.

This isn’t [Osman]’s first adventure with crazy food hacks — here are a few tasty examples: a Toast-Bot that Butters For You (sometimes), a Laser-Cut Gingerbread Trailer Home, and a Pumpkin-Skinned BattleBot.

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Converting An Easy Bake Oven To USB

[Jason] converted an Easy Bake Oven to USB. If you have to ask why you’ll never know.

Easy Bake Ovens have changed a lot since you burnt down your house by installing a 100 Watt light bulb inside one. Now, Easy Bake Ovens are [bigclive] material. It’s a piece of nichrome wire connected through a switch across mains power. Part of the nichrome wire is a resistor divider used to power a light. This light assembly is just a LED, some resistors, and a diode wired anti-parallel to the LED.

This is a device designed for 120 V, but [Jason] wanted it to run on USB-C. While there are USB-C chargers that will supply enough power for an Easy Bake Oven, the voltage is limited to 20V. Rather than step up the USB-C voltage, [Jason] added some nichrome wires to divide it into six equal segments, then wired all the segments in parallel. This lowers the voltage by one sixth and increases the current by a factor of six. Good enough.

The power supply used for this hack is the official Apple 87W deal, with a USB-C breakout board (available on Tindie, buy some stuff on Tindie. Superliminial advertising) an Arduino Uno connected to the I2C pins. A few bits of code later, and [Jason] had a lot of power coming over a USB cable.

With the Easy Bake Oven fully converted, [Jason] whipped up a batch of cookie mix. After about 15 minutes the cookies crisped up and started to look almost appetizing.

While the result is weird — who on Earth would ever want a USB-powered Easy Bake Oven — this is honestly a fantastic test of [Jason]’s USB-C PHY breakout board. What better way to test a USB-C than a big resistive load, and what better resistive load is there than an Easy Bake Oven? It’s brilliant and hilarious at the same time.

Tea Making The Mechanical Way

For some of those who are aficionados of the drink, tea making can be serious business. For them, strong, black, leaf tea left for ages to stew in a stained teapot that would strip the hairs off your chest (like it should be made) just won’t do. These beverage anarchists demand a preparation process of careful temperature regulation and timing, and for some reason repeatedly dunking a teabag in the water.

For them, [Dorian Damon] has an automated solution to getting the crucial dunking process right. He’s made an automatic tea bag dunker. The teabag is mounted on a slide operated by a crank, and the crank is driven through a pair of bicycle hubs. Motive power comes from a mains shaded-pole motor, an unusual bi-directional one of which he only uses one side. He measured his personal dunking rate at about 50 per minute, so he only needed a 4:1 reduction to match the motor at 200 RPM.

The resulting machine will happily dunk his tea bag at that rate for as long as it’s left switched on. He’s put a few videos up, of which we’ve posted one below the break.

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A Little IoT for Your PID Tea Kettle

For some folks, tea is a simple pleasure – boil water, steep tea, enjoy. There are those for whom tea is a sacred ritual, though, and the precise temperature control they demand requires only the finest in water heating technology. And then there are those who take things even further by making a PID-controlled electric tea kettle an IoT device with Amazon Echo integration.

Nothing worth doing isn’t worth overdoing, and [luma] scores points for that. Extra points too for prototyping an early iteration of his design on a RadioShack Electronics Learning Lab – the one with a manual written by Forrest Mims. [luma] started out using an Arduino with a Zigbee shield but realized the resulting circuit would have to live in an external enclosure. Switching to an ESP8266, the whole package – including optoisolators, relays, and a small wall-wart – is small enough to fit inside the kettle’s base. The end result is an MQTT device that publishes its status to his SmartThings home automation system, and now responds when he tells Alexa it’s time for tea.

Projects that hack the means of caffeine are no strangers to Hackaday, whether your preferred vector is tea, coffee, or even straight up.

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An Eggcelent Eggspriment

After multiple iterations [Keef] has nailed down the fabrication process for an unusual component. Using only a heater water bath, some silicone and easily available reagents, [Keef] demonstrate how he manufactures a gastronomic enigma: the long egg.

The similarities between [Keef’s] process and the typical hacker iteration cycle are eggceptional. He starts out with a goal and iterates, modifying his methods until he gets the perfect long egg. Sound familiar? Cooking can be as much of a science as it is an art.

In his quest, [Keef] utilizes sausage casing, plastic bags, sticky tape, “lots of sweat and almost some tears” to hold eggs for cooking via an Anova Precision Cooker immersion circulator. However, [Keef] notes, the Anova is normally used for sous vide cooking so you might not have one sitting around. In that case, you can use a regular pan on a stovetop along with a digital thermometer, but you’ll have to be quite vigilant to keep the temperature steady.

But wait. Why would one want a long egg in the first place? I’ll leave this explanation to [Keef]. “Well, the main use is in a Gala Pie (a long pork pie baked in a loaf tin and often cut into slices for picnics). Or you could just slice the egg and lay it out on a platter and amaze your friends with how every slice is exactly the same size.”

Go check out [Keef’s] two videos. He has two, one that chronicles the eggciting initial attempts, and another that describes his final method. With [Keef’s] help, the number of long eggs outside of Denmark may substantially increase. But, if you’d rather have some pizza, we won’t be offended.