GPS Engagement Ring Box


[James] got engaged recently, in part thanks to his clever GPS Engagement Ring Box, and he sent us a brief overview of how he brought this project to life. The exterior of the box is rather simple: one button and an LCD. Upon pressing the button, the LCD would indicate how far it needed to be taken to reach a pre-selected destination. After carrying it to the correct location, the box would open, revealing the ring (and a bit of electronics).

Inside is a GPS antenna and a Stellaris Launchpad, which are powered by three Energizer lithium batteries to ensure the box didn’t run out of juice during the walk. To keep the lid closed, [James] 3D printed a small latch and glued it to the top of the box, which is held in place by a micro servo. Once the box reaches its destination, the microcontroller tells the servo to swing out of the way, and the box can then open. As a failsafe, [James] added a reed switch to trigger an interrupt to open the box regardless of location. It seems this was a wise choice, because the GPS was a bit off and the box didn’t think it was in the correct place.

Swing by his blog for more information on the box’s construction and the wiring. We wish [James] the best and look forward seeing his future hacks; perhaps he’ll come up with some clever ones for the wedding like our friend Bill Porter.

$20 GPS/GLONASS/Beidou Receiver

Sticking a GPS module in a project has been a common occurrence for a while now, whether it be for a reverse geocache or for a drone telemetry system. These GPS modules are expensive, though, and they only listen in on GPS satellites – not the Russian GLONASS satellites or the Chinese Beidou satellites. NavSpark has the capability to listen to all these positioning systems, all while being an Arduino-compatible board that costs about $20.

Inside the NavSpark is a 32-bit microcontroller core (no, not ARM. LEON) with 1 MB of Flash 212kB of RAM, and a whole lot of horsepower. Tacked onto this core is a GPS unit that’s capable of listening in on GPS, GPS and GLONASS, or GPS and Beidou signals.

On paper, it’s an extremely impressive board for any application that needs any sort of global positioning and a powerful microcontroller. There’s also the option of using two of these boards and active antennas to capture carrier phase information, bringing the accuracy of this setup down to a few centimeters. Very cool, indeed.

Thanks [Steve] for sending this in.

Ride, Captain, Ride Aboard Your Arduino-Controlled Autopiloted Sailboat

[Jack], a mechanical engineer, loom builder, and avid sailor wanted an autopilot system for his 1983 Robert Perry Nordic 40 sailboat with more modern capabilities than the one it came with. He knew a PC-based solution would work, but it was a bit out of reach. Once his son showed him an Arduino, though, he was on his way. He sallied forth and built this Arduino-based autopilot system for his sloop, the Wile E. Coyote.

He’s using two Arduino Megas. One is solely for the GPS, and the other controls everything else. [Jack]’s autopilot has three modes. In the one he calls knob steering, a potentiometer drives the existing hydraulic pump, which he controls with a Polulu Qik serial DC motor controller. In compass steering mode, a Pololu IMU locks in the heading to steer (HTS).  GPS mode uses a predetermined waypoint, and sets the course to steer (CTS) to the same bearing as the waypoint.

[Jack]’s system also uses cross track error (XTE) correction to calculate a new HTS when necessary. He has fantastic documentation and several Fritzing and Arduino files available on Dropbox.

Autopilot sailboat rigs must be all the rage right now. We just saw a different one back in November.

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A Low-Cost Modular High Altitude Balloon Tracker with Mesh Networked Sensors

[Ethan] just tipped us about a project he and a few colleagues worked on last year for their senior design project. It’s a low-cost open hardware/software high altitude balloon tracker with sensors that form a mesh network with a master node. The latter (shown above) includes an ATmega644, an onboard GPS module (NEO-6M), a micro SD card slot, a 300mW APRS (144.39MHz) transmitter and finally headers to plug an XBee radio. This platform is therefore in charge of getting wireless data from the slave platforms, storing it in the uSD card while transmitting the balloon position via APRS along with other data. It’s interesting to note that to keep the design low-cost, they chose a relatively cheap analog radio module ($~40) and hacked together AFSK modulation of their output signal with hardware PWM outputs and a sine-wave lookup table.

The slave nodes are composed of ‘slave motherboards’ on which can be plugged several daughter-boards: geiger counters, atmospheric sensors, camera control/accelerometer boards. If you want to build your own system, be sure to check out this page which includes all the necessary instructions and resources.

Using a Raspberry Pi to give your car more features

[Andrei] is cruising in style thanks to his Raspi-powered CarPC project, which is a steal at $200 considering all the functionality it provides. This is an update to the work we saw from him back in March. Rather than completely replace his car’s head unit, [Andrei] simply relocated it to the trunk, permanently set it to the “aux input” source, and connected the Raspberry Pi’s audio output. The Pi runs a Raspbian Wheezy distro with XBMC and is mounted in the storage area beneath the middle armrest. [Andrei] filled the hole left by the old stereo with a 7-inch touchscreen display, which connects to the Pi through both HDMI and USB. If you throw the car into reverse, the Pi automatically selects the touchscreen’s AV input to display the car’s backup camera, then flips back when put in drive.

The unit also provides navigation via the open-source Navit software using OpenStreetMap data. An ST22 SkyTraq GPS receiver grabs coordinates and feeds them into the Raspi, which updates the on-screen map once per second. You’ll want to watch the video after the break (Audio Warning: Tupac) to see for yourself just how well the CarPC came together,

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Fail of the Week: GPS module design

GPS is really fun to play with in your projects. But when [Trax] decided to build a GPS chip into his design the fun ended abruptly. Above you can see the section of the board devoted to the hardware. Unfortunately this PCB fails to provide any GPS location data whatsoever.

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Raspberry Pi replaces a Volvo nav system


[Reinis] has a Volvo S80. One of the dashboard features it includes is a 6.5″ LCD screen which periscopes up to use as a navigation system. The problem is that Volvo stopped making maps for it around five years ago and there are no maps at all for Latvia where he lives. So it’s worthless… to you’re average driver. But [Reinis] is fixing it on his own by replacing the system with a Raspberry Pi.

That link leads to his project overview page. But he’s already posted follow-ups on hardware design and initial testing. He’s basing the design around a Raspberry Pi board, but that doesn’t have all the hardware it needs to communicate with the car’s systems. For this he designed his own shield that uses an ATmega328 along with a CAN controller and CAN transceiver. The latter two chips patch into the CAN bus on the car’s On Board Diagnostic system. We didn’t see much about the wiring, but the overview post mentions that the screen takes RGB or Composite inputs so he must be running a composite video cable from the trunk to the dashboard.