DIY Plant LED Light Prototype Lights Up The Winter

With winter on the way, our thoughts turn to indoor hacks. And what could be better in the cold winter than fresh veggies? This can be done by replacing the sun with an LED light, and [Margaret Johnson], aka [Bitknitting] has been working on building her own LED plant light.

She’s using a combination of red and blue LEDs that produce the ratio of light frequencies that plants thrive on, and has been experimenting with how bright to make them and how long to run them. This combination of factors determines how much light the plants get every day, called the Daily Light Integral, or DLI, and has a huge effect on how well the plants grow.

Her latest prototype uses nine red and two blue 3 Watt LEDs which run for about twenty hours a day. These lights shine onto the growing area, a bucket filled with nutrient solution. [Margaret] has done an excellent job of outlining why and how she made the choices she did and providing lots of links to more information for the home grower. It’s a great place to start for anyone looking to get something growing indoors in the depths of winter.

3D Print Your Garden

How would you go about sculpting a garden in the 21st century? One answer, perhaps predictably, is with a 3D printer. Gone are the days of the Chia pet. Thanks to a team of students out of University of Maribor in Slovenia, today we can 3D print living sculptures of our own design.

PrintGREEN traces its roots to an art project undertaken by Maja Petek, Tina Zidanšek, Urška Skaza, Danica Rženičnik, and Simon Tržan — an engineering student who worked on the project’s 3D printer — all mentored by professor Dušan Zidar. It uses a modified CNC machine to print layers of clay soil, water, and grass seeds that germinate and sprout in short order.

The goal of the project was to meld art, technology, and nature. Hard to argue with the results. With the rising necessity of  environmentally-conscious technologies in all areas, even gardening it seems, is not lacking for innovation.

If you’re looking to implement some more tech into your gardening, check out this homemade watering controller, as well as some space-saving solutions for urban gardening.

 

Quick Hack Creates A Visual Beep Alarm

Sometimes a simple modification is all it takes to get something just the way you want it. The Ikea LÖTTORP clock/thermometer/timer caught [Mansour Behabadi’s] eye. The LÖTTORP  has four functions based on its orientation. [Mansour] loved the orientation feature, but hated the clock’s shrill beeping alert. Visual beeps or alarms can be handy when working with headphones or in a loud environment. With this in mind [Mansour] decided to crack his LÖTTORP open and rewire it to produce a visual beep for the timer function.

The clock is backlit, so [Behabadi] decided to use the backlight for his visual beep. Once the inside was exposed, [Behabadi] noticed that the buzzer’s positive terminal was wired to the red LED anode — a clever design choice, since the red LED is only used with the clock function. Simply removing the buzzer and soldering its terminal to the noticeable green LED provided the desired effect.

We meant it when we said he cracked it open. The screws were hidden behind the front plate, so the handyman’s secret weapon helped in reassembling the clock after this quick hack.

We’ve featured plenty of classy, unique, and ingenious clocks on Hackaday, so this modification is in good company.

Characterizing a Death Ray… er, Solar Oven

Many of you will probably at some point have looked at a satellite dish antenna and idly wondered whether it would collect useful amounts of heat if you silvered it and pointed it at the sun. Perhaps you imagine a handy source of  solar-cooked hotdogs, or maybe you’re a bit of a pyromaniac.

[Charlie Soeder] didn’t just think about it, he did it. Finding a discarded offset-focus DirecTV dish, he glued a grid of 230 inch-square mirror tiles to it and set to investigating  the concentrated solar energy at its focus. 

Cotton waste, newspaper, and scraps of fabric char and burn with ease. A cigarette is lit almost from end to end, and it burns a hole right through a piece of bamboo. Most of the energy is in the form of light, so transparent or reflective items need a little help to absorb it from something dark. He demonstrated this by caramelizing some sugar through adding a few bits of charcoal to it, once the charcoal becomes hot enough to caramelize the sugar around it the spreading dark colour causes the rest of the sugar to caramelize without further help.

Solar furnace calculations
Solar furnace calculations

To gain some idea of the power of his solar furnace, he recorded a time series of temperature readings as it heated up some water darkened with a bit of charcoal to absorb heat. The resulting graph had a flat spot as a cloud had passed over the sun, but from it he was able to calculate instantaneous power figures from just below 30W to just below 50W depending on the sun.

He records his progress in the video you’ll find below the break. Will we be the only ones casting around for a surplus dish after watching it?

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Hackaday Prize Entry: Automated Hydroponics

This team project for the Hackaday Prize is a solution to a rather important problem. Imagine growing plants for use as biomarkers for pollution. It’s a great idea, but how do you grow the plants in the first place? This team is building a space-saving hydroponic system that packs the most green into the least amount of space. It’s simple, and can be built almost entirely with parts from the local home supply store.

The design of this hydroponic system is based on a few PVC pipes, arranged vertically, joined together with a few 90 degree bends. In each course of pipe, a few holes are drilled to accept a plastic cup. This cup is filled with some sort of growing medium, and the Genuino-based controller takes care of everything else. Watering the plants, turning the lights on and off, and recording the nutrient concentration of the water is all possible with a simple microcontroller.

Right now the team has a huge stack of perforated PVC pipe and a Genuino-based brain box that takes care of everything plants need. It’s going to take a bit of time for the plants to grow, but this is still one of the most compact hydroponic systems we’ve seen.

You can check out a video of the entire setup below.

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Working in Peace With an Off-Grid Office Shed

Finding a good work space at home isn’t a trivial task, especially when you’ve got a wife and kid. A lot of us use a spare bedroom, basement, or garage as a space to work on our hobbies (or jobs). But, the lack of true separation from the home can make getting real work done difficult. For many of us, we need to have the mental distance between our living space and our working space in order to actually get stuff done.

This is the problem [Syonyk] had — he needed a quiet place to work that was separated from the rest of his house. To accomplish this, he used a Tuff Shed and set it up to run off-grid. The reason for going off-grid wasn’t purely environmental, it was actually more practical than trying to run power lines from the house. Because of the geology where he lives, burying power lines wasn’t financially feasible.

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Add Robotic Farming to Your Backyard with Farmbot Genesis

Growing your own food is a fun hobby and generally as rewarding as people say it is. However, it does have its quirks and it definitely equires quite the time input. That’s why it was so satisfying to watch Farmbot push a weed underground. Take that!

Farmbot is a project that has been going on for a few years now, it was a semifinalist in the Hackaday Prize 2014, and that development time shows in the project documented on their website. The robot can plant, water, analyze, and weed a garden filled with arbitrarily chosen plant life. It’s low power and low maintenance. On top of that, every single bit is documented on their website. It’s really well done and thorough. They are gearing up to sell kits, but if you want it now; just do it yourself.

The bot itself is exactly what you’d expect if you were to pick out the cheapest most accessible way to build a robot: aluminum extrusions, plate metal, and 3D printer parts make up the frame. The brain is a Raspberry Pi hooked to its regular companion, an Arduino. On top of all this is a fairly comprehensive software stack.

The user can lay out the garden graphically. They can get as macro or micro as they’d like about the routines the robot uses. The robot will happily come to life in intervals and manage a garden. They hope that by selling kits they’ll interest a whole slew of hackers who can contribute back to the problem of small scale robotic farming.