Push Button, Receive Candy (or Death)

Will you be handing out candy on Halloween? Maybe you have a party to attend or kids to take around the neighborhood and can’t be home to answer the bell. You don’t want to be The Dark House With No Candy, ’cause that’s a good way to get TP’d. We’re not exactly sure what [Ben]’s catalyst was aside from trying to avoid tempting would-be thieves with an unattended bowl on the porch. Whatever the reason, we’re happy to present Candy or Death, his gamified candy (or death)-dispensing machine.

Okay, so it only dispenses candy for now. [Ben] hasn’t quite worked the kinks out of his death ray. He designed it to sit behind a porch-facing window so it can’t be messed with. All trick-or-treaters can do is push the button and take the candy. It’s built around a cereal dispenser that’s modified to be cranked by a piece of round rod driven with a NEMA-17 stepper motor and an Arduino Uno with a motor shield. The candy slides down a length of aluminium rain gutter into a plastic stacking bin, and the whole thing is built into a nice wood frame.

A few adjustments were necessary to keep it from jamming. The dispenser’s hopper uses rubber blades to govern the flow, and he ended up removing a few and trimming the others. [Ben] has an album up of all his build pics and put his code on the gits. Stick around to see videos of the machine from the front and rear.

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A Pair of Projects to Scare the Trick-or-Treaters

The countdown is on! There’s only a few days left until Halloween, and if you’re still looking for something to spice up the experience for the kids heading to your door, [MagicWolfi] has just what you need. He’s put together two motion-sensing projects that are sure to startle any trick-or-treater.

The first project is a chain of LED-lit pumpkins that are activated by a motion sensor. A set of inverters paired with RC delay lines light up the pumpkins sequentially. They are arranged almost like a strand of Christmas lights and are powered by AA batteries, so in theory they could be expanded to make a strand as long as needed. The project was inspired by a motion-sensing dress and works pretty well as a Halloween decoration!

9378581414283863206[MagicWolfi] is pairing the LED pumpkins with his second project which uses another motion sensor to play scary sound effects. Dubbed the Scare-o-Matic, this device uses a 45-millimeter speaker connected to a SparkFun microSD audio module to produce the scary sound effects. Each time it is triggered it plays a different sound from the list. There are videos and schematics for each of these projects on the project sites if you are interested in recreating any of these before Friday!

8×8 LED Arrays Make for one Creepy Animated Pumpkin

[Michal Janyst] wrote in to tell us about a little project he made for his nephew in preparation for Halloween – a jack-o-lantern with facial expressions.

Pumpkin Eyes uses two MAX7219 LED arrays, an Arduino nano, and a USB power supply. Yeah, it’s pretty simple — but after watching the video you’ll probably want to make one too. It’s just so cute! Or creepy. We can’t decide. He’s also thrown up the code on GitHub for those interested.

Of course, if you want a bit more of an advanced project you could make a Tetris jack-o-lantern, featuring a whopping 8×16 array of LEDs embedded directly into the pumpkin… or if you’re a Halloween purist and believe electronics have no place in a pumpkin, the least you could do is make your jack-o-lantern breath fire.

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Add CNC to your…Propane Tank??!?

It’s starting to be that time of year again; the Halloween-themed hacks are rolling in.

[John Lauer] needed a propane-powered flame effect for his backyard ICBM “crash site”. Rather than pony up for an expensive, electronically-controlled propane
valve, he made a custom bracket to connect a stepper motor to the propane burner’s existing valve.

With the stepper motor connected up, a TinyG stepper motor controller and [John’s] own graphical interface, ChiliPeppr, take care of the rest.

The hack is almost certainly a case of “everything looks like a nail when you have a hammer” but you have to admit that it works well and probably didn’t take [John] all that much time to whip up. Maybe everyone should have a couple spare stepper motors with driver circuitry just lying around ready to go? You know, just in case.

All the details of the build are in the video. If you’re done watching the flames, skip to around 2:50 where we see the adapter in action and then [John] steps us through its construction.

You may have seen coverage of the TinyG motor controller here before.

Additional thanks to [Alden Hart] for the tip.

Laser Projected Christmas Lights

 

laser-christmas-lights

It’s August, and of course that means that it’s time for retail stores to put up their Christmas decorations! But seriously, if you’re going to do better than the neighbors you need to start now. [Joey] already has his early start on the decorations, with a house-sized light show using LED strips and a laser projector that he built last Christmas.

What started off as a thought that it would be nice to hang a wreath over the garage soon turned into a laser projector that shows holiday-themed animations on the front of the house. The project also includes a few RGB LED strips which can match the colors displayed by the projector. The LEDs are powered from a custom-built supply that is controlled by a laptop, and the program that runs on the computer averages the colors from the video signal going to the projector which lights up the LED strips to match the projected image. This creates an interesting effect similar to some projects that feature home theater ambient lighting.

The only major problem [Joey] came across was having to account for the lasers’ motion in the projected patterns, which was causing the computer to read false values. This and a few other laser-related quirks were taken care of with a bit of programming to make sure the system was functioning properly. After that it was a simple matter of attaching the projector to the roof and zip-tying the LED strips to the eaves of the house.

The projector is weatherproof, has survived one harsh winter already, and can be up and running for any holiday. With Halloween right around the corner, this could be a great way to spice up some trick-or-treating. Check out the video after the break to see this setup in action.

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Infrared Controlled Remote Firework Igniter

Firework Igniter

With Independence Day just around the corner, American hackers are likely to find themselves blowing things up in the name of Independence. It’s all great fun but it can also be dangerous. The standard ignition method of “use a lighter and run away really fast” is not exactly safe. Instead of lighting your fireworks the old-fashioned way, why not follow [Facelesstech’s] example and build your own infrared controlled remote igniter?

The first step was to decide how to actually ignite the firework fuse. [Facelesstech] had seen others use a car cigarette lighter for this purpose and he decided to follow in their footsteps. He started by removing the cigarette lighter from his own car and pulling it apart. Only one component was needed for this hack. The main heating element is a small disk with a “stem” on the end. If you apply 12V to the stem and attach the outer edge of the disk to ground, the igniter will quickly become hot.

[Facelesstech] originally thought he could just solder some wires to the device. However, the heating element gets so hot that the solder just melts every time it’s turned on. He then got creative and drilled a hole in a small block of wood that fits the heating element. The element is bolted into the wood and the bolt is used as a conductor for the electrical power.

The heating element is powered via a 12V relay. The relay is controlled by an Arduino Nano. The Nano allows two modes of operation. With the first mode, you simply press a button and the Nano will start a five second timer. The idea is to give you enough time to run to a safe distance before the firework is ignited. This isn’t much different from the old-fashioned method, but it does give you a slightly extended fuse. The second mode is where the project really shines. The Nano is also hooked up to an infrared receiver. This allows [Facelesstech] to press a button on an old television infrared remote control to active the igniter. This is a clever solution because it allows you to get to a safe distance without having to run a long wire. It’s also simple and inexpensive. Be sure to watch the video test of the system below. Continue reading “Infrared Controlled Remote Firework Igniter”

Stellated Snowdecahedra

snoe deca

It’s been a pretty crazy winter here in Canada and the northern States, but at least one maker is having fun with it! He’s been making Snowdecahedras!

According to him, snow sculpting is an ancient art that was originally first discovered over 16,000 years ago outside of the caves of Lascaux, France. Despite whether this claim is true or just tongue in cheek, he’s crafted some amazing nonconvex regular polyhedra—or, stellated snowdecahedras—with a few fancy tools.

He’s created five steel molds for the sculpture by shearing 50 triangles out of steel sheet at his local hackerspace. After taping the cones together, he then welded them into place, creating a rather intricate five-piece mold. He’s welded nuts onto the outside of the pieces in order to tie the mold shut when it is filled with snow.

Plop it upside down, untie your ropes or other fastening device, and carefully remove each face, one at a time.  Et voila, a beautiful spiky star for all to enjoy.

The project is part of the New American Public Art initiative.