The Running Cat

Cats are great to have around, but they need exercise. If you’re not in a position to let the cat outdoors, you need to look to something else when kitty wakes up bored from her 23 hour nap. Cat playscapes are useful diversions, but this is the first time we’ve considered real exercise equipment. Let’s get our feline friends their exercise fix with a hamster-esque cat exercise wheel.

[bbarlowski]’s design is simple but very clever, and almost looks like something you’d find flat-packed at IKEA. Built of CNC-milled birch plywood, the wheel rims snap together like puzzle pieces while the floor has tabs that slot into the rims. The tension of the bent floor panels locks everything together and makes for a smart looking wheel. The video after the break shows [Kuna the Maine Coon cat] in action on the wheel, and outlines a few plans for expansion, including adding an Arduino to monitor kitty’s activity and control both an RGB LED strip for mood lighting and a cat treat dispenser for positive reinforcement of the exercise regimen.

The project mounted an unsuccessful campaign in March and they’ve made the DXF cutting files available for download. Of course if it’s too much plywood and not enough Arduino for you, just build the Arduspider to torture – err, entertain your cat.

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Automatic Cat Feeder Dispenses Noms, Wants Cheezburger

[Domiflichi] likes his cats, but not the drudgery of feeding them. So, like any good engineer, this simple problem became his next project: building an automatic cat feeder. Based on an Arduino, his creation beeps to let the cats know that it is dinnertime, then dispenses food into a number of bowls. There are also buttons for manual control. This lets him give individual cats a separate feeding. Rounding out the feature set, a DS1307 RTC tracks the feeding times.

One of the most interesting parts of his build is the transfer from breadboard to protoboard. This usually involves taking apart a working version, then putting it back together and trying to figure out why it doesn’t work anymore. [Domiflichi]’s problem (detailed in a follow-up post) was figuring out how to program the real-time clock module to set the time, because it looses the time when you disconnect the power. Rather than use the Arduino to program the RTC,  he used the battery backup feature of the RTC chip, programming it on his computer and then soldering it onto the board. He went on to remove the backup battery after the chip was in place. That’s a solution that will no doubt have many readers waving their fingers disapprovingly, but it worked.

It may seem overly complicated, but his project is worth checking out to see how he approached some of the engineering challenges. The food hoppers themselves are off-the-shelf cereal dispensers. We’ve seen other designs bootstrap this mechanism with 3D printed augers.

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Blacksmith Forge Made From the Bathroom Sink

The sweltering heat had finally moved on and Giant Tick season was coming to a close (not kidding, they are HUGE here), when I decided to fire up my hacked together blacksmith forge made out of an old bathroom sink and aquarium stand.

In the age-old formula I needed to supply an air source to a fuel to create enough heat to make iron malleable. I got the idea that this particular bathroom sink might be a good candidate for a fire bowl after I banged my shin with it and then cursed at it. It was clearly made of cast iron and as proof it was clearly unfazed by my tirade of words which I hope my son has learned from the Internet and not from listening to me remodel the bathroom.

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See Who’s Calling with Caller Pi-D

One of the hardest things in life is watching your parents grow old. As their senses fail, the simplest things become difficult or even impossible for them to do.

[kjepper]’s mom is slowly losing her sight. As a result, it’s hard for her to see things like the readout on the caller ID. Sure, there are plenty of units and phones she could get that have text-to-speech capabilities, but the audio on those things is usually pretty garbled. And yes, a smartphone can natively display a picture of the person calling, but [kjepper]’s mom isn’t technologically savvy and doesn’t need everything else that comes with a smartphone. What she needs is a really simple interface which makes it clear who’s calling.

Initially, [kjepper] tried to capture the caller ID data using only a USB modem. But for whatever reason, it didn’t work until he added an FSKDTMF converter between the modem and the Pi. He wrote some Node.js in order to communicate with the Pi and send the information to the screen, which can display up to four calls at once.  To make a mom-friendly interface, he stripped an old optical mouse down to the scroll wheel and encased it in wood. Mom can spin the wheel to wake the system up from standby, and click it to mark the calls as read. Now whenever Aunt Judy calls the landline, it’s immediately obvious that it’s her and not some telemarketer.

[via r/DIY]

Hacked Apartment Intercom Barks at You or Buzzes You In

Forgot your apartment keys? If you’ve got a ritzy building with a doorman, no problem. If your digs are a little more modest, you might only have an intercom panel that calls up to your apartment so someone can buzz you in. But if nobody is home, you’re out of luck. That’s why [Paweł] spent an hour whipping up an intercom connected automation system pack full of goodies.

entryphoneThe design is pretty simple – an ATMega328P to snoop on the analog phone ringer in the apartment when the intercom call button is pushed, and a relay wired in parallel with the door switch to buzz him in. For added security, the microcontroller detects the pattern of button presses and prevents unwanted guests from accessing the lobby. Things got really fun when [Paweł] added a PCM audio module to play random audio clips through the intercom. As you can see in the video below, an incorrect code might result in a barking dog or a verbal put-down. But [Paweł] earns extra points for including the Super Mario Bros sound clip and for the mashup of the “Imperial March” with “The Girl from Ipanema”.

True, we’ve seen a slightly more polished but less [Mario] version of this project before, but the presentation of this particular hack has us grinning from ear to ear.

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Building the Ultimate IKEA Bed

When [Eric Strong’s] son outgrew his convertible crib, he didn’t want to give it up. Needing the bed for their next youngest, [Eric] made his son a deal. He was going to build him the ultimate big boy bed. And boy did he ever!

Using Ikea Hackers for inspiration, [Eric] came up with a bed that features not only a slide, a ball game, a secret room hidden behind a bookcase, a hidden window, and a back door escape hatch — but even a bed. Kind of sounds like one of those too-good-to-be-true infomercials!

And he built it using only three products from IKEA. Two Kura beds (one for building materials), a Trofast tiered shelf storage unit, and a Besta — a small bookshelf. Pretty resourceful! And because he had limited space to build it, the whole thing is still modular. Stick around after the break to see it in action!

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Hackaday’s Omaha Mini Maker Faire Roundup

The 2nd annual Omaha Mini Maker Faire wasn’t our first rodeo, but it was nonetheless a bit surprising . Before we even made it inside to pay our admission to the Omaha Children’s Museum, I took the opportunity to pet a Transylvanian Naked Neck chicken at one of the outdoor booths. The amiable fowl lives at City Sprouts, an Omaha community farming collective in its 20th year of operation. There seemed to be a theme of bootstrappy sustainability among the makers this year, and that’s great to see.

Just a few feet away sat a mustard-colored 1975 Chevy pickup with a food garden growing in its bed. This is Omaha’s truck farm, an initiative that seeks to educate the city’s kids in the ways of eating locally and growing food at home.  On a carnivorous note, [Chad] from Cure Cooking showed my companion and me the correct way to dry-cure meats using time-honored methods.

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