R2-D2 Keeps this University Bathroom Smelling Fresh

For a fun university project, [Cengizhan Can] and friends decided to make an automated air freshener for one of their bathrooms at the Utrecht University in the Netherlands. Happening to have an old R2-D2 plastic candy jar, they decided to try to see if they could make it Star Wars themed.

They loaded up the R2-D2 shell with an Arduino, a ton of sensors (don’t worry, nothing for spying) and an actuator for triggering the air freshener. During normal operation the LCD will display ambient temperature information and the approximate number of air freshener shots remaining in the canister. An external door sensor checks to see if the stall is open, and coupled with a light sensor, only sprays freshener after use, and when no one is in the stall anymore.
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Laser-Cut Lamp With Magic Switch

This laser-cut lamp is an awesome example of what you can do with a laser cutter and a bit of creativity. It was completely laser cut and features no fasteners, except for a bit of glue.

[PaisleyGarbage] has been making lamps for a while now and had the concept for this one early on. After rendering a model of it on the computer, he decided it was finally time to try making it. It wasn’t quite as easy as he thought it’d be, but the challenges along the way only help you to learn when doing a project like this.

He laser cut alternating strips of wood and acrylic to create the unique sandwiched light look of the final product. Instead of using fasteners or anything, he even slid the pieces together on acrylic dowels keeping the design as minimalist and clean as possible. But the part we really like is the magnetic switch.

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Presenting the Internet of Trash Cans !

This was gonna happen – sooner or later. [matthewhallberg] built a “Smart” trash can that is connected to the Internet and can be controlled by its own Android App. We’re not sure if the world needs it, but he wanted one and so built it. He started it out on a serious note, but quickly realized the fun part of this build – check out his funny Infomercial style video after the break.

trash_can_02The build itself is uncomplicated and can be replicated with ease. A servo motor helps flip the lid open and close. This is triggered by an ultrasonic ping sensor, which responds when someone waves a hand in front of the trash can. A second ping sensor helps inform the user when it is full and needs to be emptied. A Leonardo with the Idunio Yun shield helps connect the trash can to the internet. An mp3 shield connected to a set of powered computer speakers adds voice capability to the trash can, allowing it to play back pre-recorded sound clips. Finally, a Bluetooth module lets him connect it to an Android phone and the companion app controls the trash can remotely.

For the IoT side of things, [matthewhallberg] uses a Temboo account to send an email to the user when the trash can is full. The Arduino sketch, a header file to configure the Temboo account, and the Android application can all be downloaded from his blog. If this project inspires you, try building this awesome Robotic trash can which catches anything that you throw near it  or read the barcodes off the trash being thrown out and update the grocery list.

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Fingerprint Garage Door Won’t Open Every Time A Neighbor Microwaves a Burrito

With three kids, including himself, [Dave] faced the very real likelihood of someone absent-mindedly leaving the garage door open and being robbed blind. Rather than installing some plebeian solution, he compiled a feature list. And what a feature list it is!

The garage door needed to notify him of its status with strategically placed LEDs around the house, and give him full control on his devices. He wanted to open and close it using his existing key-code entry system. Lastly, it would be extra-cool if he could add some biometrics to it; in this case, a fingerprint sensor.

The core hardware is the staple Arduino augmented with a fingerprint module, a touch screen, some vitamins, and a WiFi break-out. He also worked up some casings in tinkercad: one for the indoor hardware, another with a flip cover for the outdoor fingerprint scanner.

We think [Dave] has accomplished what he set out to. We can just picture the would-be-thief staring at the finger print scanner and moving their operation one house over where the world is simpler. Video after the break.

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CitizenWatt and the Power of Community

Depending upon where you live in the world, the chances are that your national or local government, or your utility company, has smart meters on their agenda. The idea is that these network-connected energy meters for your gas and electricity supply will allow greater control of energy usage and lead to lower costs through more efficient use of that energy. Bold plans have been advanced for meters that exert control over your higher-power appliances such as water heaters, washing machines, or home heating systems, able to turn them off or on depending on the time of day, spot price of energy, or load on the grid as a whole.

These devices are not without controversy though. Privacy concerns for example, centred on the amount of information about individuals that could be gleaned from the data they collect. Or security, that a vulnerability in an internet-connected electronic device fitted to millions of homes and with control over high-power appliances could be catastrophic if successfully exploited.

In a small area of Paris, they are trying to reap some of the benefits of smart meters for a community without some of those risks. CitizenWatt (French language, Google Translate link) is an open-source smart energy monitor that provides some of the benefits of a smart meter while allowing its owner to retain control of the data it generates by sharing data only with their consent. The entire project was born of an association between Citoyens Capteurs (Citizen Sensors, French language, Google Translate link), the hackEns (French language, Google Translate link) hackspace, the Fabelier FabLab, and the City of Paris.

The CitizenWatt system comprises an electricity sensor and a base station. The sensor is a simple battery-powered device that takes the output from a current transformer clamped onto the electricity supply cable and feeds it via an ATMEGA8 microcontroller to a 2.4GHz RF link. The base station is a Raspberry Pi which retrieves the data from the RF, stores it, and allows the user to view it through a web interface. Both the sensor code and hardware files, and the files for the Raspberry Pi base station are freely available on GitHub.

In keeping with the open nature on their project, the CitizenWatt team organised a series of events at which the families who were part of their trial in a Paris suburb were given the chance to build their own sensor boards, for many of them the first time they had handled a soldering iron.

We have seen quite a few smart meters on these pages over the years. There is this one based on a Spark Core, this one based on an ESP8266, and this one provided by a utility company, the data of which can be accessed. CitizenWatt is a worthy project to join them in its own right, but its involvement of a local community of non-makers is what sets it apart. We applad this aspect of the project, and we wish we saw more like it.

One Man’s Quest To Spend Less TIme In The Basement

[Lars] has a second floor apartment, and the washing machines and clothes dryers are in the basement. This means [Lars] has spent too much time walking down to the basement to collect his laundry, only to find out there is 15 minutes left in on the cycle. There are a few solutions to this: leave your load in the washer like an inconsiderate animal, buy a new, fancy washer and dryer with proprietary Internet of Things™ software, or hack together a washer and dryer monitoring solution. We all know what option [Lars] chose.

Connecting a Pi to the Internet and serving up a few bits of data is a solved problem. The hard part is deciding which bits to serve. Washers and dryers all have a few things in common: they both use power, they both move and shake, they make noise, and their interfaces change during the wash cycle. [Lars] wanted a device that could be used with washers and dryers, and could be used with other machines in the future. He first experimented with a microphone, capturing the low rumble of a washer sloshing about and a dryer tumbling a load of laundry. It turns out an accelerometer works just as well, and with a sensor securely fastened to a washer or dryer, [Lars] can get a pretty good idea if it’s running or not.

With a reliable way to tell if a washer or dryer is still running, [Lars] only had to put this information on his smartphone. He ended up using PushBullet, and quickly had an app on his phone that told him if his laundry was done.


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Robotic Pets Test an Automatic Pet Door

Lots of people get a pet and then hack solutions that help them care for their new friend, like an automatic door to provide access to the great outdoors. Then again, some people build the pet door first and then build the pets to test it.

It’s actually not quite as weird as it sounds. [Amir Avni] and his wife attended a recent GeekCon and entered the GeekCon Pets event. GeekCon is a cooperative rather than competitive hackathon that encourages useless builds as a means to foster community and to just have some fun. [Amir] and his wife wanted to build a full-featured automatic pet door, and succeeded – with NFC and an ESP8266, the stepper-powered door worked exactly as planned. But without any actual animal companions to test the system, they had to hack up a few volunteers. They came up with a 3D-printed dog and cat perched atop wireless cars, and with NFC tags dangling from their collars, the door was able to differentiate between the wandering ersatz animals. The video below the break shows the adorable plastic pals in action.

It’s clear from all the pet doors and automatic waterers and feeders we’ve seen that hackers love their pets, but we’re pretty sure this is the first time the pet itself was replaced by a robot. That’s fine for the test environment, but we’d recommend the real thing for production.

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