Couch to 5K with 1K to spare

In a market full of Fitbits, Misfits, and Fuelbands, it’s easy to get carried away with sophisticated personal fitness tracking technology.  That’s why [André] took a totally different approach with his super simple run tracking device, the C25K machine.

C25K stands for “Couch to 5k” which is a slimmed down exercise schedule designed to gradually bring people who have otherwise no exercise routine up to a level of fitness where they can run a 5k in just 9 weeks.  To keep participants from wearing themselves out too early, the routine specifies a sequence of running and walking periods to be completed in series on specific days.  Though simpler than most fitness plans, it’s still a lot to keep track of especially when you’re sweating so hard you can barely see your stopwatch.

André found a solution using a bare-bones circuit based on the ATTiny2313.  After loading the C25k calendar into its firmware (which takes up less than half of its 2K of flash), he needs only to toggle the dipswitch to select the appropriate day of the program, and the little device (scarcely larger than a key fob) will beep to let him know to switch from running to walking or back again.

Definitely a great project for any hobbyist looking for a geeky way to get in shape.

A pick and place tool from medical equipment

neb

A vacuum tool is an invaluable tool if you’re working with tiny SMD parts, and even with tweezers you might have a hard time placing these nearly invisible components on their pads for soldering. One tool that’s really great for these parts is a vacuum pen, usually made from an old aquarium air pump. [Jon] may have found a much more suitable piece of equipment to scavenge for a vacuum pen build – a nebulizer.

Nebulizers provide asthmatics with low pressure, low volume air to atomize medication for inhalation. Inside the nebulizer is a small diaphragm pump, just like the small aquarium pump teardowns we’ve seen. In just five minutes, [Jon] tore his thrift store nebulizer apart and reversed the flow of air, turning something that blows into something that sucks.

After the suction part of the build was finished, [Jon] needed a way to pick up small components. He did this by blunting a large hypodermic needle and fastening it to the end of a Bic pen with heat shrink tubing. After drilling a small hole in the pen body, he had a very nice looking SMD vacuum pump.

Wheelchair hack lets two-year-old explore on his own

wheelchair-pedal-controller

[Shea's] son [Alejandro] was born with Spinal Muscular Atrophy which limits his ability to move. The ability to explore one’s environment as a toddler is really important to development so [Shea] and his wife have been looking into assistive technology. Their health insurance paid for a medical stroller when he was nine-months old and has told the family they need to wait five years for a powered wheelchair. Rather than wait, [Shea] took it upon himself to hack a wheelchair his son could control.

He found a used adult-sized motorized wheelchair on eBay for about $800. Not cheap, but way more affordable than a brand new unit. This type of chair is made to be controlled with a joystick, an option not available to his son at this point. Foot control was an option if he could figure out how to build an interface.

After unsuccessfully trying to repair a broken digital kitchen scale [Shea] was inspired to reuse the sensors as pedal inputs. [Alejandro] has limited foot strength and the sensitive strain gauges are perfect for picking it up. Above you can see the sandal-based interface he built. The two feet working together affect steering as well as forward and reverse. The pedal system is connected to the wheelchair using a Digital to Analog converter chip to stand-in for the original analog joystick. After the break we’ve embedded a video of [Alejandro] exploring the outdoors in the finished chair.

In this case it’s fortunate that [Shea] has the skills to build something like this for his son. We hope this will inspire you to donate your time an know-how to help those in your own community who are in a similar situation. This really takes the concept of The Controller Project to the next level.

[Read more...]

Turning anyone into a casuality

Triage

EMTs and other first responders don’t just sit around waiting for a disaster to happen. If they need to train for a disaster – environmental, terrorist, or otherwise – they put together a mass injury simulation, or their version of a war game. As you can imagine, coordinating one of these simulations is a nightmare, but [David] came up with a way to simulate a casualty with a few XBees, a Parallax Propeller, and a few RFID cards.

This triage training simulator consists of an ‘acting coach’ on each simulated victim that includes a speech-to-text module that speaks instructions into the actors ear, a pulse simulator and a readout for vital signs that correspond to twelve major injuries. When an EMT triages a victim, they swipe an RFID card for each medical procedure they perform – intubating is one card, while a bandage is another – and all this is sent back to the coordinator’s tablet.

The coordinator has direct control over each of the actors through a two-way radio link, and can initiate changes in each victim, monitor a paramedic’s responses, and “escalate” the situation by setting off another simulated bomb.

All this is created with off-the-shelf hardware, vastly reducing the cost of this type of training device. An amazing application of what we usually consider to be just robot parts, and we’re happy for [David] to share it with us.

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Pill dispenser tattles to the Internet when you don’t take your pills

pill-taking-reminder-hardware

Here’s another entry in the Parallax microMedic 2013 contest. [Tim] calls it his Propeller-based Internet Logging Pill Dispenser (PDF file), or P.I.L. Box for short.

The hardware is a base unit into which a normal plastic pill organizer is placed. We like this design, as many pharmacies will fill pill boxes for you and this doesn’t complicate that process. You simply pull out the correct box at the beginning of the week and put it in the base unit. You can see one white LED is shining on the Monday slot in the box. This lights up starting an hour before the set pill taking time. This way if you walk by it reminds you. There is also a voice tailor made to scare the elderly that comes out of the speaker, and a simple messages spelled out on the set of seven segment displays. The base unit detects when you press the button to open the pill box and counts that as a properly administered dosage.

Now, if you forget to take the pill it’s not a good thing. The server, which is running on the laptop, will rat you out. It uses the Twitter API to alert whomever is following it — meant for a relative or caregiver — that a dosage was missed. Let’s hope they’re good at keeping up with their Twitter feed!

We remember seeing one other microMedic entry so far, this heart-shaped heart simulator. But we’re going to look around and see how many other good ones we’ve missed.

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Heart-shaped heart simulator

Heart

A few years ago, [Addie] over at Tymkrs put together a spooky little Halloween project: a small Propeller board that emulates the electrical signals in a heart. As a cardiac nurse, she thought her project could use a little improvement, and after two years she’s finally done. It’s a heart-shaped board that simulates electrical signals moving through the heart.

There are several key areas that conduct electrical signals through the heart – the sinoatrial node, atrioventricular node, and bundle branches all work like players in an orchestra to keep a heart beating like it should. If something goes wrong with one of these, the heart goes into tachycardia or fibrillation – not good, by any measure. [Addie]‘s board simulates all the different ways a heart can go wrong with LEDs standing in for the electrical signals in a real heart. The name of the game here is to look at the LEDs and tell what state the heart is in.

The PCB heart is just one part of [Addie]‘s heart simulator. The simulated heart can also plug into a neat little heart-shaped project box wired up with a solenoid, LCD display, headphone jack, and other electronics to turn this electronic heart into a complete study tool for heart rhythms. The nurses in [Addie]‘s unit love the thing, and it looks like [Addie] might have a real cardiac training tool on here hands here.

[Read more...]

A handful of parts used to form an Electrocardiogram

minimal-ecg

It’s difficult to image a more bare-bones approach to building an ECG. [Raul] used an Arduino nano to collect samples and push them to a computer for graphing.

An Electrocardiogram measures electrical activity around your heart. The white circles above are the sensors which he picked up in a box of fifty for 11 Euros (under $15). Stick them on your skin in just the right places and they’ll report back on what your heart is doing.

He used a AD8221 to amplify the signals. He mentions that this is an ins-amp, not an op-amp. We didn’t find a concise reference explaining what that is. It might be a good topic for the comments section. The signal from that chip feeds into an LM324 op-amp before being dumped into the Arduino.

Simplicity comes at a price. This measures very small electrical impulses and has very little in the way of shielding and filtering. Because of this you may need to do a rain dance, say a prayer, burn a candle, and stick needles into a doll to get a reliable signal on the other end.

Here’s another version that doesn’t require special sensors.